I don’t know why fried chicken tastes better when it’s served on a picnic table. The beauty of deep-fried yard bird is that if it’s cooked properly, you don’t need silverware, a plate or a napkin. Licking one’s fingers after taking an extra-large bite of beautifully fried, crispy chicken is the highest compliment a cook can receive.
This recipe for Finger Lickin’ Chicken is a combination of my mother’s, my friends’ and my own fried-chicken recipe. Cook up a batch, whip up some side dishes, grab your family and friends, and find a picnic table. It’s the perfect summertime meal.
The brining and chicken prep steps shouldn’t be skipped for the most flavorful chicken and the best results. These steps can be done a day in advance or before leaving for the day, if you want fried chicken for dinner.
Servings: 4 to 6
2 tablespoons table salt
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
2 tablespoons hot sauce
3 bay leaves
1 quart low-fat buttermilk
1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds, giblets discarded, washed and cut into pieces — breast pieces in half)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Refined peanut oil or vegetable shortening (about 12 cups)
To Make The Brining Mixture:
In a large zipper-lock plastic bag, combine salt, poultry seasoning, hot sauce and bay leaves. Shake the bag to mix the spices thoroughly. Add 3 3/4 cups of the buttermilk into the bag, reserving 1/4 cup. Stir or shake with the bag sealed until the salt is completely dissolved.
Immerse the chicken in the mixture. Place the bag of chicken pieces in a large baking pan to prevent leaks. Refrigerate 1 hour or up to 8 hours to allow the pieces to become fully seasoned.
To Prepare The Chicken:
Remove the chicken from the buttermilk brine and shake off excess. Place the pieces in single layer on large wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. This step will dry the skin slightly to allow it to become crispy when frying. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 2 hours. After 2 hours, the chicken can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 6 hours longer, if needed.
Coating And Frying The Chicken:
Mix together the flour, poultry seasoning, baking powder, salt, black pepper, paprika and cayenne pepper in a large, shallow dish. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup buttermilk. Combine the ingredients with your fingertips. The buttermilk will make the flour mixture thick and slightly lumpy. Working in batches of 3, drop the chicken pieces in the flour. Press both sides of the chicken pieces into the flour and lumpy pieces to coat. Gently shake excess flour from each piece.
Adjust oven rack to middle position, set second wire rack over second rimmed baking sheet, and place on oven rack. Heat the oven to 200 degrees to keep chicken warm while frying in batches. Line a large plate with double layer of paper towels to drain the fried chicken pieces on after removing them from the oil.
Pour 3/4-inches of oil in a large, 8-quart, cast-iron Dutch oven with a diameter of about 12 inches or into a deep-fat fryer. Heat the oil to 375 degrees over medium-high heat. Place a few of the dark meat chicken pieces, skin-side down, in the oil. Do not crowd the chicken. Cover with a heavy lid. Reduce the heat to medium, and fry.
After about 3 minutes, lift the chicken pieces with tongs to check for even browning; rearrange if some pieces are browning faster than others. Check the oil temperature with a thermometer after the first 6 minutes of frying. The oil should be about 325 degrees, adjust the temperature by turning the heat up or down as necessary. Continue cooking for another 4 to 6 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown.
Turn the chicken pieces over and continue to fry, with the pan uncovered, until chicken pieces are deep golden brown on the second side, 6 to 8 minutes longer. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a 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 degrees 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.