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Southern Pan-Fried Chicken

We’ve blended our best chicken-frying tips from Virginia and Alabama in this recipe, which requires a bit of extra effort, but the results are absolutely outstanding. The chicken gets two long soaks, Alabama-style, first in brine and then in buttermilk. The frying fat is Virginia-style, a special mix of lard and sweet butter flavored with country ham, which makes the chicken extra crispy and rich-tasting. The cornstarch in the dredge adds to the crispness, too.–Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock

LC Frying Commandments Note

Edna Lewis notes in this recipe the following tactics. We consider them frying commandments.

Brine the chicken. (That is, soak it in a saltwater solution before cooking, which serves a twofold purpose: it helps the meat retain moisture and seasons it all the way through. To make the brine, stir kosher salt into cold water until dissolved in the proportion of 1/4 cup kosher salt to 1 quart of water. Don’t use table salt; it will be too salty). Mix enough brine to cover the poultry completely in a non-reactive bowl or pot. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.)

Be sure to pat off all excess dredge before frying.

Fry evenly at the proper temperature.

Drain the chicken well on crumpled-up—not flat—paper towels or a wire rack.

Southern Pan-Fried Chicken Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H
  • 9 H, 30 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • One 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces, brined for 8 to 12 hours (see Note)
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 1 pound lard
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup country ham pieces or 1 thick slice country ham, cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  • 1. To prep the brined chicken for frying, drain it and discard the brine. Rinse out the bowl it was brined in. Return the chicken to the bowl and pour the buttermilk over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours. Place the chicken on a wire rack to drain, discarding the buttermilk.
  • 2. Meanwhile, prepare the fat for frying by putting the lard, butter, and country ham in a heavy skillet or frying pan. Cook over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes, skimming any foam as needed, until the butter ceases to throw off foam and the country ham is browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ham from the fat. Just before frying, increase the temperature to medium-high and heat the fat to 335°F (170°C).
  • 3. Prepare the dredge by blending together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl or on wax paper. Dredge the drained chicken pieces thoroughly in the flour mixture, then gently shake to remove all excess flour.
  • 4. Slip some of the chicken pieces, skin side down, into the heated fat. (Do not crowd the pan. Fry in batches if necessary.) Cook for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Drain thoroughly on a wire rack or on crumpled paper towels. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.
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