Everyone knows the South is famous for fried chicken, but we’re going to let you in on the secret to Perfect Southern Fried Chicken…
The secret, my friend, is the buttermilk. Buttermilk is naturally lightly acidic which breaks down the chicken, tenderizing it as it marinates, resulting in juicy, tender chicken when it’s fried.
The key to successfully frying is ensuring that the oil reaches 350F before putting the chicken in, otherwise, instead of deep-frying, the coating will absorb the grease. Choose an oil that has a high smoke point such as peanut or canola oil. Using oil with a low smoke point will result in smoking oil (which in turn will stink up the house!) and burnt tasting food.
1 Whole chicken, approximately 3 to 3 1/2 pounds, cut into 10 pieces (or use a mix of thighs and drumsticks)
2 cups buttermilk (or plain yogurt thinned slightly with milk)
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, tarragon) or a teaspoon each of the dried herbs.
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Garlic Salt
1 tsp salt, more as needed
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, more as needed
2 cups Self-Rising flour
3 cups peanut oil, lard or canola
Mix buttermilk, herbs, paprika, and cayenne pepper together in a bowl, then add the chicken pieces and toss gently to coat. Cover and marinate for at least an hour and up 24 hours.
Combine flour, garlic salt, salt and pepper in a large bowl or, ideally, a paper bag large enough to accommodate the flour and the pieces of chicken.
Pour oil into a large, heavy-bottomed cast-iron skillet with high sides and a lid, to a depth of a few inches. Heat oil over medium-high heat to 350 degrees.
Set a rack on a baking sheet or tray. Place the chicken pieces in the paper bag filled with the flour mixture and shake well to coat, or toss them in the bowl with the flour mixture to achieve a similar result.
Shake off excess flour and fry the pieces of chicken skin-side down, in batches so as not to crowd the pan, for about 5 to 15 minutes, covered by the lid.
Remove the lid, turn over the chicken pieces, and cook for about 5 to 15 minutes more, uncovered, until they are cooked through and a deep golden brown.
Watch the chicken and remove it when it’s golden brown.
Transfer chicken to the rack to drain and rest, sprinkle with salt and serve warm with mashed potatoes and gravy.