I make the best fried chicken in the world. Or more accurately, Thomas Keller makes the best fried chicken in the world, and I follow his recipe.
I know what some of you are saying, “Nuthin’s better than gran’ma’s fried chik’n.” But I hate to break it to you, it’s just not true, no matter how folksy your spellin’. Sure, Grammy’s chow was probably better than the grocery store or Stroud’s, who has been profiting on the quantity-over-quality equation for decades with its dry, underseasoned, gravy-craving bird. But it’s not the best in the world; this is.
The lemon-herb brine ensures the juiciest chicken you’ve ever had — citrusy, herby, and perfectly salty. No gravy needed here; just a mound of whipped mashed potatoes and roasted green beans. Put it in my mouth!
Jeff’s Famous Thomas Keller’s Fried Chicken
from the Ad Hoc cookbook
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
12 bay leaves
1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
3 large rosemary sprigs
1 small bunch of thyme
1 small bunch of parsley
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
Two 3-pound chickens
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 cups buttermilk
Vegetable oil, for frying
Rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish
- In a very large pot, combine 1 quart of the water with 1 cup of the salt and the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Let cool completely, then stir in the remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Add the chickens, being sure they’re completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.
- Drain the chickens and pat dry. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin and cut each bird into 8 pieces, keeping the breast meat on the bone.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with wax paper.
- In a very large, deep skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 330°. Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crunchy and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 160°, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain, and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.