Buttermilk Fried Chicken

buttermilk fried chicken stack on waffles

I’ve never been a person to say no to fried chicken, it’s my culinary kryptonite. I just can’t get enough of the salty, crispy coating, and biting into the tender and juicy chicken meat. My childhood diet often times consisted of orders of McDonald’s chicken nuggets with sweet and sour sauce (which I still love), red and white striped buckets of KFC fried chicken (I prefer original recipe), and little fried drumettes from Oakland Chinatown which had the tastiest scallion batter. Fried chicken has certainly evolved with many chef’s adding their own blend of spices and coatings, sandwiching them between waffles and served at the swankiest and hippest restaurants.

After graduating from culinary school, my brother Blandon and sister-in-law Mel gave me the most incredible gift, three of Thomas Keller’s essential books; The French Laundry, Bouchon, and Ad Hoc at Home. Sifting through these cookbooks, I was excited to find one recipe that I wanted to try first; buttermilk fried chicken. This fried chicken recipe is served on special nights at Thomas Keller’s restaurant Ad Hoc and Addendum in Yountville, CA. I have yet to try the famous recipe at his restaurants, but I was happy to know that I could make it in my own home! Thanks Chef Keller!

golden brown and crispy chicken skin

I have tried many fried chicken recipes and this is by far the most flavorful that I keep making for my guests at home! The lemon herb brine infuses so much flavor into each bite, not to mention the perfect blend of spices in the coating and incredibly crispy crust. If you are uncomfortable with cutting up a whole chicken, buy pre-cut pieces from your local market.  You can also use this recipe for skinless and boneless cuts of chicken like breast or thighs.

Over time I’ve tried various versions of the recipe by changing up the coating using different gluten free flours. I recommend Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour which was created by Chef Thomas Keller and Lena Kwak, don’t worry – the texture is similar to wheat flour. I have used Cup4cup in many baking applications like my gluten free salted caramel apple waffles. If you are looking for an “extra crispy” texture, I like Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour, which uses a blend of garbanzo flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, sorghum flour, and fava flour that gives a nice savory flavor and crunchier crust. You can substitute these flours 1:1 for the wheat flour in the recipe, or half and half, and the taste is still amazing!

Fried chicken is one of those classic feel good recipes that everyone gets excited about no matter the age, especially my nephews Jacob and Aidan who are chicken nugget aficionados! I love to serve the buttermilk fried chicken with piping hot and flaky biscuits or crispy golden waffles, and a fresh green salad. I promise, if you tell your guests you are making buttermilk fried chicken for dinner, you will have happy and hungry people eagerly ringing at your door bell!

TIP: What internal temperature should I fry chicken so it’s safe to eat? Fry the chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F to ensure fully cooked meat. When taking the temperature, test the thickest part of the meat, avoiding the bone. Let the chicken rest for 7 to 10 minutes after frying to allow it to cool down. If resting the chicken for longer than 10 minutes, put the tray of chicken in a 400°F oven for a minute or two to ensure the crust is crisp and the chicken is hot.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Serves: 20 pieces
Enjoy the most flavorful, crispy and tender buttermilk fried chicken at home! This recipe is inspired by Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc fried chicken, so you don't have to travel to Napa, CA. Your guests will be asking for thirds with this irresistible recipe!
  • 2- 2 ½ to 3 pound chickens
  • Chicken brine, recipe to follow
  • Ground fleur de sel or fine sea salt
  • Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish
Chicken Brine-
  • 5 lemons, halved
  • 12 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch (4ounces) flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch (1 ounce) thyme
  • ½ cup clover honey
  • 1 head garlic, halved through the equator
  • ¼ cup black peppercorns
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) kosher salt
  • 2 gallons water
For Dredging and Frying-
  • Peanut or canola oil for deep-drying
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour or gluten free flour
  • ¼ cup garlic powder
  • ¼ cup onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chicken Brine-
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely them chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Makes 2 gallons, and enough for 10 pounds of meat.
  1. Cut each chicken into 10 pieces each: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, 2 wings. Pour the brine into a container or plastic re-sealable bags large enough to hold the chicken pieces, add the chicken, and refrigerate for 12 hours (no, longer or the chicken may become too salty).
  2. Remove the chicken from the brine (discard the brine) and rinse under cold water, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Pat dry with paper towels, or let air-dry. Let rest at room temperature for 1 12 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.
  3. In a large pot (about 6 inches deep) or deep fryer, fill the pot with at least 2 inches of oil and heat to 320°F (follow manufacturing instructions if using a deep fryer). No matter what size pot you have the oil should not come more than one-third of the way up the sides of the pot. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.
Coating and Dredging-
  1. Combine all the coating ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer half the coating to a second large bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station: the chicken pieces, one bowl of coating, the bowl of buttermilk, the second bowl of coating, and the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  2. Just before frying dip the chicken thighs into the first bowl of coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess; dip them into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl; then dip them into the second bowl of coating. Transfer to the parchment-lined pan.
  1. Carefully lower the thighs into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperature. Fry for 2 minutes, then carefully move the chicken pieces around in the oil and continue to fry, monitoring the oil temperature and turning the pieces as necessary for even cooking, for 11 to 12 minutes, until the chicken is a deep golden brown, cooked through, and very crisp. Meanwhile, coat the chicken drumsticks and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  2. Transfer the cooked thighs to the cooling rack, skin-side-up and let rest while you fry the remaining chicken. Putting the pieces skin side up-side-up will allow the excess fat to drain, whereas leaving them skin-side-down could trap some of the fat. Make sure the oil is at the correct temperature, and cook the chicken drumsticks. When the drumsticks are done, lean the meat-side-up against the thighs to drain, then sprinkle the chicken pieces with fine sea salt.
  3. Turn up the heat and increase oil temperature to 340°F. Coat the chicken breasts and wings. Carefully lower the chicken breasts into the hot oil and fry for 7 minutes, or until golden brown, cooked through, and crisp. Transfer to the rack, sprinkle with salt, and turn skin side up. Cook the wings for 6 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the wings to the rack and turn off the heat.
  4. Arrange the chicken on a serving platter. Add the herb sprigs over the chicken (you can fry the herbs for a few seconds if desired).
Recipe adapted from Ad Hoc at Home, by Thomas Keller

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