After many years of cooking recipes from around the world, I have finally taken on the challenge of mastering Southern fried chicken. Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, fried chicken is one of my weaknesses (as we all know I’m a chubby lad). I knew it was not going to be an easy task, so I spent several days scouring the web in search of tips and techniques to perfect my take on the popular entree, as well as taste testing 12 chickens!
For my first attempt, I started by marinating the chicken breasts in buttermilk overnight followed by a sous-vide technique, where I sealed the chicken in an airtight bag and cooked it for 45 minutes at 63ºC/145.4ºF. This temperature-controlled method ensures the chicken cooks evenly from the inside out while remaining moist. Once fully cooked, I dredged the chicken breasts in a seasoned flour/cornstarch mixture and deep-fried in a shallow pan at 145ºF until the chicken was golden and crispy. Although this cooking style garnered exceptional results, it is not relatable to the majority of home cooks because sous vide machines are not yet a household staple.
My second attempt involved brining the pieces of chicken first and then marinating in buttermilk. Brining protein before cooking is an excellent way to retain moisture and keep it juicy. However, I found if you pair the process with a buttermilk marinade, the chicken yields a mushy texture.
Ultimately, I decided to go down the classic pathway: marinate, dredge and fry. However, the game changer in this tried and true recipe is to add a few tablespoons of the buttermilk marinade to the flour mixture before dredging. It gives the coating a crumbling, which makes for the perfect crunch.
Alas, I have found my perfect recipe! Although a popular quick service food chain uses 11 herbs and spices, I found six were adequate. I used paprika, oregano, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and allspice. You should never be afraid to add spices to your recipes! If you want to add curry powder or five spice to mix things up, I say give it a whirl.
If you have any fried chicken questions, please feel free to comment or share any tips you may of learned over the years.