Why It Works
- Breaking down a whole chicken into parts lets you keep the breast bone-in for juicier meat and gives you the option to fry the neck and back as well.
- A brine of buttermilk and hot sauce leaves the chicken tender and seasoned to the bone.
- Using an oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut or safflower, will ensure that the flavor of the oil remains neutral throughout the frying.
- Dredging the chicken in extra-fine 00 flour makes for an especially crispy crust that stays crunchy long after cooking.
- Taking the time to pack the flour into each piece of chicken creates lots of craggy bits that fry up crisp and light.
- Frying the chicken at a low temperature gently cooks the inside for tender and juicy meat, while allowing enough time to drive off all the moisture in the crust so it becomes super crunchy.
This fried chicken is coated with a layer of super-light, extra-crunchy craggy-ness thanks to a tight packing of Italian fine "00" (doppio-zero) flour, coupled with a low-temperature shallow fry. It's finished with a drizzle of toasted-honey butter, allowing the hot and flavorful spice dust to stick to every nook and cranny. It's also no coincidence that this recipe, when made alongside Stella's buttermilk waffle recipe, uses exactly one quart of buttermilk in total. So fire up those waffle makers.
- For the Buttermilk Brine:
- One 2 1/2– to 3 1/2–pound (1.1 to 1.6kg) chicken
- 2 1/4 cups (540g) buttermilk
- 1/2 cup (130g) Frank's RedHot hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon (4g) garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon (4g) onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (2g) freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons (8g) kosher salt (see note)
- For Frying:
- 5 cups (1.1kg) peanut or safflower oil
- 2 1/2 cups (375g) Italian 00 flour (see note)
- 2 teaspoons (8g) kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- For the Honey-Butter Drizzle:
- 1/3 cup (120g) clover honey
- 2 tablespoons (30g) water
- 3 1/2 tablespoons (50g) butter
- For the Spice Dust:
- 10 árbol chilies (about 6g)
- 12 Kashmiri red chilies (18g)
- 2 pieces (2g) star anise
- 1 black cardamom pod (2g), inner seeds only
- One 2-inch piece cinnamon (4g)
- 1 teaspoon (2g) cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon (5g) Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons (6g) porcini mushroom powder
- To Serve (Optional, but Recommended!):
- Buttermilk Vanilla Waffles
To Prepare and Brine the Chicken: Using a chef's knife, break the chicken down into 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, and 2 wings and divide each breast half in half (making 4 breast pieces in total); leave all pieces bone-in. Split backbone crosswise into 2 pieces and reserve the neck if you choose to fry it as well. (Both the backbone and the neck are optional pieces with very little meat, but fried-chicken-crust lovers will adore them.)
In a large lidded container or mixing bowl, whisk together buttermilk, hot sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and salt. Add chicken to buttermilk brine, making sure it is fully coated and submerged; cover with lid or plastic wrap. Alternatively, you can place the brine and chicken in a heavy-duty zipper-lock bag and place the bag in a dish to catch any leaks. Place in refrigerator and marinate overnight for at least 8 hours and no more than 12 hours.
For Frying: Fill a 12-inch cast iron skillet with oil. (If using a skillet of a different size, increase or reduce the amount of oil to fill it halfway up.) Attach a clip-on thermometer and preheat the oil to 325°F (163°C), keeping the burner at medium-high heat. Line one sheet tray with paper towels and set a wire rack in another sheet tray.
Whisk together the 00 flour and salt. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of buttermilk brine into the flour and gently toss. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, lift chicken from buttermilk and immediately place it in flour with your "wet" hand. Using your other, "dry" hand, bury the chicken and press flour into all sides, packing tightly to form large clumps of flour coating each piece. Lift chicken out of flour and shake to remove any loose flour before placing into the hot oil. Proceed with remaining pieces, first frying the legs and thighs in one batch, then frying the breast, wings, and backbone (if using) in the second.
Once the chicken is added to the oil, the temperature will drop to between 250 and 275°F (121 and 135°C). Do not increase the heat to compensate; just allow the oil temperature to gradually return to 325°F (163°C) as the chicken cooks. The temperature should be up to 300°F (148°C) after 10 minutes; if not, increase the heat. Fry, turning, until deeply golden brown all over, with extra-dark bits where the chicken makes contact with the pan, about 8 minutes per side for legs and thighs and about 6 minutes per side for wings, breasts, and backbones.
As each piece of chicken is ready, remove from oil to the paper towel–lined sheet tray and season immediately with kosher salt. Transfer chicken to wire rack to rest.
Meanwhile, for the Honey-Butter Drizzle: Add honey to a 1-quart saucepan and caramelize over medium-high heat until deep, nutty brown, with an aroma of burnt sugar. Remove from heat and add water. Return to heat and add butter, stirring until incorporated. Set aside.
For the Spice Dust: Remove stems and seeds from chilies by cutting them open with kitchen shears over a wire rack set over a sheet tray. In a small sauté pan over medium heat, toast chilies until fragrant, warm to the touch, and pliable. Set aside. In the same pan, toast star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon for 30 seconds before adding cumin and Sichuan peppercorns. Toast until fragrant and warm to the touch. In a spice grinder, grind toasted chilies and spices together until fine. Mix in mushroom powder. Set aside.
To Serve: Just before serving, drizzle each piece of chicken with honey butter and generously sprinkle on spice dust. Serve with buttermilk waffles, if desired.
Although an overnight brine is ideal, if you need fried chicken on the fly, increase the kosher salt to 5 teaspoons (20g) and marinate for two to four hours. The resulting meat will not be as tender and moist, but it will be well seasoned. Italian 00 flour (also called doppio-zero, or "double-zero"), is an extra-fine grind with low-absorbency properties, and it produces an unbelievably crispy and crunchy crust.