Buttermilk-Brined Fried Chicken: A Southern Classic
Achieve incredibly moist fried chicken with a buttermilk brine. We'll help you master this surprisingly easy technique.
This recipe for buttermilk-brined fried chicken with creamy gravy is a classic all-American comfort food that cooks up juicy and flavorful on the inside and crispy on the outside. The secret is the brine. Start by placing a large re-sealable bag into a bowl or measuring cup to support it. Into the bag, add 3 cups of buttermilk, 1/3 of a cup of kosher salt, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Stir the brine to combine the ingredients. You'll need 2-1/2 to 3 pounds of chicken pieces for this recipe. Choose mini-cuts like breast tabs, thighs, and drumsticks. Using a chef's knife cut the breasts in 1/2 crosswise straight through the rib bones. Place all of the chicken into the brine. Brining the meat takes some time, but it's really worth the effort. You're not only adding flavor, but the acidity in the buttermilk will tenderize the meat and the chicken will take on additional liquid making the meat moist and tender after frying. Seal the bag, shake and turn the bag to cook each piece of chicken. Then chill the chicken for 2 to 4 hours. Once fully brined, remove the chicken from the bag and drain the pieces in a colander. Discard the brine. Pack them dry with paper towels. To set up your dipping station, place 2 cups of flour into a large bowl and add 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. If you'd like a little kick to your fried chicken, add 1-1/2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper to the flour mixture. Stir it all together. Place 3/4 of a cup of buttermilk in a shallow bowl. You'll also need a large platter or baking sheet for the coated chicken, and now you're ready. First, dredge your piece in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess, then the buttermilk. And finally, the flour mixture again, the double dredging could do a nice thick crust. Continue coating the chicken until all the pieces are done. It's messy work but the tastiest cooking usually is. Next, pour enough vegetable oil into a deep heavy skillet or deep fat fryer so it's 1-1/2 inches deep. Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Now you're ready to get frying. Once the oil is up to temperature, using a pair of tongs, carefully place a few pieces of chicken into the hot oil. The oil temperature will drop, but your goal is to keep it at 325 degrees. You may need to adjust the heat to do that. Fry the chicken turning it once until it's golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. The chicken is cooked when it's no longer pink on the inside and the juices run clear when it's cut with a knife. Place the cooked chicken on the wire rack over a baking sheet to drain the cooked chicken. You can also insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken. It should read 170 degrees for breasts and 180 degrees for thighs and drumsticks. Continue to cook the rest in batches. You can keep the chicken warm in the oven at 300 degrees while the other piece is cooked. Once all the chicken's fried, you can whip up a quick batch of creamy gravy using the drippings. Place 3 tablespoons of the frying oil in a medium skillet. You can also use bacon drippings or butter. Place 3/4 of a cup of milk into a screw top jar. Add 3 tablespoons of flour, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/8 of a teaspoon of pepper. Cover the jar and shake it until it's well combined. This is a good trick for getting out the lumps and works much better than stirring. Pour the milk mixture into the skillet with the drippings. Add 1 cup of milk and stir it together using a whisk. Cook the gravy over medium heat, stirring constantly until it's thickened and bubbly. Continue to cook and stir the gravy for one minute to make sure the flour is fully cooked. Reduce the heat if it starts to get too thick. If the gravy is too thick, you can always add a little milk to thin it out. When the gravy is ready, take the chicken out of the oven and transfer it to a platter. You can serve the gravy on the side to pour over the top of the chicken. So mash potatoes would come in handy here too. Buttermilk fried chicken with creamy gravy is a Southern inspired meal that's right at home anywhere.