I don’t know how most people do their fried chicken, but I’ve had my tricks down for years:
- Start with a buttermilk brine, for the tenderness of soaking in buttermilk, with the juicy flavor of a salt and herb brine.
- Use baking powder and baking soda in the flour coating; they react with the buttermilk for a crispier crust.
- Cover the chicken during the first part of cooking to help cook the inside, but leave it uncovered once I’ve flipped the chicken, to keep it crispy.
- Put part of a stalk of celery in with the oil while the first batch of chicken is frying (don’t bother removing the leaves), and I guarantee it will come out perfectly golden brown. You can take the celery out once the first batch is done and fry the rest as usual.
I’ve never had any complaints about the results, so I wasn’t really in the market for ideas to change things up, when one day I ran across an article about brining chicken in pickle juice. Yes, you read that correctly: pickle juice. People apparently raved about the results, and suddenly there was a new contender in the ring. Could this brash, young upstart be the one that finally knocked out my veteran buttermilk brine? We would soon see.
I let the chicken soak overnight in the pickle juice (I used kosher dill), and since I wasn’t using buttermilk in the brine, I added it to my usual egg batter instead. The results were just as crisp and juicy as we were used to, but the flavor was completely different. It didn’t taste like pickles, exactly, but there was definitely a subtle undertone of dill and cucumber. The brine could probably have used a little more salt, but it could have just been the brand of pickles I used, so I would suggest making the coating a little saltier, rather than adding salt to the brine.
The bottom line is that we both loved it, and while it probably won’t replace my usual buttermilk brine, I’ll never pour out a jar of leftover pickle juice again!
Pickle Juice-Brined Fried Chicken
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 cups of dill pickle juice
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp dried marjoram or thyme
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp hot sauce
1/2 stalk of celery
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
- In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the chicken pieces and pickle juice. Seal, and store in the refrigerator overnight.
- Take the chicken out of the refrigerator about an hour before you’re ready to start cooking and let it come to room temperature in the brine.
- Discard the brine and pat the chicken dry.
- In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, egg, and hot sauce. Set aside.
- In a large plastic bag, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, marjoram, salt and pepper.
- Dip the chicken in the buttermilk mixtures, then dredge in the seasoned flour. Set the coated chicken aside, and let it rest while the oil heats.
- In a heavy, 12″ skillet, add enough oil so that it comes about halfway up the sides, and heat over medium to medium-high heat.
- When the oil is ready add the chicken to the pan, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Add the celery stick to the oil, and cover the pan with a tight lid. Fry the chicken for about 15 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through. When fully cooked, remove to a wire rack and repeat the process with the remaining chicken. Subsequent batches will brown faster than the first, so adjust the heat accordingly if your food is browning too quickly.
- Serve hot.