Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken

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Prep Time: 270 minutes
Cook Time: 24 minutes
Servings: 4

The key to moist and flavorful fried chicken is to soak the chicken in a salt solution, or brine, for a few hours before frying. Here, the brine also includes tangy buttermilk, herbs, garlic and cayenne pepper for extra flavor and juiciness. Serve with hot pepper sauce on the side, if desired.


  • 4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) buttermilk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 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 4 lb. (2 kg) total, cut into 8 serving pieces
  • Canola oil for deep-frying
  • 1 1/3 cups (7 oz./220 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Flaky sea salt or kosher salt for sprinkling


In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and
 1/3 cup (2 oz./60 g) kosher salt. Crush the herbs well with your fingers. Whisk the thyme, rosemary, sage, garlic and cayenne pepper into the buttermilk mixture.

Using a large knife, carefully cut each chicken breast half crosswise to make 4 breast portions, for a total 
of 10 chicken pieces. Add the pieces 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 (7.5 cm) into a deep, heavy saucepan and warm over high heat to 350°F (180°C) on a deep-frying thermometer. Set a large wire rack on a large rimmed baking sheet and place near the stove. Have ready a second baking sheet. While the oil is heating, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and 1/2 tsp. 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 (165°C). 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. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cook Good Food (Weldon Owen, 2014)

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