I purchased this cookbook back at the start of the summer, and when it finally arrived at my door, I waited no small time before turning to one recipe - Fried Chicken: Classic. This deeply southern feat of poultry genius was the reason I was now holding this canvas-bound collection in my hands. I wanted fried chicken - truly southern, truly good, fried chicken.
It is with great regret that I admit that I have not found a single piece of truly good fried chicken in my vicinity. This lack of crispy goodness was the driving force behind my quest for a solid recipe.
So, one Saturday evening, in early summer, my fiancé and I set out to attempt the hallowed dish. Our expectations were high, our mess large, and our stomaches empty.
In the end, all of our greatest, fondest, most fantastic fried chicken dreams were surpassed. This recipe, more so than any I have ever tried before, delivers the fried chicken we all secretly dream of.
Just as with nearly all great poultry recipes, this one begins with a brine.
A brine is a highly salted water mixture that keeps poultry extra juicy and very tender. It's the key to really flavorful fried chicken.
After the chicken has sat in the brine for several hours, it is time to consider the coating.
Now, if we were going to be eating this chicken on its own, I would definitely be using skin-on, bone-in pieces. However, after preparing this recipe several times, I found that it is incredibly well-suited to sandwiches when made with boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
And while it might seem sacrilegious to some to make fried chicken skinless, I can assure you that it is truly awe-inspiring, with or without skin.
The brined chicken is soaked in hot sauce-spiked buttermilk before it is coated in the flour mixture. Season your flour liberally, and then season it more. This is the key to great fried chicken. Get in there with that pepper grinder.
After the chicken has fried (which I have no pictures of because I'm kind of attached to my hands and my camera lens), it is allowed to cool for a few minutes while we toast up some buns and make a quick honey mustard. Oh, and you should probably slice a couple of tomatoes too.
My mouth is watering. I no longer remember what I was going to write here. Something about how the honey mustard seeps into the crispy coating...ohmygoodness I just want to eat it!
If you are a fan of the chicken sandwiches from a certain fast food chain, you might know how good pickles are with fried chicken.
But, they do not have the very best, homemade, bread and butter pickles. Thankfully, we do. I'll be sharing that recipe with you soon!
So far, we have a toasty bun, perfectly crisp fried chicken, honey mustard, sweet pickles, fresh tomatoes... What's next?
Maybe some lettuce, to pretend like we are healthy or something. Oh! And sweet tea!
We are being southerners tonight, remember?
My farewell to summer.
The Very Best Fried Chicken Sandwiches
for the fried chicken
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 gallon water
- 3/4 cup kosher salt
- 3 cups buttermilk
- 1/2-1 tablespoon hot sauce (depending on your spice preference)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- about 6 cups peanut oil
- frying thermometer
Begin by making the brine. Bring four cups of the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in the salt until dissolved, then remove from heat. Transfer to a large bowl and combine with the remaining cool water. Refrigerate until thoroughly cooled.
Add chicken breasts to the cooled brine and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight.
Prepare a drying station by lining a sheet pan with several layers of paper towels and top with a cooling rack.
Prepare the dredge by combining flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a medium bowl or pie plate.
Cook’s Note: I like to season and mix the dredge in a pie plate because it is nice and wide for coating later on.
Fill a large dutch oven with 1-inch of peanut oil. Attach a frying thermometer to the side of the pot and place over medium-high heat; bring the oil to 350 degrees F. While the oil is heating, prepare the chicken.
Using tongs, dip each chicken breast into the prepared buttermilk dip, being sure to coat each piece thoroughly. Then, transfer to the dredge and coat both sides, shaking off any excess flour.
Carefully drop the chicken into the oil. Depending on the size of your dutch oven, you should only fry about three pieces at a time. The temperature of the oil will begin to decrease the moment you add the chicken, so turn up the heat as needed. You want to maintain a temperature of roughly 325 degrees F. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, until the chicken is deep golden and the internal temperature of the chicken is 165 degrees. An instant-read thermometer is very helpful for this.
Place the chicken on the prepared cooling station while you prepare the sandwiches.
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard
- 6 fresh sandwich buns
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened
- bread and butter pickles
- 1 tomato, sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
- butter lettuce
In a small bowl, combine honey and mustard.
Place a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Butter each half of the sandwich buns and toast, cut-side down, for about three minutes, until the buns are warm and lightly toasted.
Spread the upper half of the bun liberally with honey mustard and top with tomato slices and lettuce. Place the fried chicken on the bottom half of the bun and top with sweet pickles.
Serve the sandwiches immediately, preferably with some equally southern sweet iced tea. Enjoy!