In Memphis, soul food is as deep in tradition as the blues. Secret recipes are passed down like a dead man’s legacy. When we asked Gus Vanderbilt of Gus’s Fried Chicken in Mason, Tennessee (about 40 miles outside Memphis), for his fried chicken recipe he simply replied “I ain’t telling”. This recipe isn’t exact but we think it comes close. Note: Allow at least two hours, up to overnight, for marinating.

Gus’s Fried Chicken Gus’s Fried Chicken
When we asked Gus Vanderbilt of Gus's Fried Chicken in Mason, Tennessee for his recipe, he simply replied, "I ain't tellin'." Here is our version.
Yield: serves 4
Time: 40 minutes


  • 3 12 lb. chicken, washed and cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 qt. buttermilk
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Peanut oil


  1. Place chicken in a nonreactive pan and add buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.
  2. Combine flour, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper in a large plastic bag, and shake to mix.
  3. Heat 34” peanut oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. Meanwhile, shake each piece of chicken in bag of seasoned flour until well coated. When oil is very hot but not smoking, add chicken, largest pieces first, skin side down. (Work in batches if your skillet is small.) Reduce heat to medium, and cook, turning once, until chicken is golden brown and crispy, 12–15 minutes per side. Drain chicken on paper towels.