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Ingredients

  • 10 chicken pieces (about 1¼kg/2lb 12oz), on the bone, skin on (use a mixture of thighs and drumsticks)
  • 300ml buttermilk (see tips to make your own)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1-2 litres groundnut oil
  • grilled corn on the cob, to serve (optional)
  • skinny fries, to serve (optional)
  • coleslaw, to serve (optional)

For the dry brine

For the spiced flour

Method

  • STEP 1

    Put all the dry brine ingredients in a large dish. Add the chicken, toss to coat well, then cover and chill for 12-24 hrs.

  • STEP 2

    Put all the spiced flour ingredients in another dish or a large bowl, add a good grind of black pepper and combine well.

  • STEP 3

    Put the buttermilk and egg in another bowl and lightly whisk until well combined.

  • STEP 4

    Start to coat the chicken. Using one hand, dip the pieces in the buttermilk, making sure they are completely coated.

  • STEP 5

    Using your other hand, roll the chicken in the spiced flour until covered all over.

  • STEP 6

    Place the chicken on a wire rack with a baking tray underneath. Now you’re ready to start frying.

  • STEP 7

    Fill a deep cast-iron frying pan or heavy- based medium saucepan half full with oil and heat until the temperature reaches 170C on a cooking thermometer. Put a wire rack on a second tray, ready to drain the fried chicken.

  • STEP 8

    Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Place 3-4 pieces of chicken into the hot oil. Don’t overcrowd the pan. Cook for 10-12 mins. Poke your thermometer into the meat next to the bone – it will be cooked when it reaches 73C.

  • STEP 9

    The oil temperature will drop when you add the chicken – adjust the heat to keep it steady at 140C during the cooking process. Once cooked, transfer to the clean wire rack and keep warm in the oven. Bring the oil back to 170C before cooking the next batch. Serve with your choice of sides.

What effect does buttermilk have on chicken?

Buttermilk is slightly acidic, so as the chicken marinates, the buttermilk breaks down the proteins in the chicken, tenderising it. Its thicker texture helps completely coat the chicken in the spiced flour mixture so it crisps up well when fried.

What to do if you can’t find buttermilk

Most supermarkets stock buttermilk, which was traditionally a by-product of the butter-making process. Commercial buttermilk is thicker and more acidic than the buttermilk that’s leftover after making butter.

You can make a decent substitute by adding 1 tbsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar to 250ml whole milk, then setting it aside for 10 mins. The acid will slightly curdle the milk, resulting in a buttermilk-like liquid.

Or, pour 75ml milk into 175ml natural yogurt.

What cut of chicken should be used for fried chicken?

This recipe is made with dark chicken meat on the bone, as it is full of flavour. Thighs and drumsticks also hold onto the flour coating better than chicken breasts, which have a smoother surface. They’re also easier to pick up and eat after frying.

We recommend using free-range chicken if possible for better flavour.

What type of pan should be used for frying the chicken?

A large, heavy-based saucepan is recommended for this recipe, as it will retain the heat well. Fill the pan no more than a third full of oil, as this allows room for the level to rise when the chicken is added and avoids potentially dangerous spills.

Don’t overcrowd the pan with chicken, because the temperature of the oil will drop. Fry in batches.

Is fried chicken bad for you?

Fried chicken has a high calorie content, and eating a lot of deep-fried food regularly can increase your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which are factors in obesity and heart disease. Dishes like this should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Fried food also increases your intake of trans fats and free radicals. To decrease these, use fresh oil with a high smoking point – don’t reuse oil.

Tips for making buttermilk fried chicken:

  • ​​Use a heavy-based pan, as this makes it easier to keep the oil at a steady temperature.
  • To help control the temperature of the oil, use a digital oil thermometer.
  • You’ll need to cook the chicken in batches so the oil maintains a steady temperature.
  • A wire rack over a baking tray is the best way to drain the fried chicken, as kitchen paper can make it go soggy.
  • Take care when frying:hot oil can be dangerous, so read our how to deep-fry safely guideto avoid burns.

What temperature should the fried chicken be cooked at?

The oil should reach a temperature of around 170-180C before adding the chicken.

How to take the temperature of fried chicken

The chicken should reach an internal temperature of at least 73C and a digital probe thermometer is the most accurate way to test if the meat is cooked through.

Lift the chicken out of the oil using tongs and insert a cooking thermometer into the flesh of the chicken without touching the bone.

If you don’t have a thermometer, ensure the outside of the chicken is golden brown and the inside of the meat is white for breast meat or creamy brown (with no traces of pink) for dark meat.

What oil should be used for buttermilk fried chicken?

A neutral-tasting oil is best, so that the oil does not flavour the chicken.

Stay away from unrefined oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, as these do not have a high enough smoke point due to the impurities they contain.

An oil with a high smoke point is needed as the oil needs to reach at least 170C. We’ve used groundnut oil, but sunflower or vegetable oil or lard will also work.

How can I make the fried chicken less oily?

Make sure the oil has reached 170C before adding the chicken.

If the cooking oil is too cool when the chicken goes in, the coating will absorb the oil rather than forming a crust, causing the chicken to become greasy.

How can I make the fried chicken more crisp?

  • After covering the chicken in flour, rest it for 10 mins to help the coating dry out and thicken before frying
  • Add ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda to the spiced flour mixture, as this will react with the buttermilk to create more air bubbles when frying, resulting in a crispier coating
  • If cooking more than one batch, keep the cooked chicken warm on a wire rack set over a baking tray in the oven at 140C/120C fan/gas 1, which will also cook off any extra oil.
  • Be sure to cool the cooked chicken on a wire rack set over a baking tray rather than kitchen paper. This will help drain the excess oil and facilitate air flow around the chicken, instead of it becoming soggy.

What other spices can be used in the flour mix?

We’ve used garlic and chilli, but you could also add smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, dried oregano or za’atar for more flavour.

Can I use an air fryer to make buttermilk fried chicken?

Heat the air fryer to 200C and use a spray oil to limit the amount of fat. Don’t overcrowd the fryer or let the chicken pieces touch, as they won’t become golden and crisp.

How long will fried chicken keep?

As long as the chicken has not been left out for longer than 2 hrs after cooking, it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge or even frozen. It will keep for up to three days in the fridge or four months in the freezer. Defrost thoroughly in the fridge overnight before reheating.

How to reheat fried chicken

Place the chicken on a wire rack set over a baking tray to allow the air to circulate. Warm in the oven at 220C/200C fan/gas 7 for 12-15 mins, or until piping hot.

How to serve fried chicken

Fried chicken works well with classic coleslaw and spiced sweet potato wedges, as well as sweetcorn with smoked paprika and lime butter.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, August 2015

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