Nashville Style Hot Chicken

Nashville hot chicken has been all the rage for a few years now, popping up on everything from fast food menu boards to perfectly plated fine dining versions.  That’s both because it feels like a new discovery (it’s not – we just weren’t paying attention to the Black food pioneers who developed and perfected it) and because well, it’s insanely delicious.   It hits on all counts, juicy, crunchy, and that weird euphoria that comes from eating something so spicy it sends you into joyful sweats.

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I’ve played with the technique on and off for about 8 years. My first try at it was actually fried rabbit for a dinner party. which was strange and wonderful and crunchy and delicious. Basically, it’s a simple, crunchy fried chicken dipped or painted with spicy flavorful dressing made by infusing the fry oil with herbs, spices, and a huge amount of cayenne pepper.  The oil, contrary to expectations, doesn’t make it seem greasy, instead it preserves the underlying crunch of the chicken.

It’s important to acknowledge that Black owned Nashville chicken joints have been turning out delicious mouth searing crunchy hot chicken for decades, and I won’t even pretend this recipe holds a candle to Prince’s or Hattie B’s … but it is one that you can tackle at home. This recipe owes everything to their work – and was developed from a number of different recipes I’ve tried over the years.

This recipe makes either four crunchy finger staining mouth numbing pieces of bone in chicken, or  4 spicy boneless thighs that are perfect for making a sandwich.  For sandwiches, I’m partial to the thick cut spongy white bread referred to as  “Texas toast cut”  in my part of the country along with a big pile of dill pickle chips, and a smear of Duke’s Mayonnaise – but a drizzle of ranch dressing (though a total heresy) would probably taste great too.

Nashville Style Hot Chicken

Recipe by DrewCourse: MainCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Medium
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

20

minutes
Calories

300

kcal
Resting time

1

hour 

30

minutes
Total time

2

hours 

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs (bone-in skin on for pieces, boneless for sandwiches)

  • 2 tsp kosher salt, divided

  • ½ tsp ground black pepper

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 cup buttermilk or a mixture of milk and yogurt

  • ½ cup Franks Red Hot

  • 2 cups AP flour

  • 2 tbsp cayenne pepper

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • 1 tsp granulated sugar

  • ¼ tsp dried thyme

Directions

  • Season the chicken pieces with 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp black pepper.
  • Allow to rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour to absorb seasonings.
  • Whisk together the flour and the remaining 1 tsp salt.
  • Wisk together the egg, buttermilk, and hot sauce.
  • Add the cayenne, the crushed garlic, paprika, sugar, and thyme to a heatproof bowl.
  • Once rested, dredge the chicken in the flour mixture, dip it into the egg/milk/hot sauce mixture, then back into the flour, shaking and making sure the piece is completely coated.
  • Repeat for the remaining pieces.
  • Place the breaded pieces on a rack on a sheet pan and rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes for the breading to hydrate. This will help it stick better to the chicken, and make the end result crunchier.
  • After the rest, set up a fryer or dutch oven with ~3inches of oil, and heat to 325°F.
  • Fry, in batches if necessary, at 325°F until the coating is golden brown and crispy, and the internal temp of the meat has reached 165°F.
  • Rest chicken in a warm place, and allow the oil to cool somewhat.
  • Ladle ½ cup of the still hot – but slightly cooled oil – into the spice mixture in a heat proof bowl. Stir or whisk to combine well.
  • Dip or brush the oil onto the chicken, coating completely.
  • Serve with white bread and pickles.
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