Fried chicken is an essential part of my husband’s annual birthday feast. This may be the best version I’ve ever made. Not only was the meat incredibly tender from the lemony and garlicky brine, the seasoning in the crispy coating was super delicious as well. Fabulous.
The recipe was first published in Food and Wine in 2007 and then updated and re-published as a staff-favorite recipe in 2022. It was contributed by Thomas Keller who serves it every other Monday at his restaurant Ad Hoc in Napa Valley. The recipe was adapted from his book Ad Hoc at Home.
I adapted the recipe by modifying the method and proportions, and by substituting boneless, skinless chicken thighs for bone-in chicken pieces. I brined the chicken the day that I fried it. I also used a countertop electric skillet to more easily maintain an even cooking temperature- absolutely life changing. (Thank you to my Mother-in-Law for giving it to me!)
I made 15 chicken thighs- enough to have leftovers for days. That’s how we like to extend birthday celebrations in my house. 🙂 I included instructions on how to successfully re-heat the chicken below.
We ate the fried chicken with Creamy Macaroni and Cheese, Sweet Potato Spoon Bread, and green salad with Ice Box Buttermilk Salad Dressing. We completed the feast with Vanilla Bean Birthday Cheesecake for dessert. Perfect. ❤
Yield: Serves 8 to 12
For the Brined Chicken:
- 8 cups (2 quarts or 1/2 gallon) cold water
- 1/2 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 2 T honey
- 6 bay leaves
- 1 head of garlic, unpeeled, halved crosswise
- 1 T black peppercorns
- 1 small bunch fresh thyme
- 1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 lemon, halved
- 10 to 15 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and patted dry
For the Seasoned Flour & To Finish the Dish:
- 3 cups (about 12.75 oz) all-purpose flour
- 2 T garlic powder
- 2 T onion powder
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 2 cups whole buttermilk
- about 2 quarts canola or peanut oil, for frying
- fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish
- fine sea salt or ground fleur de sel, for garnish
To Brine the Chicken:
- In a large bowl, combine the water and salt; stir until dissolved.
- Pour the salt water into a 2 gallon zip-top bag inside a large pot. (I used a stainless pasta pot.) Add the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, thyme, parsley, and lemon halves; stir to combine.
- Add the trimmed boneless, skinless chicken thighs, being sure they’re completely submerged; seal the bag. Refrigerate for 10 to 12 hours. (Do not refrigerate for longer than 12 hours or the chicken may become too salty.)
- Remove chicken thighs from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the meat. Discard the brine.
- Let the chicken stand until it comes to room temperature, about 30 to 45 minutes.
To Coat and Cook the Chicken:
- Fill a 12-inch electric skillet with about 2 quarts of oil; heat to 320-325 degrees. (Alternatively, fill a large pot with oil to a depth of 2 inches; heat over medium to medium-high to 320 degrees.)
- Set a wire rack over a foil and paper towel-lined, rimmed, baking sheet. Reserve for cooked chicken.
- Line a second rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Reserve for raw chicken.
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Divide the mixture between two glass pie dishes (about 1 1/2 cups each).
- Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Season with remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
- Working with one chicken thigh at a time, dip the chicken in the first bowl of flour; turn to coat and pat off excess. Dip into buttermilk, letting excess drip back into the bowl. Dip into the second dish of the flour mixture.
- Transfer the coated chicken to the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining pieces. (I continued to do this while simultaneously starting to cook some of the chicken thighs.)
- Carefully lower the chicken thighs into the hot oil, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a temperature of 320 degrees. (I cooked 3 thighs at a time.)
- Cook for 2 minutes, and the carefully turn over using tongs, continuing to cook and turn as needed for even browning. (I had 1 set of tongs for transferring the raw chicken and 1 set of tongs to turn the chicken while cooking.)
- The chicken is cooked when it is a deep golden brown, very crisp, and an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion reads 165 degrees, about 9 minutes total.
- Transfer the cooked chicken to the prepared wire rack set over the lined baking sheet. Let it rest while you fry the remaining chicken pieces. Sprinkle with fine sea salt to taste, if desired.
- Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs or chopped herbs. (Alternatively, the rosemary and thyme can be cooked in the hot oil for a few seconds before being used as a garnish.)
- Serve hot or at room temperature.
- The original recipe recommends cooking chicken breasts and wings at 340 degrees, if using instead of thighs or drumsticks.
- If using bone-in skin-on chicken (the best meat-to-crust ratio is achieved using 2 1/2 to 3 pound whole chickens), let the pieces rest skin-side up. Modify the cooking time as needed to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees (about 12 minutes for thighs and drumsticks, 7 minutes for breasts, and 6 minutes for wings).
- To reheat leftover fried chicken do not be tempted to use a microwave! Reheat uncovered, placed on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.