Buttermilk Fried Chicken

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Crispy and tender homemade buttermilk fried chicken recipe. Each piece is brined first to ensure juicy flavorful bites then dipped and dredged in a bold flour spice blend for the most irresistible golden-brown crust.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

The crunchy sound when you bite into a piece of perfectly fried chicken is music to the ears. This special meal is worth the greasy, burnt fingertips and ridiculous amounts of napkins.

I have tested many recipes, but I have found that Thomas Keller’s fried chicken served at his Ad Hoc restaurant in Yountville, California is the best. The techniques he utilizes guarantees undeniably delicious results.

raw pieces of chicken broken down and placed on a baking sheet

How to make buttermilk fried chicken

The first step is to soak the chicken in a lemon-herb mixture for several hours. The brining process requires patience, but it’s worth the wait! The chicken is then double-coated in a robust spice and flour blend with a buttermilk dip in between. Deep fry until crispy, then wow family and friends with this incredible delight.

Chicken selection

This recipe uses a larger 5-pound whole chicken, or two 2.5 pounders if they are smaller in size. I enjoy breaking down the chicken on my own, ensuring that there are ten pieces to fry.

If you’re uncomfortable with cutting up a whole chicken, buy pre-cut pieces from your local market. You can also use skinless and boneless cuts of chicken like breasts or thighs, however, the cooking time may be shorter.

drum stick soaking in a lemon herb brine

Brine the chicken for juicy and flavorful pieces

Brining is a key step that should not be skipped as it helps the chicken retain moisture during deep frying. For this recipe, you’re going to use water, a generous amount of salt, whole black peppercorns, lemon, garlic, honey, bay leaf, thyme, and parsley. This herbaceous mixture can be made ahead of time, but plan for a 12-hour soak to ensure maximum flavor transfer.

Creating the breading mixture

The breading that coats the chicken is a combination of flour, garlic powder, onion powder, sweet paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. The salty crust will burst with flavor, and paprika gives it a gorgeous red hue.

I use a standard breading procedure to dredge the chicken before frying. First, a coating in flour to create a primer so that the buttermilk can adhere, otherwise, the meat would be too slippery. The chicken is then dipped in buttermilk and then one more time in the flour to create a thick double coating of extra crunchy skin.

chicken in a bowl of flour being coated

Why use buttermilk?

Buttermilk is an acidic dairy ingredient that helps tenderize the chicken but not make it mushy. The lactic acid activates the cathepsin enzymes naturally found in poultry. This helps break down the proteins into smaller molecules that tenderize the meat.

Frying the chicken

The chicken is fried in a certain order so that each piece gets the right amount of resting time before eating. The dark meat, thighs, and drumsticks are fried first at a lower temperature (320 degrees) for a slightly longer time. The light meat, the breasts, and wings are fried 20 degrees higher for a shorter period of time.

Make sure to use an instant-read thermometer to constantly check the hot oil temperature to ensure it stays consistent, and adjust the heat as needed. I like to use a thermometer that attaches to the side of the pot so I can check it often and see fluctuations and make quick changes.

What to serve with this

tongs holding up a piece of fried chicken

Target internal temperature for safe to eating

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 pieces rest for 7 to 10 minutes after frying to allow it to cool down. If resting for longer than 10 minutes, place the tray in the oven at 400°F for a minute or two to ensure the crust stays crisp right before serving.

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Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Crispy buttermilk fried chicken recipe inspired by Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc restaurant. Juicy flavorful bites made with a bold flour spice blend.
Pin Print Review
4.67 from 15 votes
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Passive Time13 hrs 30 mins
Total Time14 hrs 35 mins
Servings 10 pieces
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients

Chicken

  • 5 pounds whole chicken, or two 2 ½ pound chickens
  • fine sea salt, for sprinkling (optional)

Chicken Brine

  • 8 cups water
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 head garlic, halved through the equator
  • ¼ bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 6 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 bay leaves, fresh or dried

For Dredging and Frying

  • 6 cups vegetable oil, for deep-frying
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Coating

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions 

Chicken Brine

  • In a large pot combine water, salt, honey, lemon, garlic, parsley, thyme and bay leaves.
  • Boil brine for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt.
  • Remove from the heat and cool completely before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Chicken

  • Cut each chicken into 10 pieces each: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 boneless breast quarters, 2 wings.
  • Add the chicken to the pot of cooled brine or pour into a re-sealable plastic bag large enough to hold the chicken pieces. Refrigerate for 12 hours, no longer or the chicken may become too salty.
  • Remove the chicken from the brine. Discard the brine and rinse under cold water, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin.
  • Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Let rest at room temperature for 1 ½ hours, or until it comes to about room temperature.
  • Add oil to a large pot (about 4.5-quart size). The oil should fill the pot with at least 2-inches of oil, add more if needed. No matter what size pot you have the oil should not come more than one-third of the way up the sides.
  • Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.

Coating and Dredging

  • In a large bowl combine flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
  • Pour the buttermilk into a separate bowl and season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
  • Set up a dipping station: The chicken pieces, one bowl of coating, the bowl of buttermilk, and the parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Just before frying, dip the chicken into the coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess.
  • Dip chicken into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl.
  • Dip the chicken back into the coating. Transfer to the parchment-lined pan.
  • Repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken.

Frying

  • Heat oil to 320°F (160ºF).
  • Carefully lower the thighs into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperature. Fry and move the chicken around as needed until the skin is deep golden brown, cooked through, and very crisp, about 8 to 12 minutes.
  • Transfer the cooked thighs to the cooling rack, skin-side-up and let rest while you fry the remaining pieces. Sprinkle with fine sea salt if desired.
  • Bring oil back to 320ºF (160ºC), add the drumsticks, cook until golden brown, about 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer to the wire rack.
  • Turn up the heat and increase oil temperature to 340°F (171ºC).
  • Carefully lower the breasts into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, cooked through, and crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to the wire rack.
  • Cook the wings until golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to the rack and turn off the heat.
  • Arrange the chicken on a serving platter. Add some herb sprigs.

Notes

  • Peanut oil or canola oil can be subsituted for vegetable oil. 
  • MAKE IT GLUTEN FREE: Substitute gluten free flour for all-purpose flour using Bob's Red Mill 1:1 is recommended.
  • Recipe adapted from Ad Hoc at Home cookbook by Thomas Keller.

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Nutrition Facts
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 349 Calories from Fat 180
% Daily Value*
Fat 20g31%
Saturated Fat 7g35%
Cholesterol 84mg28%
Sodium 463mg19%
Potassium 319mg9%
Carbohydrates 19g6%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 24g48%
Vitamin A 499IU10%
Vitamin C 10mg12%
Calcium 60mg6%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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14 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. JJ says

    All GREAT information!
    BRINE!! Doh! I’ve avoided frying chicken bc I’ve gotten blood spots come through, where the veins still hold blood, and released on the high-temp frying. Does brining help drain the veins? (If not, what can you do to remedy that issue?)

      • JJ says

        (Marie:) You’re lucky if you’ve never had black spots in your finished fried chicken legs. It’s gross, and it’s occurred a number of times so I just stopped cooking chicken legs anymore. I’ve never been able to figure out how to drain the last of any blood that might be left in the veins. You sound pretty alarmed and honestly appalled that I’d ask such a question, but believe me, it happens. I’m curious if soaking in brine can bring those lingering drops of blood out. (If you reply, please be polite).

          • Bill says

            Growth hormones haven’t been used in chicken in the U.S. since the 1950’s. YOU make no sense. Please don’t comment if you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

  2. oregonhoney says

    Now that I have a glass cooktop and realize it is a never ending challenge to keep splatter free, I have stopped frying whenever I can use the oven. Chicken nuggets, using a similar formula for coating, has been my main way to prepare chicken. I can put a huge batch in the convection oven and it all turns out perfect in less time with a fraction of the cleanup. I’m going to incoporate your brining and coating with my oven nugget preference and see how it goes, it sounds great!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      There is a lot of flour, about 3 cups for the breading, and makes a really flavorful coating. Feel free to reduce the amounts to your taste. Perhaps add a little bit to the flour mixture, taste, and increase to your liking?

  3. Grace says

    I followed this Exactly except for Not frying.
    I baked these in the oven at 375 and used an instant read thermometer to test for when it was done . It was absolutely superb.

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