Gray’s Fried Chicken
How careless of me to go for so long without having a bona-fide southern fried chicken recipe on my site! All the other staples of southern cooking are well-represented—the mashed potatoes, sweet potato fries, corn breads and green beans—but fried chicken, which is the quintessential southern dish, was absent for all this time.
For the grand debut of my southern fried chicken recipe, I decided to go back to my roots.
I’m going back to all the biggest memories of my life and bringing those moments back to life through food. I’m doing all I can to add new life and dimension to good old-fashioned southern cooking. This southern fried chicken recipe takes me right back to my childhood.
Southern Fried Chicken Recipe, Granny Gray Style
I tried to make this recipe as close to my granny’s old recipe as possible. I even named it after her! Gray’s Fried Chicken takes me all the way back to the sweetest days of my childhood.
You don’t need a fancy deep fryer to make the best fried chicken. My granny didn’t use one! But yo do need to follow some important steps.
Tips for Tender, Juicy Fried Chicken
Don’t skip the brine! Soaking the chicken in a buttermilk marinade is a wonderful way to get tender fried chicken full of juices and flavor.
Dredge in your flour and seasoning mixture. I know some of you all may be trying to skip the carbohydrates. But making southern fried chicken is just not the time to worry about carbs, calories, or cholesterol. Cayenne and black pepper and herbs of your choice will give your chicken extra flavor. You can also use a sprinkle of paprika for color.
Check the temperature. Cooking heat that’s too high or too low will give disappointing results. Frying at 375 degrees is what works best for me to get juicy, cooked-through, fork tender chicken. An instant-read thermometer is an excellent kitchen tool to have on hand.
Use a high-heat oil. A high-heat oil is one with a high smoke point. Great options are avocado, peanut, and canola oil. Olive oil will work as long as you don’t let the temperature get above 375. Do avoid trans fat, as it is less healthy than regular monounsaturated fat or polyunsaturated fat and isn’t necessary for flavor. As for an air fryer, well…is that really fried chicken?
For more wholesome recipes, old and new, check out my latest cookbook, Harvest.
Tips for Make-Ahead Fried Chicken
Follow these tips to make your fried chicken ahead and ensure it reaches the table moisty and crispy.
- Use dark meat chicken pieces instead of chicken breasts. White meat tends to dry out when used as leftovers. Dark meat will retain the moisture. That’s not to say you can’t reheat the breasts, though. I do it all the time and I love it. My father-in-law actually likes his chicken a littler drier.
- Bring the fried chicken to room temperature before reheating. Give it at least 30 minutes out of the refrigerator. This ensures even cooking and keeps the meat from getting overcooked.
- Place the chicken on a wire rack in a baking sheet so that the chicken is surrounded by air. This will keep every inch of the skin nice and crispy.
- The temperature of the oven needs to be at 400°F. This high temperature will ensure crispy skin but will not subject the meat to overcooking with long cook time.
- Don’t allow the meat to cook more while you’re reheating. The internal temperature should reach 120°F. It will take the breasts a little longer to reach that temperature, about 5 minutes longer. The legs and thighs will take around 10 minutes to reheat at 400°F.
Gray’s Fried Chicken
- one 4-4 1/2 pound whole chicken cut into pieces
For the Brine
- 1 gallon water
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 6-10 pepper corns
- 1 bay leaf
For the Buttermilk Dip
- 2 cups buttermilk
- hot sauce
For the Flour Dredge
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup bacon drippings
- For the brine, combine water, salt, and sugar in a large stockpot. Over high heat, bring mixture to a boil and whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and add the peppercorns and bay leaf. Allow to cool completely and place chicken in the stockpot with the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours. Drain chicken, rinse with cold water, and pat dry.
- Place a wire rack over a sheet pan for the dredged chicken awaiting frying. In a medium bowl, whisk buttermilk and a few dashes of hot sauce together.
- In a shallow plate, combine flour, salt, black cayenne pepper, and garlic powder. Dip each piece of chicken into the buttermilk mixture, then the flour mixture and shake off any excess flour. Place the coated pieces of chicken on the wire rack.
- Combine vegetable oil and bacon drippings in a 12-inch cast iron skillet or chicken fryer. When the oil reaches 375 degrees, add no more than four pieces of chicken at a time, skin side down. Cover and cook 6 minutes then turn the chicken over and cook another 6 minutes covered. Uncover and cook about 5 more minutes, or until a thermometer registers 165 degrees. Remove the chicken from the oil and place on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet. You can layer paper towels under the rack to catch the excess oil.