These fried chicken and biscuits meld two homemade Southern classics that are easy to make thanks to clever shortcuts. What results? Crisp fried chicken thighs and tender, flaky buttermilk biscuits. Here’s how to make them.
Southern cookbook author Cynthia Graubart upended our notion of chicken and biscuits by not only sandwiching buttermilk fried chicken with the accompanying biscuits but by using boneless chicken thighs to ensure quick cooking in a skillet. The biscuits usurp the need for a thick batter on the chicken. Your reward instead is a thin, shatteringly crisp contrast to the tender, juicy meat within.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Fried Chicken and Biscuits
For the fried chicken thighs
For the biscuits
- 2 cups bread flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks (8 oz) butter cold and cut into small chunks
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (regular or low-fat)
- 1 large egg
- Vegetable oil
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
Prep the chicken
- Sprinkle the chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and onion powder.
☞TESTER TIP: To ensure your chicken cooks evenly, make sure your thighs—on the chicken, not you—are roughly the same thickness. If not, pound them with the bottom of a skillet or a rolling pin until about 1/2 inch (12 mm) thick.
- In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup buttermilk and 1 egg. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Let the chicken soak while you make the biscuits.
Make the biscuits
- In a large bowl, combine the bread flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Place the cubed butter in a resealable plastic freezer bag. Freeze the flour mixture and butter separately until chilled through, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg.
- Using a pastry blender or fork, cut the chilled butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. Add buttermilk mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly 3 to 4 times. Pat or roll the dough to 1-inch (25-mm) thickness and cut into 8 rectangles.
- Bake until golden brown, 15 to 16 minutes. Let cool slightly while the chicken is frying.
Fry the chicken
- In a large, deep cast-iron skillet or pot over high heat, pour enough oil to reach a depth of about 1 inch (25 mm) and heat it to 325°F (163°C).
- Place the flour in a shallow dish and dredge the chicken in it, shaking off any excess.
- Fry the chicken in 2 batches, adjusting the heat to maintain the oil temperature, until golden brown and cooked through, 5 to 8 minutes per side.
☞TESTER TIP: Lower the chicken into the oil with caution as the oil may spatter.
- Drain the chicken on a wire rack over paper towels.
- Split the biscuits in half. Sandwich the biscuits with 1 fried chicken thigh and serve immediately with any desired toppings.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This recipe is bulletproof. I stumbled and fumbled and messed up at every turn and this still came out really well—both the chicken and the biscuits.
The chicken was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. The biscuits were buttery and tender. The honey added a sweet note in addition to the hint of sugar in the biscuits. Beyond the salt, we found the seasoning on the chicken to be not assertive enough, and that’s about the only shortcoming at all with the recipe. I’d probably add a sprinkling of cayenne or hot paprika and more onion powder next time.
The chicken was fried to the right doneness and brownness at 5 minutes per side. It looked like properly fried chicken! The biscuits were golden brown in 15 minutes. They were flaky, only a little crumbly, and thick enough to be split into generous halves for fried chicken sandwiches.
Gory detail interlude: The flour and butter did not seem thoroughly chilled enough at 10 minutes, nor at 15. Then I realized I forgot to preheat the oven. Then I forgot the flour and butter were in the freezer. Once the oven was preheated, I remembered the flour and butter and pulled them out of the freezer.
I’m not sure what the right length of time for the chilling is, but 15 minutes wasn’t long enough and 40 minutes was too long. It’s good I have a heat lamp that kept the chicken warm while all this played out. (I put the ingredients in the freezer just after the last of the thighs started on their second side.)
The butter was (not surprisingly) rock solid for blending. The cubes were about 1/2 inch and getting them broken down with a pastry blender was challenging. It took a while and a few pieces were larger than I wanted, but by then I was worried that the dough was overworked and wouldn’t be puffy and tender enough. It came through fine, though. While less frozen butter would have been optimal for blending, these came out looking like the photo.
We topped the chicken with a drizzle of honey. These were served with a green salad and steamed broccoli, which provided a nice balance to the fat.
I love fried chicken but I don’t make it at home often—it can be time-consuming and a little messy. This recipe, however, is easy to pull off in well under an hour, incredibly flaky biscuits included. The use of chicken thighs means that it’s not necessary to brine the meat in order to get a tasty result and the buttermilk just increases the tenderness and flavor.
I pounded the thighs to an even thickness of 1/2 inch before seasoning. I let the thighs rest while I readied the flour mixture and butter for the freezer—putting the flour and butter into the freezer, by the way, is an absolute stroke of genius. These biscuits are the tenderest and flakiest that I’ve ever managed to bake. Big chunks of cold butter in the dough is a sure sign that the biscuits are going to be incredible. I put the biscuits in the oven just before I started frying the chicken and everything came together in perfect time.
The other thing that I really liked about this recipe was the relatively small amount of oil used for frying. It’s manageable and the thinness of the thighs means they still cook very quickly. I was going to use my cast iron skillet but instead chose to use my risotto pan—an unorthodox choice, perhaps, but it worked like a charm and the higher sides meant that clean up was even easier.
The 2 separate parts of this recipe were fantastic—crisp and juicy chicken, amazingly tender biscuits. I did find that the thickness and sweetness of the biscuits overwhelmed the chicken; next time I might just roll them a little thinner and cut 10 or 12 biscuits. I mean, what’s the harm in a few extra biscuits when they’re as good as these?
Pickled green tomatoes weren’t something I had on hand so I served them with a number of different condiments—mayo, dill pickles, spicy jalapeno honey, shredded lettuce, and hot sauce—and they were all a hit.
Go ahead and file this one under “Greater than the sum of its parts.” These fried chicken sandwiches met and exceeded every expectation for crispy, juicy fried chicken and sky-high, buttery biscuits on their own, but together, they were out of this world. I was actually impressed with myself at how well they turned out.
I’ve made fried chicken before and I’ve made biscuits before, but this recipe author added a few small techniques to the process which made all the difference: freezing the flour and butter to cool down the biscuit dough, and pounding the chicken for even frying. My boyfriend took one bite of the sandwich, then immediately set it down and turned to his salad which I served as a side (balance, right?). “You don’t like it?” I asked. “No,” he responded. “I love it. I want to savor it. I’m getting this salad out of the way first.” That’s a man with a dinner strategy. All this to say: try this recipe.
I think a large food processor would make quick work of cutting the butter into the flour. I don’t have one so I used my fingers but it took some effort as the cubes were quite firm. It took the warmth of my hands to get it to budge. I stuck the mixture back in the freezer to cool a few more minutes before adding the buttermilk.
The biscuit dough was crumbly, but after a little bit of working it on the counter it eventually came together. A bench scraper is recommended for forming a rectangle and cutting the biscuits.
I found that 15 minutes was exactly right to get golden brown biscuits. They had crisp corners and plush interiors.
Something acidic would make a good topping on these sandwiches. I didn’t have pickled tomatoes but I did have pickled red onions and regular old hot sauce, which did the trick.
Originally published August 16, 2020