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Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Serves: Makes 4 to 6 servings


  • For the marinade:
  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken, cut into 8 to 10 serving pieces
  • 5 cups buttermilk, divided
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme, roughly chopped
  • 6 sprigs fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed
  • 4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • For the seasoned flour dredge:
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram

  • For the dip:
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • Vegetable oil, for frying


Some contemporary cooks are wary of frying, but here’s a reason to make an exception. This chicken is so moist, so crunchy and savory, it’s worth any trepidation. The key is to use a pan that doesn’t crowd the chicken (use two, or cook in batches, if necessary), and—most importantly—to keep an eye on the heat. The chicken should sizzle merrily in the oil but it shouldn’t brown too quickly or the outside will be done before the inside is fully cooked.

Arrange the chicken in a large baking dish and set aside in the refrigerator. In a large mixing bowl, combine 4 cups buttermilk, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, 2 tablespoons salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper and pour over the chicken. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours. Alternatively, use a vacuum sealer or instant marinator to reduce the marinating time to 45 minutes.

Place rack over baking sheet. Remove chicken from marinade and set on rack and drain thoroughly.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, remaining 2 tablespoons salt, remaining 2 teaspoons black pepper, paprika, oregano, sage, and marjoram and set aside.

In another large mixing bowl whisk together remaining 1 cup buttermilk, egg, baking powder, and baking soda. The mixture will bubble and foam as the baking powder reacts with the liquid, creating aeration in the batter by releasing carbon dioxide.

To a deep, heavy Dutch oven or cast-iron 12-inch skillet on medium-high heat, add about 1 inch of oil and heat until the oil registers 375°F on a deep-fry thermometer. If your pan is smaller, use two pans or fry the chicken in batches.

To double dip the chicken pick up a piece of marinated chicken, dredge the piece in the seasoned flour making sure all the creases and corners are well coated. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture to coat, and then dredge back in the seasoned flour, and shaking off any excess, back into the egg mixture then flour mixture.

Add coated chicken to the hot oil carefully, skin side down. Always place hot food items in a hot skillet away from your body to avoid splashes to your skin and clothes. Once all the chicken is in the pan, turn the heat to medium so the sizzling is steady and cover the pan. After about 15 minutes, remove the lid and check the chicken. If a rich brown crust has developed, turn each piece. If the chicken still looks pale, increase the heat slightly and cook for a few more minutes before turning. Continue frying the chicken until well browned on the second side and the meat is totally cooked through and registers 165°F on an instant read thermometer, about 30 to 40 minutes total. If cooking chicken in batches, allow the oil temperature to return to 375°F before starting the second batch.

Transfer the chicken to a wire cooling rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle lightly with salt and serve warm or room temperature.

Recipe developed for Sur La Table’s Cooking Classes

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