I’ve made fried chicken using lots of recipes. In recent years, the recipe that gets the most rave reviews is the one by Thomas Keller in his best-selling cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. The recipe has become as famous as his restaurant in Yountville, California that inspired the gorgeous cookbook.
Keller’s trick is a very flavorful lemon-herbed brine solution that he soaks the chicken in for 20-24 hours. It really adds a lot of juiciness and flavor. But… it also adds a lot of ingredients and time so I consider this step optional. The chicken is really good even without the brine.You may also simplify the brine using a gallon of water plus one cup each of sugar and kosher salt. It’s the sugar and the salt that helps increase the moisture content of the poultry. The seasonings in his recipe are a bonus for flavor.
My favorite aspect of his recipe is the combination of the buttermilk and seasoned flour he uses to dip the chicken prior to frying. The skin is crispy yet not too overwhelming and has just a little extra kick from the cayenne pepper and other seasonings.
In order to make sure your chicken is safely cooked all the way through, a deep-fryer thermometer is critical (and a good investment if you love fried chicken.) I usually cut into a piece to make sure it’s done. If not, you can always finish it in the oven. For an extra treat… swirl a some adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chiles in ranch dressing and use as a dip for this chicken. Just a little bit of that smoky dip goes a long way.
Thomas Keller’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Ad Hoc at Home Cookbook
Makes 24 Pieces
- 24 cups water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
- 18 Turkish bay leaves
- 30 unpeeled garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
- 5 large fresh rosemary sprigs
- 1 1/2 bunches fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 1/2 bunches fresh Italian parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel
- 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 3 3 1/2 pound chickens
- 6 cups all purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons garlic powder
- 5 tablespoons onion powder
- 4 teaspoons paprika
- 4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5 teaspoons coarse kosher salt plus additional for serving
- 6 cups buttermilk
- 12 cups peanut oil (for deep-frying)
- Fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs (for garnish), deep-fried 30 seconds
Bring all brine ingredients except chickens to boil in large pot. Boil 1 minute, stirring to dissolve salt. Cool completely. Chill brine until cold, about 2 hours.
Rinse chickens; add to brine, pressing to submerge. Chill at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain chickens and pat dry, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Cut each chicken into 8 pieces.
Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Mix first 6 ingredients and 4 teaspoons coarse salt in large bowl. Place buttermilk in another large bowl. Dip each chicken piece in flour mixture to coat; shake off excess. Dip pieces in buttermilk, coating completely, then dip into flour mixture again, coating thickly (do not shake off excess). Place chicken on prepared sheets. Let stand 1 to 2 hours at room temperature to dry.
Pour peanut oil into heavy large pot. Attach deep-fry thermometer to side of pot and heat oil over medium-high heat to 320 degrees Fahrenheit and 330 degrees Fahrenheit. Working in batches of 4 pieces at a time, add leg and thigh pieces to oil (use splatter screen to protect yourself from hot oil). Adjust heat as needed to maintain temperature. Fry until cooked through and skin is deep golden brown, turning once with wooden spoons (to prevent crust from breaking), about 13 minutes. Using wooden spoons, transfer chicken to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with course salt.
Add breast pieces to oil and fry until cooked through and skin is deep golden brown, turning once, about 7 minutes. Transfer chicken to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with course salt.