Nashville Hot Fried Chicken

Nashville Hot Chicken is a phenomenon with cafes and diners across the city all putting out their own versions of this regional dish. What is Hot Chicken? It’s a potent mix of acid, salt, chile and fat imbued into a hapless chicken that’s been fried hard, then served with sour pickles and light bread. Of the 20 million or-so versions of fried chicken in the world, this one, along with Indonesia’s, is one of the most unique and arguably one of the best.

Legend has it that a jealous Nashville women in the 1930s attempted to punish her philandering boyfriend by sabotaging his unsuspecting taste buds with the most incendiary fried chicken possible. Her revenge backfired when he proclaimed it to be the best fried chicken he had ever tasted. It was so good, in fact, that he opened a restaurant, Price’s Fried Chicken, and started the craze that has made hot fried chicken Nashville’s signature dish.

Nashville Fried Chicken

Depending on your audience, the heat in this recipe can be adjusted for each diner at the end of cooking, from mild to what Hattie's in Nashville calls "Shut the Cluck Up!!!". Thighs and/or drumsticks produce the juiciest pieces. If a full cut-up chicken is desired, look for smaller pieces. And always, always keep a cooling glass of milk or beer nearby and serve on a slice of white bread, some creamy coleslaw, and pickle chips.
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Course: Brunch, Lunch, Main Course, Snack
Cuisine: American, American South, North American
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Dry brine: 12 hours
Total Time: 13 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: My Hungry Traveler

Equipment

  • Deep fryer, wok, or deep skillet
  • Baking pan lined with foil, wire rack
  • Small saucepan, brush, whisk
  • 2 bowls
  • Instant read thermometer

Ingredients

  • 3 lb Chicken thighs, drumsticks, or a whole cut-up chicken
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup Whole milk
  • 2 large Eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp Hot sauce (Tabasco, Frank's, Crystal, etc.)
  • 2 cups All-purpose flour
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  • 3 tbsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp Brown sugar
  • ½ tsp Paprika
  • ½ tsp Garlic powder
  • White bread slices (optional)
  • Dill pickle chips

Instructions

  • Dry Brine the chicken pieces by rubbing all over with 1 tbsp kosher salt and 1½ tsp black pepper. Put in a gallon freezer bag, seal, and refrigerate overnight or up-to 24 hours.
  • Make Dip and Dredge – In a bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, and hot sauce. In another bowl, whisk together the flour and 2 tsp salt.
  • Coat the Chicken – Dredge the chicken in the flour, then dip in milk, the in the flour again. Shake off excess after each. Place coated pieces on the wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Fry the Chicken – Warm oven to 200°F (93°C). Heat enough oil to cover the chicken pieces to 325°F (165°C). Lower the pieces into the hot oil in batches. Fry until crisp, 15-17 minutes for breasts and 20 minutes for thighs and drumsticks. Place cooked chicken on baking pan with wire rack and place in warm oven. When oil reaches temperature, fry the next batch.
  • Make the Spicy Coating – Carefully ladle ½ cup of the hot oil used for frying into a small saucepan. Whisk in cayenne pepper, brown sugar, ¾ tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, paprika, and garlic powder.
  • Serve – Remove the baking pan with chicken from oven. Brush hot sauce on pieces, give diners a choice of meat and degree of hotness. Serve on a slice of white bread and garnish with pickles.

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