Nothing here is hard to do — you just need to plan ahead to brine and marinate the chicken (the two secrets to this recipe’s success).
Soak — Twice
Brining the chicken (soaking it in salted water) overnight seasons it all the way to the bone and helps keep it moist. Next, marinate it in buttermilk with salt, pepper, cayenne, and dry mustard. The marinade tenderizes the chicken — and gives it a kick.
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Adding a little cornmeal to the flour mixture means more crunch and flavor. When you transfer the chicken from the marinade, don’t let too much drip off. The moisture will help the flour mixture bind to the chicken.
Safety first: Put a towel on the floor to catch spatters, which would make the floor slippery. Fry the chicken until it’s golden brown, cooking pieces of similar size together. Between batches, remove crumbs from the oil with a skimmer.
Set the fried chicken on a wire rack to drain and to keep the crust crisp (it can get soggy on paper towels). Let the oil cool completely in the pan, and then pour it into a cardboard milk or juice container to dispose of it.
Fried Chicken Recipe
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 whole fryer chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), cut into 10 pieces
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal
Safflower or canola oil, for frying
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, for serving (optional)
1. In a large bowl, stir together 10 cups ice water and 2 tablespoons coarse salt. Add chicken, submerging all pieces. Cover; let soak overnight in refrigerator.
2. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, 1 tablespoon coarse salt, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon each cayenne and black pepper. Transfer chicken to marinade, submerging all pieces. Cover; refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
3. Let chicken stand at room temperature 1 hour. In a shallow dish, whisk together flour, cornmeal, remaining 1 teaspoon each coarse salt and black pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon cayenne.
4. Heat a heavy pot filled halfway with oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350 degrees. Remove chicken from marinade, a few pieces at a time (do not shake off excess); dredge in flour mixture. Transfer to a baking sheet.
5. Fry chicken in batches until golden brown and a thermometer inserted into thickest part (avoiding bone) reads 160 degrees, 6 to 7 minutes for small pieces, 9 to 10 minutes for large. Adjust heat to maintain a temperature between 340 degrees and 350 degrees during cooking. Transfer to a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet; season with sea salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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