The Basics: How to Make Buttermilk Fried Chicken

From the store to the kitchen to the table: We outline the steps that get you from raw ingredients to your dinner tonight, free of measurements and complicated techniques. It’s a method you’ll remember and whip out whenever you like. It is the most basic way to make the thing you’re making.

  • WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
  • - a baking dish or container big enough to hold all of the chicken
  • - a large frying pan or cast iron skillet
  • - a shallow dish or pie plate
  • - a deep-fat thermometer (optional)
  • - tongs
  • - a paper grocery bag or paper towels
  • - a meat thermometer (optional)
  • - a quart of buttermilk
  • - cayenne pepper
  • - dried thyme
  • - salt and pepper
  • - six chicken drumsticks (using drumsticks rather than mixed pieces will ensure they cook at the same rate)
  • - vegetable oil
  • - flour

WHAT YOU’LL DO:

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  • 1. Pour the buttermilk into the baking dish and add a pinch of cayenne, a generous pinch of dried thyme, and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir until combined.

  • 2. Add the chicken and marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator. Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking it.

  • 3. Pour vegetable oil into your frying pan until it reaches halfway up the side. Heat the oil slowly over medium-low heat while you prepare the chicken.

  • 4. Mix some flour, salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne, and a pinch of dried thyme in a shallow dish.

  • 5. Remove the drumsticks from the buttermilk and coat them in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess.

  • 6. Check the temperature of your oil. It should be between 350 and 360 degrees Fahrenheit if you’re using a deep-fat thermometer. Otherwise, test it by sprinkling flour in the oil. If the oil’s hot enough, it will sizzle, then quickly dissipate.

  • 7. Put three pieces of chicken into the oil at a time (if you put more than three in, the oil will get too cold and make your chicken greasier), cooking until browned, 10 minutes per side. Rotate the drumsticks with tongs.

  • 8. Drain the finished chicken on a paper grocery bag or layers of paper towels. If you’re using a meat thermometer, the chicken should be at 180 degrees Fahrenheit inside. If you don’t have a thermometer, cut a small slit down to the bone; the juices should run clear and there should be no pink at the bone.

Illustrations by Bill Russell