Why It Works
- Pickle brine seasons the chicken thighs while also breaking down their muscle structure, allowing them to retain more moisture as they cook.
- Mixing buttermilk into self-rising flour with your fingertips creates little nuggets of batter that make your chicken extra crispy.
Look at that fried chicken sandwich. Check out the crisp, craggy crust with that come bite me sheen that promises juicy, tender meat underneath. Look at that potato bun, its buttery, golden dome beckoning to you. And then...the pickles. The most playful little pickles! Cradling the chicken in a bosom of brine and dill. Now listen to this: All of that can be yours. And it can be yours, top to bottom, with just five simple ingredients.
- 1 jar sliced pickles, such as Vlasic, with brine
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (see note)
- 1 quart peanut, vegetable, or canola oil
- 4 soft hamburger buns or potato rolls, toasted
Pour 3/4 cup pickle juice out of pickle jar into a cup. Reserve pickles.
Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. Place in a plastic zipper-lock bag. Pour in pickle juice. Seal bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Refrigerate and let chicken soak in pickle juice for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours.
When ready to fry, remove chicken from bag and discard pickle juice. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Pour buttermilk into a medium bowl. Add flour and 1 tablespoon pepper to a second bowl. Transfer 3 tablespoons of buttermilk to bowl with flour and work it into the flour with your fingertips.
Transfer chicken to bowl with buttermilk and turn to coat. Working with one piece at a time, remove chicken from buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off. Add chicken to bowl with flour and turn, lifting the flour on top of it and pressing it down firmly until a thick, shaggy layer of flour has stuck to the chicken. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken pieces.
Heat oil in a wok, deep cast iron skillet, or Dutch oven to 425°F using a frying thermometer or an instant-read thermometer. Carefully lower chicken pieces into the hot oil; temperature will drop. Adjust flame to maintain a temperature of between 300 and 350°F. Cook without moving until well browned on first side, about 2 minutes. Flip chicken carefully using tongs and a slotted spatula and cook until second side is browned and chicken is fully cooked, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate.
Place bottom buns on a work surface and top with a few pickles each. Top with fried chicken, followed by top buns. Serve immediately.
deep cast iron skillet, wok, or Dutch oven for frying; frying thermometer or instant-read thermometer
If you don't have self-rising flour, you can substitute 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.