Recipes Main Courses Poultry and Game Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

A big platter of this crispy, tender, golden brown chicken would be a hit at almost any potluck or picnic. Immersing the chicken pieces in the buttermilk brine for several hours gives the chicken loads of flavor and helps keep the meat moist as it fries. The acid in the buttermilk also helps to tenderize the chicken.


  • 4 cups buttermilk  
  • 1/3 cup fine sea salt 
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano 
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme 
  • 2 tsp. dried rosemary 
  • 2 tsp. dried sage  
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic 
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper 
  • 1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 lbs.) 
  • Canola oil for deep-frying  
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour  
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 


To make the buttermilk brine, in a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and 1/3 cup salt. In a mortar, using a pestle, crush together the oregano, thyme, rosemary and sage (or pulse in a spice grinder) until finely ground. Whisk the ground herbs, garlic and cayenne pepper into the buttermilk mixture. Cut the chicken into 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings and 2 breast halves, reserving the back and giblets for another use. Cut each breast half crosswise to make 4 breast portions, for a total of 10 chicken pieces. Add to the buttermilk brine, making sure that the chicken is submerged. (If it isn’t, transfer everything to a smaller bowl.) Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 6 hours.

Pour oil to a depth of at least 3 inches into a large, heavy saucepan and heat over high heat to 350°F on a deep-frying thermometer. Set a large wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet and place near the stove. Have ready a second rimmed baking sheet. While the oil is heating, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Remove half of the chicken from the buttermilk brine, letting the excess brine drip back into the bowl. Add the chicken to the flour mixture and toss to coat evenly, then transfer to the second baking sheet.

When the oil is ready, in batches to avoid crowding, carefully slip the chicken pieces into the hot oil. The temperature will drop, but adjust the heat to keep the oil bubbling steadily at about 325°F. Deep-fry the chicken pieces, turning them occasionally with tongs, until they are golden brown and show no sign of pink when pierced at the thickest part, about 12 minutes. Using a wire skimmer, transfer the chicken to the rack to drain. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Serve warm. Serves 4.

Variation: Chicken Maryland is served with cream gravy: After frying the chicken, in a saucepan, heat 2 Tbs. of the cooking oil over medium heat. Whisk in 2 Tbs. flour, simmer for 1 minute, then whisk in 2 cups heated half-and-half. Bring to a boil, then simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the gravy over the chicken.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food, by Rick Rodgers (Oxmoor House, 2009).