I may be ambivalent about meat in general, but that rule doesn’t seem to apply to good fried chicken. I don’t make it often, but there’s something to be said for that delicious crunchy crust. When I make a batch, I make enough to have leftovers for lunch and dinner the next day.
I’ve been using a partially baked, partially fried variation on Alton Brown’s recipe for several years, with pretty good results. Then I saw the Cook’s Illustrated version in a recent issue. While the basic recipe is fairly similar, the addition of buttermilk into the dry flour mixture gives the crust an extra layer of crispy crunchy awesomeness that a regular old flour dredge just can’t touch.
Note that both Cook’s Illustrated and Alton Brown suggest using hot sauce or cayenne in their marinades and flour dredges. I long ago switched to smoked chipotle sauces and powders for their ability to add flavor and depth without too much kid-unfriendly heat.
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- Table salt
- Chipotle/smoked hot sauce
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp chipotle powder
- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, tenders removed and breasts cut in half
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder (this was the magical ingredient from Cook’s Illustrated)
- 1 3/4 cups vegetable oil
In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups of buttermilk, 1 Tbsp salt, chipotle sauce, freshly ground pepper, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp paprika and a few shakes of chipotle powder. Add chicken to coat. Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours, or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking pan with foil. Coat a wire rack with nonstick cooking spray and set inside the foil-lined pan.
Whisk flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, freshly ground pepper, ¾ teaspoon garlic powder, ¾ teaspoon paprika and remaining chipotle powder together in a large bowl. Add remaining ¼ cup buttermilk to flour mixture and mix with fingers until combined and small clumps form.
Dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture, one piece at a time, pressing mixture onto chicken to form thick, even coating. Put the coated chicken aside on a plate.
Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 375 degrees.
Carefully place chicken pieces in pan and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side (less for chicken tenders). Transfer chicken to the wire rack on your baking sheet.
Bake chicken until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees, about 7-10 minutes depending on the size and thickness of your chicken. Remove chicken from the oven as it reaches the correct temperature.
For the crunchiest coating, let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes on a wire rack.
Crunchy and crispy chicken gets two big thumbs up from my family.