Why This Recipe Works
- Brining the rabbit provides seasoning and helps to keep the meat from drying out.
- Allowing the rabbit to rest after dredging ensures the breading won't fall off in the fryer.
Growing up, I didn’t really ever question what I was eating, especially if it tasted good. While a lot of people are turned off by the thought of eating a furry and cute creature like a rabbit, I’m not, mostly because I’ve eaten it a lot and I think it’s delicious, especially when it’s smothered, stewed, or fried.
If you don’t mind the idea of eating rabbit, you may have avoided seeking it out because you’ve been told that they’re difficult to find or prepare, which isn’t really true. Sure, they can be a little hard to find, you can find them at specialty grocery stores or put in an order at your local butcher, who might be able to help you out. Luckily for me, I’ve usually found rabbit farmers near where I’ve lived, and I’ll buy a few at a time, mostly processed (skin and innards removed, sometimes the head and feet removed, too), and freeze them. It’s cheaper to buy them this way, and since the main obstacle to buying rabbit after figuring out where to buy them is that the little critters are relatively expensive, it’s a good tip. If you don’t mind the cost, you can buy rabbit online, and you can usually get them broken down into individual serving pieces, so you don’t have to do that yourself.
However, rabbit isn’t difficult to prepare at all. The only thing that’s tricky about it is it’s quite lean, so you can easily overcook it, which makes the meat tough and dry. But if you can cook chicken you can cook rabbit, since it tastes sort of similar and is just as easy to prepare.
A Brine Keeps the Rabbit Moist
This recipe for fried rabbit is essentially the same as one for fried chicken: the meat is brined, dredged, and fried until crisp on the outside and juicy inside. For the brine, I use buttermilk and a mix of fresh herbs and dried spices. The mustard, paprika, and pepper add bite and a subtle smoky heat to the rabbit, the onion and garlic powders provide a more rounded, savory flavor, and the fresh thyme and rosemary brightens everything up a bit. And while the combination seasons the rabbit nicely, the buttermilk and salt give you a little wiggle room to ensure that the cooked rabbit doesn’t dry out. (Truthfully, you could use your favorite fried chicken recipe and just replace the chicken with rabbit, so long as that recipe calls for a brine—the brine is important!) Then I dredge the rabbit in a simple mixture of all-purpose flour, salt, and pepper, and let it rest for a little bit, which helps to keep the coating from falling off the rabbit in the fryer.
I love eating this fried rabbit for an anytime meal. It makes a great breakfast or brunch protein and is absolutely insane with biscuits and gravy or grits. Slice it or dice it up while cold and add it to a sandwich or salad for lunch. And, of course, it expands your dinner options, especially when you’re tired of eating chicken or fish or when you want to impress guests.
Southern Fried Rabbit
Buttermilk-brined and dredged in seasoned flour.
- To Brine the Rabbit:
- 3 cups (710ml) buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons (8g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt use half as much by volume or an equal amount by weight
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme, picked
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, picked and chopped
- One 3-pound (1.4kg) rabbit, broken down into 2 front legs, 2 hind quarters, and 1 saddle cut in half crosswise
- To Dredge and Fry:
- 2 cups (9 ounces; 260g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon (12g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning; for table salt use half as much by volume or an equal amount by weight
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups (1L) neutral oil such as vegetable, for frying
To Brine the Rabbit: In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, salt, mustard powder, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, and thyme. Add rabbit pieces and toss to thoroughly coat. Transfer contents of bowl to a 1-gallon zipper-lock freezer bag and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours, flipping bag occasionally to redistribute the contents and coat rabbit evenly.
To Dredge and Fry: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 200°F (95°C). Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and pepper. Working with one piece of rabbit at a time, remove rabbit from marinade, allowing excess buttermilk to drip off, and add to flour mixture. Toss to thoroughly coat, pressing with your hands to get flour to adhere to rabbit in an even layer. Transfer to prepared wire rack, and repeat dredging process with remaining rabbit pieces. Let dredged rabbit rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, line a second rimmed baking sheet with paper towels and set a clean wire rack in it. Heat oil in a 12-inch cast iron skillet or 14-inch wok over medium-high heat to 350°F (175°C). Carefully add half the rabbit pieces and fry, adjusting heat to return to a 350°F (175°C) frying temperature, until golden brown on the first side, about 8-10 minutes. Using tongs, carefully flip rabbit pieces, and continue to fry until golden brown all over, and thickest part of rabbit registers 160°F (70°C) on an instant-read thermometer, about 7 minutes longer. Transfer fried rabbit to prepared wire rack, season lightly with salt, then transfer to oven to keep warm.
Skim any browned bits from oil and discard. Return oil to 350°F (175°C), and repeat with remaining rabbit. Let rest 5 minutes. Serve.
12-inch cast iron skillet, 2 rimmed baking sheets, and 2 wire cooling racks.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The fried rabbit is best enjoyed immediately after frying. Placed in an airtight container, the rabbit will keep in the refrigerator for up to five days. To reheat, place chicken on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet in a preheated 350°F (175°C) oven; alternatively, you can refry it.