– The pan. Every Southerner knows that a cast iron skillet is the way to go. If you don’t have one passed down by generations, start your own tradition and get one from Lodge Cast Iron. They’re great for frying chicken, baking cornbread, stews, and greens!
-The chicken. A Free-range, preferably organic chicken from your local farmer or market.
-The temperature. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the oil by tossing in a bit of flour. It should sizzle but not burn. Keep the frying temp to between 350 to 375 degrees F.
- One 3 – to 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 10 pieces
- 3 tablespoons sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
- Crisco vegetable shortening or canola oil, for frying
- Place the chicken in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add 2 tablespoons of the salt and the sugar, vinegar, and bay leaves and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Cover and refrigerate over night.
- When ready to cook the chicken, place the buttermilk in a shallow bowl and transfer the chicken from the brine to the buttermilk.
- Place the flour, remaining 1 tablespoon salt, the black pepper and cayenne in a separate large shallow bowl or plastic bag and stir or shake to mix.
- Melt the shortening about 1/2 inch deep in a large cast-iron skillet and place over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches between 350° and 375°F. The melted shortening should be deep enough to submerge the chicken about halfway; the level of the shortening will rise slightly when you add the chicken.
- Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and dredge or shake in the flour mixture, one piece at a time, to coat evenly on all sides, beginning with the large pieces. Shake off any excess flour.
- Place the chicken, skin side down, in the hot shortening, reduce the heat to medium, and fry until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Check the pieces to make sure they are not browning too quickly; if so, reduce the heat or turn the pieces. Turn the chicken and fry the other side until golden brown, about 15 minutes more. The chicken is done when the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced with the tip of a small knife and an internal thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the thigh reads about 165°. The chicken should cook for a total of 30 to 35 minutes.
- Line a platter with a brown paper bag and transfer the chicken to the platter to drain, Season with additional salt and pepper and let sit for about 10 minutes before serving warm.
This recipe was developed by my Grandmother Lillie, and handed down to my mother Charlotte. It has a crunchy, salty, golden crackly crust and meat as moist and tender as can be. Brining drives extra moisture and flavor into the meat, locking it in during the cooking process.