Skip to content

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

January 8, 2011

By Kath Dedon


Bob doesn’t get to have Buttermilk Fried Chicken as often as he would like because I consider it an occasional treat, not something to have in my regular recipe rotation. (Isn’t it all the more special if you don’t eat it very often?) We were headed to Metropolitan Market after lunch yesterday to buy chicken when Bob talked me into making Buttermilk Fried Chicken instead of roast chicken.



I selected a small (3 pound) chicken. Smaller chickens work best because they cook quickly and you can fit all of the pieces in a 12-inch skillet. The best size for frying is 2½ – 3 pounds, but it can be hard to find small chickens. Many of them weigh 4½ – 5 pounds! If you use a larger chicken, you may need to cook the pieces in two batches.

You can cut up a whole chicken yourself*, or buy 2½ – 3 pounds of chicken pieces. (That’s the way to go if everyone in your family likes the same pieces; it will save fights over the drumsticks or wings!)

I was recently given Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home for my birthday (thank you, S & B!) and I have heard wonderful things about his fried chicken. I checked the recipe when we got home at about 2:00 and found that Keller calls for an “essential” 12 hour brine. Since we wanted to be eating fried chicken within 4 or 5 hours, I decided to save his recipe to try another day.

This Buttermilk Fried Chicken is adapted from the one in The Best Recipe from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated. Their chicken marinates in yogurt for “at least 2 hours”, so I had plenty of time to make it. I had my chicken marinating in the refrigerator by 3:00. I let it marinate for 3 hours, and we enjoyed a Buttermilk Fried Chicken dinner at 7:00!


Today’s lunch: leftover fried chicken and “smashed” Yukon Gold potatoes!


Buttermilk Fried Chicken

(Adapted from the recipe in The Best Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated)


In true Cook’s Illustrated fashion, the editors tested all types of cooking fats for frying chicken. In the end, they preferred shortening. If you have shortening, by all means, try it with this chicken. I don’t ever have it on hand and don’t want to buy it for 1 recipe. I’ve had good results using coconut oil, or a combination of coconut oil and mild olive oil.


(print the recipe)


Serves 4


1 (2½ – 3 pound) chicken, cut into pieces*

1½ cups buttermilk

Salt and pepper

2 cups flour

2 – 3 cups oil or shortening for frying (I used half coconut oil and half extra light olive oil)


1. Cut the breast halves in half with a sharp knife so you have 4 pieces of breast meat so they will cook more evenly.

2. Put the chicken pieces in a gallon-sized Ziploc® bag.


Chicken in the bag, and salt and pepper ready to be stirred into the buttermilk~

3. Combine the buttermilk with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and pour in the bag with the chicken. Seal the bag, put it in a dish, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. It can marinate for up to 24 hours.

4. Bring the chicken out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan to cook it to take the chill off.

5. Put the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper in a large double paper bag. Put half of the chicken pieces in the bag, fold the ends over and shake vigorously. Put the coated chicken pieces in a rack over a baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the chicken.


6. Put enough oil or shortening in a 12-inch skillet until it is about 1/3 -1/2 inch deep. Heat the oil to 350˚.

7. Put the chicken pieces in the oil, skin-side down. Cover the pan with a lid or a baking sheet and cook for 5 minutes.


8. Check the chicken and rearrange it in the pan if necessary to cook the pieces evenly. The oil should be 250˚- 300˚ at this point. Adjust temperature if necessary. Cover and cook another 5 minutes.

9. Turn the chicken pieces over and cook, uncovered, for 10 – 12 minutes longer. While the chicken is cooking, wash the rack and baking sheet you had used for the coated pieces.


10. Remove the chicken from the pan and put on the rack over the baking sheet for a few minutes before serving.

Leftover fried chicken for today’s lunch!

Mmmm...mmmm good!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

*How to Cut Up a Chicken

1. Using a sharp knife, cut the wings off. Place the knife slightly into the breast and bend the wing back to find the joint.

2. Cut through the skin between the legs and the breast. Bend the legs back to help find the joint, and cut the legs from the chicken. Cut the drumsticks from the thighs.

3. Using poultry shears, cut the back bone from the breast.

4. Put the breast skin-side down. Using a large, sharp knife, press down on the breast bone to cut it in half and separate the breast into 2 halves.

5. Cut each breast half in half so you have 4 pieces.

6. You’ll now have 10 pieces for frying: 4 breast pieces, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks, and 2 thighs. Freeze the back piece to use for making chicken broth.

55 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2011 3:34 pm

    I’ve only heard of buttermilk fried chicken and how good it is. I have some drumsticks thawing for tomorrow. Guess what we’ll be having for dinner…

    Hats off to you! I hate cutting up a whole chicken but I do it for the cause. 🙂 I like frying a variety only because I love the medley of shapes and sizes on the serving plate. 😀 I’ve always been a bit strange!

    I really value this post. Thank you!


    • January 10, 2011 7:10 am

      I agree, Dionne, that a variety is very appealing on a serving plate. Thanks for your comment!

  2. phylliskirigin permalink
    January 8, 2011 4:26 pm

    Looks crunchy and delicious, Kath. I find Crisco gives excellent results. Is there a reason why you opted for buttermilk instead of yogurt? Just curious. Bob is having one fine treat!

    • January 10, 2011 7:15 am

      Hi Phyllis,
      Bob wants me to make it with Crisco next time. I used buttermilk because that’s what the folks at Cook’s Illustrated recommended. They tested the recipe with cream (too rich), milk with lemon juice (too thin) and buttermilk and liked the buttermilk best. Do you use yogurt? I would think that would work, too.

  3. January 8, 2011 5:24 pm

    That looks SO good. Who doesn’t love fried chicken? I wonder if this would work with a gluten-free flour. That’s one food I really miss.

    • January 10, 2011 7:23 am

      I would think it would work quite well with a good gluten-free flour, Evan.

  4. January 8, 2011 5:31 pm

    Looks finger-licking good. You make it look so easy to do. The detailed photos are great.

  5. January 8, 2011 5:41 pm

    This chicken looks so good! Fried chicken is a rare treat in our house too but I think I’ll be using this recipe the next time I make it. Thanks for sharing!

  6. January 8, 2011 5:55 pm

    Your hubby looks so happy. Very cute. I love fried chicken. It’s an occasional treat in our house too but one that is definitely worth indulging in. The instructional pics of how to cut up a chicken are great.

    • January 10, 2011 4:09 pm

      Yes, Bob does love fried chicken, and it’s such a treat because he doesn’t get it very often. 😉 I’m glad you found the pictures of cutting up a chicken helpful. Thanks for your comment!

  7. January 8, 2011 6:40 pm

    delicious chicken fry

  8. January 8, 2011 7:02 pm

    It sounds like a simple and delicious preparation for chicken. I must try it!


    • January 10, 2011 4:10 pm

      I think a lot of people think fried chicken is difficult. It’s really quite easy, especially if you have a thermometer to make sure the oil is the right temperature.

  9. January 8, 2011 7:29 pm

    I cant wait to try the ad hoc version either, but this looks great! And Americas Test Kitchen doesn’t often let me down 🙂

    • January 10, 2011 3:59 pm

      I still want to try the Ad Hoc version, but this is really good basic fried chicken.

  10. January 8, 2011 10:54 pm

    Super crunchy chicken. The way I like it…. and thanks for the tip on how to cut up chicken.

    • January 10, 2011 4:11 pm

      Glad you found the cutting-up tips helpful, Penny! Thanks for your comment!

  11. January 9, 2011 5:14 am

    hi Kath
    Wow, it has been so long since I have had real fried chicken, not just from the colonel….sigh….its not on my wifes list of favorites so its not on the dinner list. I would love to have enjoyed that meal with you the chicken looks perfects, crispy, juicy and delicious! Your husband is one lucky man!

    • January 10, 2011 4:19 pm

      Oh…sorry your wife doesn’t like fried chicken, Dennis. I know from your blog, though, that you make some delicious chicken recipes for her! Your Chicken Marsala is still on my “to make” list!

  12. January 9, 2011 5:35 am

    That gorgeous crust may finally convince me to make fried chicken again…yum.

  13. January 9, 2011 5:45 am

    That’s one happy man. I would try and convince you, too, to make it more often.

  14. January 9, 2011 6:04 am

    Man o man has this post got me drooling and craving some fried chicken! Putting the ingredients on the shopping list for this week! Great tutorial for cutting up a whole chicken too! I know that’s a huge money saver! Thank you!

    • January 10, 2011 4:21 pm

      Thank you, Christina. Let me know how it works for you. I really didn’t start cutting up whole chickens until recent years, but it’s really quite easy.

  15. January 9, 2011 8:26 am

    Is there anything better than leftover fried chicken for lunch? I think not! Yours looks delicious! Theresa

    • January 10, 2011 4:22 pm

      It does make a tasty lunch! Thanks for your comment, Theresa.

  16. January 9, 2011 10:52 am

    He looks incredibly satisfied with his food! 🙂 I wish you could pass me a piece or two!

  17. January 9, 2011 12:36 pm

    The photos that show how to cut up a chicken are super useful!

    • January 10, 2011 4:01 pm

      It’s really pretty easy, and practice makes it easier. 😉

  18. January 9, 2011 2:40 pm

    That’s one happy man eating his fried chicken, and I can’t blame him. We don’t eat fried chicken often around here either, but when we do it’s heaven!

  19. January 9, 2011 3:17 pm

    Sinfully good! I miss fried chicken so much.

    • January 10, 2011 4:26 pm

      I don’t feel quite so bad about it using coconut oil and olive oil.

  20. January 9, 2011 3:39 pm

    Fried chicken has got to be one of the most delicious things you can eat. I’ve only made it with buttermilk once, but I have to say it gave the dish a most wonderful flavor and juiciness. Will have to try it again!

    • January 10, 2011 4:03 pm

      I think marinating it in the buttermilk all day, or even overnight, makes it even better. Thanks for your comment, Frank!

  21. January 9, 2011 10:09 pm

    What a great post! Fried chicken is a treat we don’t indulge ourselves in often…but when we do…I want it to be as tasty as this looks! Wow! I love Cooks Illustrated, so I’m sure that their recipe is great. I may have to surprise Ryan with some Fried Chicken this next weekend. Thank you for sharing, my dear. I hope you have a good Monday. Let the week begin!

    • January 10, 2011 4:04 pm

      I think Ryan would like it, Monet! Have a great week, yourself!

  22. Carrie permalink
    January 10, 2011 11:29 am

    oh dad….

  23. January 10, 2011 12:57 pm

    I have never made real fried chicken! I love the look of your recipe! Have you ever tried adding other spices to the flour, salt, pepper coating?

    As for your gluten free friend who commented above, I have made tempura for a ciliac friend and I used rice flour for the frying batter. It worked just fine! I did add a tiny bit of xanthan gum to help the rice flour batter seem a bit puffier. Just passing that on!

    • January 10, 2011 3:56 pm

      I decided to just use the simple seasoning this time, but I have used spicy seasoned salt in the past. You really could use whatever seasonings you like.

      Thanks for your tip about the rice flour and xanthan gum for a gluten-free version!

  24. January 10, 2011 1:00 pm

    This is one of my all-time favorite foods. I just wish I could have it more often. Your recipe sounds wonderful and the finished chicken looks gorgeous. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  25. January 10, 2011 6:12 pm

    Oh how I love friend chicken! I made (and blogged about) the Ad Hock recipe. It LOOKED great. But I found it on the salty side. I would make it again because I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews.

    • January 25, 2011 5:14 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I would like to try the Ad Hoc version. I’ll be careful with the salt when I do. 😉

  26. January 22, 2011 3:53 pm

    Love this. Fried chicken is not available where I live, and chains like KFC are not present. I miss fried chicken, this post motivates me to try making my own. THANK YOU

    • January 25, 2011 5:13 pm

      You must be in a really remote spot to not have any fried chicken available! This is really easy to make, so you should give it a try.


  1. Tweets that mention Buttermilk Fried Chicken « In the kitchen with Kath --
  2. Buttermilk Fried Chicken from In the kitchen with Kath |
  3. Gluten Free Southern Fried Chicken | In the kitchen with Kath

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: