Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Ice Water Bath Method

I had a lot of chicken to play with for the March 31 lunch. I had bought 6 lbs. of chicken breasts and cut them into three pieces each before adding them to the Thomas Keller brine. A friend of mine who is familiar with the recipes used for the fried chicken in a lot of those convenience stores and I were talking about another method.

In their case, they dip the chicken pieces into the seasoned flour, then into an ice water bath, then back into the flour, and then the fryer. This is the same basic technique that I have seen around the I-10 corridor picnics. Ice cold water, which I can vouch for cause I once did an assembly line in Cistern. And then, sometimes some milk is added.  Here is a link to the Cistern video.

Check out those big bags of Pioneer brand flour. For Texas authenticity, use Pioneer. Note the yellow in the final dry mix . I wonder if there is some corn meal or corn flour too?

So today, I did the ice water bath with a couple of pieces. The result was a very dense, crunchy crust. I haven't come up with good descriptive words so I will throw out, crunchy, bread like, dumpling like, flour-y, thick, heavy, etc.  for now. A perfectly fine variation on fried chicken that would probably hold up really well to heavier amounts of seasoning. And one very typical of the church picnics I've mentioned elsewhere. This is not a light cracker-like crust.

Update: Additional comments on ice water versus milk (not buttermilk):

With shallow-frying, the batter can burn on the bottom. This isn't the case with deep frying. Hence, my preference for deep frying.

By going with either ice water or just the moisture from the chicken instead of milk you will get that crunchy crust. When wet batter comes into contact with the hot frying oil, the moisture in the batter is going to vaporize, and that will leave behind the solids to adhere to the chicken. When you are using milk, there are sugars in the milk that are going to brown quickly and will probably result in a softer crust. That seems to prove out based on the results from that New Orleans style canned milk and egg wet bath that I tried.

Thomas Keller - The Day After (The Brining) - Frying the Chicken

The next day, March 31, (and we're talking an early rise at 7:00) was the day to begin the next phase of experiments. I drained the brine and rinsed the chicken and dried it with a thick towel, returning it to the  refrigerator. I then poured some buttermilk into one tray, plain AP flour into another, and began heating vegetable oil in a pan.

Would the marinade make any difference? Could I taste the marinade seasonings? To investigate this I left the flour unseasoned. I dipped the chicken into the flour, then into the buttermilk, shook off the excess and dipped into the flour a second time and then put the pieces into the deep fryer. Tasting the result I can confirm, yes, the brine makes a world of difference. I had been so concerned about the salt content of the brine, but with the rinsing and drying, it wasn't too bad. So, yes to brining the chicken.

I then seasoned the flour for the next test. What would the onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne do to the chicken? Would the flavor change? Yes, and in my opinion, not in a good way. The heavy taste of the garlic powder and the onion powder left a sour taste on my tongue. Now, some quizzes indicate that I am a super-taster, meaning, I can taste sour flavors more than others. But my wife, Irene, did not like the taste either and described it as "metallic". For me, I would either reduce the amount to a fourth or just leave out the garlic and onion powder altogether. Onion powder at a minimum. I just didn't like it. Salt-wise, I just added a small sprinkle of Kosher salt to the flour. Additional note: for flavor, my favorite has just been what one gets with a healthy dosing of Louisiana hot sauce and not much else. Additional note: Both Irene and I really liked a fried chicken with freshly minced garlic in the buttermilk marinade (as opposed to a brine).

What about the crust? Son of a gun. It produced a crispy, crackly crust almost identical to the crust that I experienced at one of the local restaurants that claimed to use the Keller recipe. And sure enough, a lot of oil was absorbed in the crust. A lot. If you like this kind of chicken crust, you better use the freshest, most neutral oil that you can. And it needs to be served to your guests immediately.

Now that brings me to a new theory. This recipe does not soak the chicken in buttermilk for several hours. And it does not call for a double dipping of the buttermilk and flour. That leads me to theorize that both of these steps (the classic double dip especially) develop the gluten more such that a better barrier for the batter is formed.

Is it a good recipe? The Thomas Keller Bouchon / Ad Hoc recipe? Yes. With reservations. I would definitely reduce the onion and garlic powder in the seasoned flour.  I would also dredge the dried chicken in the flour, then in the buttermilk, then back to the flour. Or, even go back to the double dip with the chicken in a buttermilk marinade and two passes at the flour.

Nashville Hot Chicken: At the same time that I was working on the above, I followed a recipe for the "gravy" one pours over the chicken for this style. It consisted of 2 tbs. of lard, 3 tbs cayenne, 1 tbs garlic powder, some salt and 1 tsp. of sugar. Heated. The sugar doesn't dissolve and that raises a flag. Basically this is just an intense cayenne pour over. So, it's interesting from a cultural and historic perspective but not fantastic.

Whole Garlic Cloves: Separating the peel from the garlic. The Keller recipe calls for a whole garlic head in the brine, skin intact but crushed lightly. In messing with this I discovered that if I use a heavier wooden French style rolling pin to slam the garlic cloves, the shock removes the skin with very little effort. What a great trick to discover for when you are doing a lot of garlic.

Lesson Learned: I do not like the seasoned flour in the Keller recipe (2 tbs. garlic powder, 2 tbs. onion powder, 2 tsp. cayenne, salt to taste).

Here follows, the recipe from Ad Hoc at Home as published on the site for the cookbook:

From Ad Hoc at Home: Buttermilk Fried Chicken 
If there's a better fried chicken, I haven't tasted it. First, and critically, the chicken is brined for 12 hours in a herb-lemon brine, which seasons the meat and helps it stay juicy. The flour is seasoned with garlic and onion powders, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. The chicken is dredged in the seasoned flour, dipped in buttermilk, and then dredged again in the flour. The crust becomes almost feathered and is very crisp. Fried chicken is a great American tradition that’s fallen out of favor. A taste of this, and you will want it back in your weekly routine. --Thomas Keller
(Serves 4-6)

  • Two 2 1/2- to 3-pound chickens (see Note on Chicken Size)
  • Chicken Brine (recipe follows), cold

  • For Dredging and Frying
  • Peanut or canola oil for deep-frying
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Coating
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Ground fleur de sel or fine sea salt
  • Rosemary and thyme sprigs for garnish

Cut each chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings. Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the chicken pieces, add in the chicken, and refrigerate for 12 hours (no longer, or the chicken may become too salty).
Remove the chicken from the brine (discard the brine) and rinse under cold water, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Pat dry with paper towels, or let air-dry. Let rest at room temperature for 1-1/2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature.
If you have two large pots (about 6 inches deep) and a lot of oil, you can cook the dark and white meat at the same time; if not, cook the dark meat first, then turn up the heat and cook the white meat. No matter what size pot you have, the oil should not come more than one-third of the way up the sides of the pot. Fill the pot with at least 2 inches of peanut oil and heat to 320°F. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper.
Meanwhile, combine all the coating ingredients in a large bowl. Transfer half the coating to a second large bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station: the chicken pieces, one bowl of coating, the bowl of buttermilk, the second bowl of coating, and the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Just before frying, dip the chicken thighs into the first bowl of coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess; dip them into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl; then dip them into the second bowl of coating. Transfer to the parchment-lined pan.
Carefully lower the thighs into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperature. Fry for 2 minutes, then carefully move the chicken pieces around in the oil and continue to fry, monitoring the oil temperature and turning the pieces as necessary for even cooking, for 11 to 12 minutes, until the chicken is a deep golden brown, cooked through, and very crisp. Meanwhile, coat the chicken drumsticks and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Transfer the cooked thighs to the cooling rack skin-side-up and let rest while you fry the remaining chicken. (Putting the pieces skin-side-up will allow excess fat to drain, whereas leaving them skin-side-down could trap some of the fat.) Make sure that the oil is at the correct temperature, and cook the chicken drumsticks. When the drumsticks are done, lean them meat-side-up against the thighs to drain, then sprinkle the chicken with fine sea salt.
Turn up the heat and heat the oil to 340°F. Meanwhile, coat the chicken breasts and wings. Carefully lower the chicken breasts into the hot oil and fry for 7 minutes, or until golden brown, cooked through, and crisp. Transfer to the rack, sprinkle with salt, and turn skin side up. Cook the wings for 6 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the wings to the rack and turn off the heat. Arrange the chicken on a serving platter. Add the herb sprigs to the oil (which will still be hot) and let them cook and crisp for a few seconds, then arrange them over the chicken.
Note on Chicken Size: You may need to go to a farmers' market to get these small chickens. Grocery store chickens often run 3 to 4 pounds. They can, of course, be used in this recipe but if chickens in the 2-1/2- to 3-pound range are available to you, they're worth seeking out. They’re a little easier to cook properly at the temperatures we recommend here and, most important, pieces this size result in the optimal meat-to-crust proportion, which is such an important part of the pleasure of fried chicken.
Note: We let the chicken rest for 7 to 10 minutes after it comes out of the fryer so that it has a chance to cool down. If the chicken has rested for longer than 10 minutes, put the tray of chicken in a 400°F oven for a minute or two to ensure that the crust is crisp and the chicken is hot.
Chicken Brine
Makes 2 gallons
  • 5 lemons, halved
  • 24 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch (4 ounces) flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch (1 ounce) thyme
  • 1/2 cup clover honey
  • 1 head garlic, halved through the equator
  • 3/4 cup black peppercorns
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) kosher salt, preferably Diamond Crystal
  • 2 gallons water
The key ingredient here is the lemon, which goes wonderfully with chicken, as do the herbs: bay leaf, parsley, and thyme. This amount of brine will be enough for 10 pounds.
Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely, then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Brining the Chicken - Thomas Keller Recipe

The Thomas Keller Brine Ingredients: Lemons, Parsley, Thyme, Bay Leaves, Peppercorns, Garlic, Honey, Salt

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Amendment To My Original Riff on the Fried Chicken Blog

Notes for  a future article

I have always liked fried chicken. Who in the South doesn’t? It goes double for Texas.

One of my earliest memories, when I would spend the summers with my grandparents in Shiner would be when we would go to one of the Sunday Czech/Catholic church picnics in the immediate area for fried chicken and picnic stew (Schuster’s stew or picnic stew is a whole ‘nuther story for another time). You see, in central Texas most of the Catholic churches do an annual fundraiser that includes a fried chicken dinner, bingo, and polka bands throughout the day. This tradition is still carried on to this day (more on this later).

Over the years, in my own personal preparation of fried chicken, I have defaulted to a classic double dip buttermilk batter recipe. And this is the one that shows up most often on the internet. It consists of placing the chicken pieces in a seasoned buttermilk bath (seasonings vary depending on the recipe) for around 2 to 4 hours (some recipes call for a longer time, as much as ‘overnight’ but a chef friend who has never misinformed me tells me that the acidity in the buttermilk can turn the chicken to mush if left in the buttermilk too long). Next, after draining all excess buttermilk, a quick dredge in seasoned flour, a return to the buttermilk and a second dredge in the flour before frying at 350 degrees F. My current ‘go to’ version to recommend to newbies is in Donald Link’s terrific book, “Real Cajun” (and be sure to try the German chocolate cake recipe in the same book).

A few years back (it was Easter week-end) my wife and I were on a road trip. We had been in La Grange to hear the great Tom Faulkner (“Lost in the Land of Texico”) perform the night before and were cruising the back roads, the farm to market roads between La Grange, Gonzales, Moulton, Moravia and Schulenberg to check out the bluebonnets. We ended up in Moulton around lunch time and spied a sign that announced a Knights of Columbus chicken dinner at the community center. We went and when I went to the back to see where they were frying the chicken, my jaw dropped. Lined up in rows were big cast iron kettles, probably over 100 years old, fed by propane burners, and they were being used to fry up more chicken than I’d ever seen in one place. I grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures (I was to learn later that these kettles are still used at most of the church picnics in the area).  We had such a good time that we went back to Moulton for their festival days later on in the year. It was this experience that got me interested in making road trips every few Sundays to a different small town for fried chicken. I learned that, when I was at one event, there were usually posters up for other town’s events in the area and by photographing these at each event I could put together a list to go to. (Also, there are a few places on the web that list the events but they often are not up to date. Good places to check are;;, to name three).

If you are planning to only go to one or two, I would recommend the one in Praha, date of which the day varies each year as it is tied to a religious holiday but is always on August 15. And the St. John’s (between Flatonia and Schulenberg) one on July 4th. Or the Shiner festival on Sunday, Labor Day week-end.

Another must visit, although it’s kolaches and sausage (and more polka bands than you can imagine) is the East Bernard Kolache and Klobase festival the 2nd Saturday in June every year (June 8 this year). As mentioned above, once you get to your first festival you will see announcements for others. The majority of these occur on a Sunday as you will see.

John T. Edge made a road trip across America to sample fried chicken and the result of that is his excellent book, “Fried Chicken, An American Story”. My next project happened with the release of this book as I decided to ‘cook the book’ and try every recipe in it. That was when I realized that I had crossed over and that frying chicken would be a hobby that would keep me going for years.

So by then I was at a point where: 1. I was frying chicken at home 2. Going to as many church picnics as I could 3. Talking about fried chicken with just about anyone who had a family recipe to share.

Last December my wife and I did a road trip that had us ending up in Memphis. Too many people had good things to say about Gus’ Fried Chicken there. So we went. And it was different and unique. The closest comparison I can come up with is that the crust is similar to that of Pollo Campero, but different. And spicy. I peeked into the kitchen. I saw some stainless steel tubs with cut up chicken covered in a thick red sauce. I spied bottles of Louisiana hot sauce in a back room. To me it looked like they were frying the chicken without dredging it in flour. It was deep fat fried as opposed to pressure fried like at Pollo Campero. I was intrigued. Searching the web, I could not find one copycat recipe. True, there was a Saveur recipe and a Nora Jones recipe, but I could tell from them that they weren’t the same. How did Gus make his chicken? And it was during this search that I realized that there was scant technical information on how different flours affected the end product. I realized that a great New Year’s resolution for myself would be to test different ratios of corn flour, brown rice flour, AP wheat flour, cake flour, etc. and to make notes on how each combination affected the end product. I started haphazardly. The first deviation from my standard buttermilk double dip method was something that I picked up from an old Julia Child show with a New Orleans chef who used cans of evaporated milk and eggs for the wet before dredging in flour. It wasn’t bad. But I’ve found that egg based batters don’t have that crunch that I like.

I also discovered that no one had really captured the name The Fried Chicken Blog and so I set up my own (first time) blog: in order to document my experiments. The results of my tests of different combinations of wheat flour, brown rice flour and corn flour are there. I’ve also done a Japanese style of fried chicken that uses potato flour and the result is a very potato chip like flavor. Not unpleasant. But not spectacular. Of these experiments I really like a 2/3 AP flour to 1/3 corn flour ratio. Corn flour you ask? Yep. Not corn starch (which shows up in most Asian stir fry recipes) but the actual ground up corn. Probably a dent corn similar to what is used for masa harina in Mexico.

And now I am at a new phase. The church picnics are about to get into full gear starting in April with the first being April 28 at St. Michael's in Weimar. And I am moving on to test out published recipes by Thomas Keller, a new recipe from John T. that brines the chicken with sweetened tea as one of its components, several other variations based on what I observe at the church picnics.

Some Science: what is happening when we fry chicken? Well, we are creating a batter which will allow the chicken to poach. Additionally the steam being produced by the cooking chicken should, if the temperature is right and the batter is right, keep the oil out from penetrating too much, resulting in a less greasy chicken. So a smooth batter like a flour batter where the gluten has developed is going to create a different barrier than a batter that lets more oil in. For lack of a better description, a cracker-like batter or a particulate batter like  you would find with corn flour or rice flour (or crackers, potato chips or corn flakes). You see, when the battered chicken goes into the hot oil, there's some dehydration on the surface. This causes a crust to form and as the frying continues, any sugars or proteins in the batter are going to break down and create the flavor and color we are familiar with. Now, this crust also helps prevent oil absorption and at the same time you have the internal steam working from the other side to keep the oil out. Since you have less of a barrier when using starches besides flour you have more spaces for the oil to enter. It's also why it's best to eat chicken right out of the fryer as that internal moisture is going to soften the crust to the point of sogginess. This is what happens at the various chicken fries I've been to where the fried chicken is dumped into carrying boxes to go out to the line of waiting, hungry people. That being said, if one wanted a crispier crust that wouldn't go soggy, one would want to use a lower protein flour such as cake flour or one of the rice or corn flours. I will be experimenting with cake flour as the year progresses.

I have been underwhelmed by some the fried chicken I’ve sampled around town at "upscale" restaurants. Mostly just “meh” experiences. Because, you see, if you are the chef at an upscale restaurant you should understand your science and be committed to turning out chicken that is spectacular, certainly better than Churches or Popeye’s. Now I will say that I indeed have found some mighty fine fried chicken in Houston. On my recommendations short list are: Barbecue Inn on Crosstimbers at Airline is the real deal. My trick: order your chicken without salt. They’ll make a batch fresh for you. And the recipe used at Max's Wine Dive is excellent. And based on a recent trip to Federal Grill their fried chicken has become one of my top favorites. It has an exquisite flavor from the herb seasonings and an excellent crunch. It is a buttermilk marinade and I learned a little bit about their dry mix, which I will keep a secret. Frank's Americana Revival Restaurant uses a brine to buttermilk to flour dip method that results in an excellent fried chicken. Thin, crispy, crunchy crust and very good flavor. There are some other things that they do, secrets of which are safe with me. Talk about a turn around. The new chef at Liberty Kitchen is making great fried chicken. Possibly my current favorite. And it tasted better the next day cold.

Other restaurants haven’t fared so well with me. Now, a food critic typically will visit a restaurant three times. I'm paying my own way so my observations following are based on only one visit so, caveat emptor y’all. The recipes may have changed, personnel may have changed. My observations may no longer be valid. Plus, all of these places turn our really good food. It’s just that I’m obsessed with fried chicken and that is all I am considering at the moment. Out of respect for the restaurants I am not naming names for the duds.

I usually apply the following criteria: Did I like it? Would I order it again? Would it taste good cold?

Restaurant One: The night I went the chicken came out so overly browned that it tasted burned. When they saw that I wasn’t eating it and I explained why, the told me that they pre-fried the chicken in the afternoon and then finished it in the evening due to the heavy demand. They kindly offered to do a fresh batch for me. Unfortunately the second batch was pretty bad, too. It was also overly browned. I made a note to myself that it might have been pan fried (and from that day on I determined that total immersion deep fat frying is actually probably better for chicken as it seals the batter all over at the same time). They kindly comped my meal since I hadn’t enjoyed the chicken. I then did a silly thing. I went home, fried up a batch of the most golden brown buttermilk double dipped I could and took it to them with the recipe. In case they wanted to play around with their house recipe. The front of the room probably ate it and the kitchen never saw it or my recipe. I haven't been back to see.

Restaurant Two: The chicken crust fell off from the skin. It was thin and there wasn’t any adherence to the chicken. Underneath, the skin was greasy and had no crispness. It tasted like I was chewing on boiled chicken skin. The person I was dining with had some pieces that were pinkish toward the bone and he worried that the chicken was raw. It. Looked. Raw. To. Me. Someone later told me that they believed that (name with-held) does a sous vide on the chicken first. Thus, nothing to worry about, but without knowing this we didn’t want to take a chance and we left most of our chicken on the plate, unfinished. Neither of us thought very much of their recipe.

Restaurant Three: The chicken was advertised as having a 48 hour marinade in buttermilk and this immediately raised a flag as that seems like a really long time. What came out was a chicken with a crunchy, cracker like crust consistency, but one that had soaked up so much oil that one could actually squeeze the crust and extrude oil. I was not happy. But for some reason I didn't send it back. But then, when a party of four walked by and remarked on how good the chicken looked, I told them that it was not and I couldn't recommend it. One of the managers came over to talk to me and advised me that they were using the recipe from Bouchon, as the owner was a friend of Thomas Keller’s. This raised a second flag because Keller brines his chicken in a salt water, herb, spice and lemon bath and then does a seasoned AP flour and buttermilk method similar to the ones I’m familiar with. And so I will be trying the Keller recipe to see if the end result is the same as at this restaurant. The chicken itself, well, there wasn’t much meat and there was a lot of bone. It was hard to eat. Makes me think it was a very young, free range organic chicken. And it was firm enough that I couldn’t tell if it really had sat in buttermilk for two days. 

Restaurant Four: Now I can confidently pin point the worst fried chicken in Houston. What was this Indian restaurant thinking when they decided to go with a chick pea crust seasoned with just about every masala spice that burns at high heat. And then to fry the chicken at a lower temperature? Complete disaster. Looked burned, tasted burned, with scorched sour tasting spices. Horrible.

Update: As you will see in several future blogs where I test out the Thomas Keller recipe, the result is a crust similar to the one at (with-held) but much much less greasy. Hence, they may be doing some Thomas Keller things but not all of them (I suspect). And I thus confirmed that the AP flour will produce this kind of crust, indicating that their batter wasn't necessarily a cracker or non-flour only batter.

Next on my list after doing some brining experiments will be to move forward with ratios that involve a low protein flour such as cake flour and regular AP flour. 

That's all for now.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lisa Fain - The Homesick Texan

Lisa Fain, author of Homesick Texas Cookbook (a must have) and of the Homesick Texas website offers up the following family recipe at her Homesick Texas website:

The Slurry Batter

I refrigerated the rest of the thick slurry batter from the other night. Tonight, I went to the fridge and mistaking this batter that the raw chicken had been marinading in for some home-made gazpacho also in the fridge, I took a big old spoonful. Oops. (I sure hope that the acid in the buttermilk killed any salmonella or this may be my last blog).

Once I recovered from that I took some of the chicken already fried and coated it with the batter and fried it. Here is how it came out.  I am so close to duplicating the Gus's recipe.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Recipe From Hell

I had to chuckle when I saw this recipe for "Popeye's Fried Chicken". This has to be an early April Fool's joke?

Popeye's Fried Chicken

recipe at a glance
Rating: 4/5
4 stars - 3 reviews

recipe is ready in 30-60 minutes ready in: 30-60 minutes

serves/makes:   4

Be the first to upload an photo of this recipe


3 cups self-rising flour
1 cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons seasoned salt
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 package dry Italian salad dressing mix
1 package (1.5 ounce size) dry onion soup mix
1 package (.5 ounce size) spaghetti sauce mix
3 tablespoons sugar
3 cups Corn flakes cereal, crushed slightly
eggs, well beaten
1/4 cup cold water
4 pounds chicken, cut up


Combine first 9 ingredients in large bowl. Put the cornflakes into another bowl. Put eggs and water in a 3rd bowl. Put enough corn oil into a heavy roomy skillet to fill it 1" deep. Get it HOT! Grease a 9x12x2 baking pan. Set it aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dip chicken pieces 1 piece at a time as follows: 

1-Into dry coating mix. 

2-Into egg and water mix. 

3-Into corn flakes. 

4-Briskly but briefly back into dry mix. 

5-Drop into hot oil, skin-side-down and brown 3 to 4 minutes on medium high. Turn and brown other side of each piece. Don't crowd pieces during frying. 

Place in prepared pan in single layer, skin-side-up. Seal in foil, on 3 sides only, leaving 1 side loose for steam to escape. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes removing foil then to test tenderness of chicken. Allow to bake uncovered 5 minutes longer to crisp the coating. 

The March 21 Experiments - Dry Mix Ratios

The Dry Mix Experiment – March 21, 2013
To test batters using ratios of AP wheat flour, brown rice flour and corn flour.

To a large bowl, I added 4 cups (32 fluid ounces) of buttermilk, 4 pounds of chicken breasts cut into thirds, 1 tablespoon each of garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper. I added one small bottle of Louisiana hot sauce. The chicken sat in the wet bath for two hours. Deep fry method and Crisco vegetable oil heated to 350F.

Trial One: 50% wheat flour and 50% brown rice flour
Great crunch right out of the pan. Can definitely taste a subtle Rice Chex flavor, becoming a little sour tasting but not at all unpleasant. I will use the word particulate to describe the crust. Each individual grain as opposed to a smooth overall crust. Bread like or Panko like as opposed to a wheat flour only batter. As the fried chicken sat, the internal heat and steam was enough to cause the crust to fall apart. Thus, this would be an eat while just out of the pan recipe. Not bad.

Trial Two: 100% brown rice flour
This is basically the ingredient, plus salt and seasonings of the store mix called Kentucky style. Very similar to Trial One. A smoother crust reminiscent of those fish stick crusts. Not bad.

Trial Three: 33% each of wheat flour, brown rice flour and corn flour
Again a very particulate crust. When it came out of the fryer I got really excited as it looked like the crust of Gus’s. But no. Not a bad crust though. There’s something in Gus’s batter that makes an almost candy like thin crunch which is leading me back to flour based batters I think.

Trial Four: Back to classic wheat flour only
Except to the ½ cup dry mix I am using for these experiments, I added two teaspoons of sugar before coating the chicken. Absolutely the crunchiest of these so far. I can taste the sugar and would want to reduce it in future experiments. So, the classic yields the smoothest coating and crunchiest-ness.

Trial Five: No dry mix at all, just chicken in buttermilk, thrown into the pan and stand back!
D.O.A. No good.

Trial Six: 66% wheat flour and 33% corn flour
Crunchy crunch. My favorite so far. 

Trial Seven: The Witches Brew
I did 1.2 cup of each dry mix in order to fry up two pieces of chicken. I dumped the rest into a measuring cup and am now just frying up a few pieces from this dry mix.
If it turns out okay, I can always replicate it by looking at the ratios above.
Man, that is some good chicken. Probably not worth the effort of mixing all three flours though.

Trial Eight. The Slurry
I poured a second bottle of Louisiana hot sauce into the buttermilk and dumped the rest of the Witches Brew into the liquid. Let the chicken soak and then threw them in the hot oil.
The first slurry attempt was an epic fail. Greasy, the batter didn’t stick. Just nasty. So increased the amount of flour to result in a thick cake batter consistency dipped the chicken and threw it back in the fryer. Because of the extra hot sauce, the crust got really dark, burned even. But the crunch was terrific. I could taste the hot sauce. And all in all this came closest to Gus’s though still no prize. Still not a thin crackly crust. Back to the drawing board. Could it be as simple as flour, buttermilk, spices in a thick slurry bath?

Trial Nine and Beyond
Have to now work on lower protein flour such as cake flour ratio’ed with AP flour. Another day.

Supplement - Update April 13, 2013: For a friend who does not tolerate wheat flour, I mixed 1 cup of brown rice flour, 1 cup of corn flour and 1/2 cup of potato flour and fried several pieces. In order to cook through, the chicken had to stay in the fryer a long time and the crust got very brown. This was a thin, cracker like crust almost non existent. A sour aftertaste to the crust. Not recommended unless you cannot use wheat flour.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tom Faulkner - Fried Chicken Skin Song

The great Tom Faulkner. From Dallas. A near perfect first album in terms of recording quality, songs, performance. Lost in the Land of Texico should be in everyone's collection. Here, though, is a clip from a few years back when he gave me a shout out at a performance over Easter week-end in La Grange, Texas. Ironically, the next day, Easter Sunday, on a backroads bluebonnet sightseeing slow drive back to Houston, we came across the annual Easter Sunday Moulton, Texas fried chicken lunch and my first introduction to the giant cast iron pots that are used in this part of the world to fry up huge amount of chicken.  Here's the video clip:

Fried Chicken Skin.

Do Bea's Dance. 

Gus' Fried Chicken

Gus's Fried Chicken - You will hear me talking about Gus's Fried Chicken on this blog and elsewhere, not because it is the best fried chicken that I have ever had. But because the batter was unique enough that it had me scratching my head on what was in it. I haven't done any experimentation as of this date with brown rice flour. But I can confirm that a 50/50 ratio of wheat flour and corn flour comes closer than a straight wheat flour recipe.  My other guess is that there is some sugar in it. Dylan at Boomtown Coffee confirmed to me that sugar will contribute to the crispness.  Anyway. Here is a video or two of what we are talking about.

(Update: I will discover that the base is a slurry of 1 cup cornstarch to 1 1/4 buttermilk)

So cool that Pollos Hermanos on Breaking Bad owner and all around bad guy is Gus.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lorman, Mississippi - The Owner Sings About Chicken

Lorman, Mississippi Fried Chicken. I had put a video up on our trip here, but today, I found this terrific video of the owner singing about fried chicken. Wonderful! Enjoy.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Holy Grail - Donald Link's Cajun Fried Chicken

I have used a buttermilk and flour batter recipe for years. However, for newbies, here is the best one I have found, and used, in recent years.

Cajun Fried Chicken

Cutting the chicken into 10 pieces instead of the more typical eight results in smaller, easy-to-hold pieces with more crispy, crusty goodness.–Donald Link
How brilliant is that aforementioned trick of cutting each breast in half?! Not only does it make for smaller pieces with more surface area—hence more of that coveted Cajun-y coating—but it ensures today’s size D-cup chicken breasts cook relatively quickly, circumventing the problem of the coating becoming too burnished while waiting for the meat to cook through. Brilliant.

Cajun Fried Chicken Recipe

Buy the Real Cajun cookbook


  • One 3- to 4- pound chicken, whole or pre-cut into pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 5 dashes Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken well
  • 3 cups lard, vegetable shortening, or bacon drippings
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour


  • 1. Pat the chicken dry. Cut the chicken into 10 pieces instead of the usual 8. To create the extra two pieces, cut the breast off the backbone, and then cut each breast in half, which will give you two wings, two thighs, two legs, and four pieces of breast. (Editor’s Note: You really must partake of this nifty little trick.) Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and season with the salt, pepper, cayenne, white pepper, garlic powder, and hot sauce, and toss to coat evenly. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 day (the longer the better, to allow the seasonings to permeate the meat).

  • 2. Remove the chicken from the dry spices, allowing any liquid to drip back into the bowl, and place the chicken in a clean bowl. Pour the buttermilk over the chicken.
  • 3. Heat the lard, vegetable shortening, or bacon fat in a large cast-iron skillet to 350°F (176°C), or until a pinch of flour sizzles when it’s dropped in the fat.
  • 4. As the oil heats, remove the chicken from the buttermilk, allowing any excess liquid to drip off, and transfer the chicken to a clean bowl. Sprinkle with the flour and toss to coat.
  • 5. When the oil is ready, add the chicken pieces to the skillet in batches, shaking off any excess flour before adding them to the oil. Start with the larger bone-in cuts in the first round, as they will take longer to cook. Then fry the chicken breasts in the second round. For the crispiest results, it’s important not to overcrowd the pan. Fry the first batch of chicken about 8 minutes on each side, using tongs to turn it as necessary, making sure the oil does not get too hot. The oil should have a mellow sizzle, not a raging boil, or it will make the outside of the chicken too dark before the inside is cooked. Transfer the chicken to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil. The breasts will take about 6 minutes on each side. Don’t be in such a rush to eat the chicken right out of the fat; it’s too hot, for one thing. And if you let it sit for a few minutes, the juices will settle and it will be more pleasurable to eat.
  • Sunday, March 10, 2013

    Lorma, Mississippi Fried Chicken - Some of the best fried chicken I have eaten.

    And here is a link to Alton Brown talking about Mr. D's fried chicken:

    Moulton, Texas Style Fried Chicken - Cast Iron Kettles - Over 100 Years Old

    Moulton Fried Chicken - These are links to some videos from years past of my trips to Moulton, Texas. They have two fried chicken events each year. The first occurs on Easter Sunday so it is one of the earliest of the season. Then, later on in the year, Moulton has their annual street festival with parade and fried chicken dinner.

    The Fried Chicken Blog - One Man's Journey - (Really? No One Has Created a Fried Chicken Blog Yet?)

    As discussed on my Facebook page, this all began with a road trip that took us to Memphis, Tennessee.  Now, I am not a novice at frying chicken. I have done it for years. I think that the reason I have is because I am more sensitive to salt than most people, and most of the commercial fried chicken establishments put too much salt in for my taste.

    My default recipe over the years has been a buttermilk and flour batter. These days, my go to has been the recipe in Donald Link's book "Real Cajun" (which also has a spectacular German chocolate cake recipe).

    Additionally, I have been going to the Czech Catholic church picnics in Central Texas for many years now and have put videos up on YouTube of the events.

    When my wife and I were in Memphis a few years back, several people recommended Gus's Fried Chicken. It had a very thin and a very crisp crust. I was very interested in this batter. When I peeked into the kitchen, I saw stainless steel containers with the chicken pieces sitting in a very red bath (I spied big bottles of Louisiana hot sauce on the shelves). To me it didn't look like they were flouring the chicken before it went into the fryers. Now I suspect they were working with a slurry instead of a dredge in flour.

    I have been all over the 'net searching for a recipe. There isn't one. There are some purported copycat recipes showing up from Saveur and also there is a Nora Jones recipe that is supposed to be similar. But these are buttermilk/flour recipes.  And as time will prove, neither is like Gus's. Gus's is doing something different.

    And so, my research begins. With the trusty Internet, a copy of John T's "Fried Chicken", and the anticipation that comes every year when the church picnics begin in Texas, I hope to test out as many variations as possible and report on them. Many of these will be good.

    (Update Note: See my recipe for Gus's style fried chicken later on in this blog)

    The Fried Chicken Blog

    March 19, 2013

    If I am going to take my experimentation with fried chicken recipes seriously, mayhaps best to create a blog called The Fried Chicken Blog?

    Tom Faulkner - The Fried Chicken Skin Song

    Lightnin' Hopkins!

    Champion Jack Dupree Sings The Chicken Shack Blues!

    Luther Johnson and The Muddy Waters Blues Band - Chicken Shack Blues

    Hakan Ehn - Back at the Chicken Shack