This is my favorite fried chicken recipe! Due to the labor intensiveness of it, I only make it for special occasions, but it is well worth the effort when i have the time. Maintaining an even oil temperature is key to the success of this recipe. An instant-read thermometer with a high upper range is perfect for checking the temperature; a clip-on candy/deep-fry thermometer is fine, though it can be clipped to the pot only for the uncovered portion of frying.
- 1 1⁄4 cups kosher salt or 1⁄2 cup plus two tablespoons table salt
- 1⁄4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 3 heads garlic, cloves separated
- 3 bay leaves, crumbled
- 2 quarts low-fat buttermilk
- 1 (3 1/2 lb) whole chickens (about 3 1/2 pounds, giblets discarded, cut into 12 pieces)
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
- refined peanut oil (about 12 cups) or vegetable shortening (about 12 cups)
- In large zipper-lock plastic bag, combine salt, sugar, paprika, garlic cloves, and bay leaves.
- With rubber mallet or flat meat pounder, smash garlic into salt and spice mixture thoroughly.
- Pour mixture into large plastic container or nonreactive stockpot.
- Add 7 cups buttermilk and stir until salt is completely dissolved.
- Immerse chicken, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until fully seasoned, 2 to 3 hours.
- Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and shake off excess; place in single layer on large wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet.
- Refrigerate uncovered for 2 hours. (After 2 hours, chicken can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 6 hours longer).
- Measure flour into large shallow dish.
- Beat egg, baking powder, and baking soda in medium bowl; stir in remaining 1 cup buttermilk (mixture will bubble and foam).
- Working in batches of 3, drop chicken pieces in flour and shake pan to coat.
- Shake excess flour from each piece.
- Then, using tongs, dip chicken pieces into egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing excess to drip off.
- Coat chicken pieces with flour again, shake off excess, and return to wire rack.
- Adjust oven rack to middle position, set second wire rack over second rimmed baking sheet, and place on oven rack; heat oven to 200 degrees.
- Line large plate with double layer of paper towels. Meanwhile, heat oil (oil should have 2 1/2-inch depth in pan) to 375°F over medium-high heat in large 8-quart cast-iron Dutch oven with a diameter of about 12 inches.
- Place half of chicken pieces skin-side down in oil, cover, reduce heat to medium, and fry until deep golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes; after about 3 minutes, lift chicken pieces with tongs to check for even browning; rearrange if some pieces are browning faster than others. (Spot-check oil temperature; after first 6 minutes of frying, oil should be about 325°F Adjust burner if necessary).
- Turn chicken pieces over and continue to fry, uncovered, until chicken pieces are deep golden brown on second side, 6 to 8 minutes longer.
- Using tongs, transfer chicken to paper towel–lined plate; let stand 2 minutes to drain, then transfer to rack in warm oven.
- Replace paper towel lining on plate. Return oil to 375°F and fry remaining pieces, transferring pieces to paper towel–lined plate to drain, then transferring to wire rack.
- Cool chicken pieces on wire rack (outside oven) about 5 minutes and serve.