Buttermilk Fried Chicken is the ultimate comfort food! Bone in, skin on chicken is soaked in a buttermilk brine, coated, and fried until golden and crispy!
Buttermilk Fried Chicken is one of those finger licking comfort foods that everyone loves but not everyone cooks. There is a fair amount of time, labor, dishes, and oil involved when making this Southern favorite, but each tasty morsel will make you smile.
What chicken works best?
You can totally make boneless skinless buttermilk fried chicken, but it won't turn out like the crispy-on-the-outside moist-and-tender-on-the-inside Southern fried chicken we all dream about.
The skin not only helps keep the meat inside moist and prevents over cooking, but will get extra crispy on the outside when dropped in hot oil.
When cooking chicken pieces that still have the bone inside, the cooking process will take longer but the chicken will be more moist and delicious.
Here's how to make it:
Buttermilk fried chicken is definitely a labor of love. It is not the kind of dinner recipe you can come home from work and have on the table thirty minutes later. If you're looking for a quick and easy chicken dinner recipe, you're better off making something like Perfect Cashew Chicken, Chicken Piccata, or Perfect Chicken Parmesan.
This Buttermilk Fried Chicken recipe involves soaking your bone in skin on chicken pieces in a seasoned buttermilk brine. Then coating them in a seasoned flour. Then frying the coated chicken pieces in a lot of oil.
Deep frying used to scare me, but once you get the hang of it, there's actually less splatter than if you're cooking in a hot pan with just a bit of oil. A really good quality cast iron pan works really well for deep frying chicken. A trusty thermometer is also one of those kitchen tools that's necessary for making this recipe.
Reasons why buttermilk is used to marinate or soak chicken prior to cooking:
- Buttermilk is acidic. In fact, if you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can make a buttermilk substitute by combining 1 cup of milk with either 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Both the vinegar and lemon juice are highly acidic. The acidic dairy helps tenderize the meat.
- Buttermilk adds a bit of flavor. It also helps the chicken absorb any spices you include in your soak.
- Finally, after a long soak in buttermilk, the seasoned flour coating will be able to stick to your chicken prior to coating. This, combined with the cooked skin, will give you that crispy flavorful outside.
How long do you soak chicken in buttermilk before frying?
My recommendation is to soak your chicken pieces for at least 6 hours. You need to give the buttermilk enough time to break down and tenderize the chicken.
If you're a planner, a good buttermilk brine soak overnight will only make your chicken pieces even more tender. I, on the other hand, often don't know what I'm making for dinner until the night of.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
- 3 pounds chicken (whole pieces, bone in, skin on (I used breasts and drumsticks))
For the soak:
- 2 tsp black pepper (freshly ground)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp rosemary (dried)
- ½ tsp thyme (dried)
- ½ tsp oregano (dried)
- ½ tsp sage (dried)
- ½ tsp white pepper
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 cups buttermilk (alternatively, you can use 2 cups milk + 2 tbsp lemon juice)
For the seasoned coating:
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 cups oil (high heat tolerant for frying)
- Combine chicken pieces with black pepper, salt, paprika, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, white pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl or resealable plastic bag to coat.
- Add buttermilk to fully coat chicken. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.
- Combine flour, salt, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, white pepper, and onion powder in a large resealable plastic bag or shallow dish.
- Remove chicken from the buttermilk and and shake to remove any excess. Dredge each piece in the seasoned flour. Shake off any excess and transfer to a plate.
- Heat cooking oil in a large Dutch oven to 350 degrees F. Add the white meat pieces of chicken to the pan and cook for 16-18 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove chicken from the oil and transfer to a cooling rack set over a paper towel lined baking sheet. To keep warm, set on baking dish, tent with foil, and keep warm in 200 F degree oven.
- Allow oil to once again heat to 350 degrees F. Add the dark meat pieces of chicken to the pan and cook for 18-25 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove chicken from the oil and transfer to a cooling rack set over a paper towel lined baking sheet.