For many people around the world fried chicken is the ultimate in comfort food, and it’s not hard to see why really. A crispy outer layer hiding a juicy and meaty centre is about as good as it gets when it comes to texture. But the flavour is what really pushes fried chicken up to the top of the list. With a decent brine or marinade (especially with buttermilk) alongside a well seasoned breading, and you’re going to be arriving on flavour mountain in no time. Anyway, I wanted some so I thought I’d have a go, and it was pretty good, so here it is…
I don’t know if it’s my rose-tinted memory of the UK, but the fried chicken there seems to be miles ahead regarding quality when compared to Singapore. It’s probably more down to the quality of meat here, but KFC here can just be downright dodgy, and it makes me sad. I long for the Chicken Connoisseur to find something good here, but it’s probably not going to happen. Let’s face it anyway, even though these placed can spend thousands researching the perfect coating, they’re not putting much effort into ensuring the quality is bangin’, but we can do that at home.
So, why is buttermilk so often used as the marinade for fried chicken? Buttermilk is the byproduct of turning cream into butter; when churning, the cream splits out into butterfat (butter) and buttermilk (…buttermilk…). Buttermilk is a little acidic and full of enzymes, making it perfect for tenderising chicken. The acid and enzymes work together to begin breaking down the muscle fibres, resulting in a more tender and tasty final product.
Generally, with poultry, such as with a roast duck, I would brine it before cooking to get a moister and well-seasoned bird, so why not combine the two. I’m definitely not the first one to go down this route, and once you try it, you’ll see just why. I like to add some extra seasonings in here too, such as paprika and ground coriander, but feel free to include whatever you want in your fried chicken.
Now for the breading, probably the best bit of the final result if you ask me. For this, you want to get a few more seasonings in here to really hit a home run in the flavour stakes. The addition of rice flour also adds a bit more of a tempura-y feel, which I like. Adding a little of the buttermilk marinade to the breading creates some clumps in the flour, which are perfect for getting all those fantastic craggy and crispy bits during frying.
So, now you’ve got your ultimate crispy fried chicken, what do you have with it? Something tangy to cut through the grease is the go-to for me. Pickles or something like sauerkraut is all I need. Fries are a classic, but maybe a little heavy on the oil if they’re fried too. Coleslaw is a common side for a reason, get on it.
What could be better than sinking your teeth into the ultimate crispy and juicy fried chicken? Brine in seasoning-laded buttermilk and fry into a breading from heaven. You're on to a winner.
- 8 chicken thighs and legs
- 500 mL buttermilk
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 1 tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tbsp dried sage
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 225 g plain flour
- 75 g rice flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground coriander
Combine the ingredients for the buttermilk brine, whisking well to combine.
Add the chicken and ensure all the pieces are submerged.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but overnight if possible.
Combine the ingredients for the breading along with 3 or 4 tbsp of the buttermilk brine and mix. You want some lumps in the mixture, to ensure some super crispy chicken.
Heat around 2 cm of oil in a high-sided frying pan (peanut/groundnut oil is great) to 170oC. I use a sugar thermometer to check the temperature. Never fill a pan more than ⅓ full of oil, you don’t want to burn your house down unless you’re looking to commit insurance fraud.
In the meantime, remove your chicken from the buttermilk, and roll, one piece at a time, in the breading. Make sure you get a really good coating, pressing it on with your hands.
In multiple batches as to not crowd the pan, fry your chicken for about 5 minutes on each side, trying to keep the oil between 160oC and 170oC. You want a beautiful golden brown and crispy coating by the time you turn it over. Bother the chicken as little as possible in the pan, or your coating will call off.