Nashville Hot Chicken

Nashville Hot Chicken

Nashville Hot Chicken

The secret to Nashville’s famous hot chicken is in the layering: The bird is marinated in a spicy buttermilk brine, then dredged with more flour and spice, double-fried, and finally slathered with a fiery butter paste to create a crunchy, peppery coating. One bite into its burnished orange crust reveals first a tangy crunch, and then a deeper, complex spice that leaves a lingering fire behind. Adjust the heat by adding as much—or as little—cayenne as you like.Landon Nordeman

The secret to Nashville's famous hot chicken is in the layering: The bird is marinated in a spicy buttermilk brine, then dredged with more flour and spice, double-fried, and finally slathered with a fiery butter paste to create a crunchy, peppery coating. One bite into its burnished orange crust reveals first a tangy crunch, and then a deeper, complex spice that leaves a lingering fire behind. Adjust the heat by adding as much—or as little—cayenne as you like. This recipe first appeared in our June/July 2014 issue with Jane and Michael Stern's story "Hot Country."

Nashville Hot Chicken
Bathed in a spicy buttermilk brine, Nashville hot chicken gets dredged in more spice still, double-fried, and finally slathered with a fiery, buttery paste.
Yield: serves 2-4

Ingredients

  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 34 cup cayenne
  • 9 tbsp. granulated garlic
  • 9 tbsp. paprika
  • 6 tbsp. onion powder
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 (2 1/2–3-lb.) chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or 3 lbs. chicken wings
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • Sliced white sandwich bread and dill pickle chips, for serving

Instructions

  1. Combine buttermilk, 14 cup cayenne, 3 tbsp. each granulated garlic and paprika, 2 tbsp. onion powder, and 1 tbsp. sugar in a bowl; whisk until smooth. Add chicken and toss to coat; cover and chill at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
  2. The next day, drain chicken, rinse, and pat dry; season with salt and pepper. Heat 2" oil in a 6-qt. saucepan until a deep-fry thermometer reads 300°. Stir remaining cayenne, granulated garlic, paprika, onion powder, and sugar in a bowl; transfer half to another bowl and whisk in flour. Working in batches, dredge chicken in flour mixture; fry, flipping once, until golden and almost cooked through, 6–7 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reads 150°. Transfer chicken to paper towels.
  3. Increase oil temperature to 350°. Stir remaining cayenne mixture and melted butter in a bowl; set paste aside. Dredge chicken once more in flour mixture and fry until cooked through, 2–3 minutes more; drain briefly on paper towels and brush with reserved paste. Serve with bread and pickles.