Recipe video above. This is a fried chicken recipe that's made using a technique that yields an incredible super crunchy, really craggy crust with loads of nubbly bits that get extra crunchy! Seasoned with a KFC copycat 11 Secret Herbs and Spices - but it's better than KFC, there's no trace of soggy bits at all! Flesh is juicy all the way through thanks to a classic Southern buttermilk marinade (read in post why there's no spices in the marinade!).
Pour over chicken in ziplock bag, massage to coat chicken. Press out excess air, seal, refrigerate 12 to 24 hours, turning once or twice.
Pour chicken and marinade into large bowl.
Whisk together Breading and all KFC Secret Herbs & Spices.
Drizzle 4.5 tablespoons of Marinade into flour mixture. Use fingers to rub in so you get lots of pea sized lumpy bits all throughout (this creates extra super crunchy craggy bits).
Spread out in a shallow dish or pan (easier to work with).
Prepare to cook (work in specified order of steps):
Preheat oven to 80°C/175°F and place rack on tray - to keep chicken warm. (Note 3)
Add oil to a wide, heavy based pot to a depth of 6 cm / 2.5 " (my 26cm/10.5" cast iron pot = 1.75L/quarts oil, Note 4)
Heat oil over medium to medium high heat to 180°C/350°F - maintain temp as best you can (Note 5).
Cooking order: Start with thighs and drumsticks, wings next and cook breast last. (Note 6).
Squidge a piece of chicken in remaining marinade, place in flour.
Coat well, pressing very firmly to adhere. Transfer to plate.
Coat 2 or 3 more pieces - just for one cooking batch, covering oil surface in single layer. (Note 7)
Carefully place chicken in oil - it will bubble energetically but it will not spit.
Once chicken is in, oil temperature should drop to 150°C/300°C - adjust heat to target this.
DO NOT TOUCH chicken for 2 minutes - to let the crust bond with the chicken skin. After this, you can move them around but oil should be deep enough that you do not need to flip (but you can if you want!).
Thighs and drumsticks - cook for 8 minutes (wings for 5 minutes), or until deep golden brown and internal temperature at thickest part is 75°C / 167°F.
Breast - fry for 6 minutes or until internal temperature at thickest part is 65°C / 150°F (time depends on size).
Place onto rack and keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining chicken, coating each batch just prior to cooking.
1. Chicken - I buy bone in thighs, drumsticks and wings for ease. For true KFC/Southern experience, cut up your own chicken so you get breast pieces as well - ensure you keep the skin on and bone in. Cut breast into 2 pieces through the bone.Small pieces for thighs and breast is better - 200g/7oz or less, to ensure they cook through so you don't need to worry about fuss with finishing them in the oven. I've cooked 220g/7.7oz bone in thighs with no problems. If they get to 250g/8.8oz then you either need to take them to very deep golden in the oil OR finish in oven. 2. Buttermilk - make your own if you can't find any. Add 1 tsp white vinegar into milk, stir, leave 10 minutes. Will curdle. Use per recipe.3. Keeping chicken warm - this is the temp at which chicken will stay warm, keep the coating crispy but will not continue to cook the chicken inside. Rack required to ensure underside of chicken stays super crispy.4. Frying vessel - I feel safe using a heavy cast iron pot. For most oil efficiency, use a wok - shape means you will use about 30% less oil with same surface area for frying. If you have a deep fryer, I salute you!5. Oil temperature - use a thermometer or surface scanner thermometer. If you don't have one, test by throwing in a lump of breading - should sizzle straight away but not burn quickly. OR stick a bamboo chopstick in and touch the base of the pot - if bubbles rise from floor of pot, oil is hot enough.Cook time will vary based on factors like chicken size, pot heat retention, stability of stove etc. Best to use thermometer to check internal temperature. The cook times provided in the recipe are for the chicken weights specified and heat oil temps provided, assuming a cast iron pot is used. Also use crust colour as a guide.6. Cooking order - thighs and drumsticks cook in the same time, cook together first. Then wings, then do breast last. Reason: dark meat stays juicier in warmed oven, and breast cooks faster.7. Batch cooking - don't coat all chicken then leave it lying around while you cook a batch, it will sweat and crust will be compromised ?8. Oil reuse - One reason I don't deep fry much is because I hate the oil wastage! I clean my oil using this simple cornflour/cornstarch method from Cooks Illustrated. Usually, I comfortably re-use oil 3 times once cleaned. Unfortunately with Fried Chicken, I find that it's reusable only once more. Partly because of the strength of the seasonings and partly because you cook with it for a good 25 minutes which is using the oil a lot more than usual deep frying recipes.9. Breading mixture notes:
Might seem like a lot of pepper, but it's key to KFC flavour and doesn't make it spicy. Remember that not much of the seasoning actually ends up on each piece of chicken.
Hot & Spicy version - just add 2 tsp cayenne pepper into the breading! That will give it a nice buzz (but won't blow your head off)
There is more breading coating flour than you need, so you'll throw out 1 cup or so. As wasteful as it sounds, I've tried using less and it gets messy/hard with the last pieces. So I conceded and upped the breading quantity - because this recipe is all about the crust!