This is John Besh. He’s one of the best Southern chefs in America and the one recipe he thinks everybody should learn to cook is his grandmother’s fried chicken.
“One of my sons always asks for this fried chicken for his birthday,” says Besh, who has twelve restaurants, four cookbooks, and a James Beard award. “It’s his favorite meal.”
He put the recipe in his newest book, Besh Big Easy, which is a collection of all the meals he actually makes for his family. “When I cook at home, I like things that you can make in a single pot or pan,” he says.
And, it turns out, the best, most authentic, Southern fried chicken is the kind you can make with just a few ingredients, in one skillet.
For the chicken:
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, preferably from one whole chicken
Salt and pepper
1 quart buttermilk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Canola oil, for frying
For the tabasco honey:
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon tabasco, or more to taste.
For the chicken:
Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, soak the chicken in the buttermilk for at least 15 minutes. The idea is that the lactic acids tenderize the chicken. Sometimes my grandmother would even put the soaking chicken in the fridge overnight.
Mix together the flour, celery salt, garlic powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Dredge each chicken piece in the seasoned flour to coat well. The batter should just barely adhere to the chicken, so make sure you give each piece a little shake to let extra batter drop off before frying.
Heat about 1 to 2 inches of canola oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven until it reaches 350°F (get a deep-fry thermometer here). Place a few pieces of the chicken in the oil — you can’t do more than 3 or 4 at a time without causing the oil temperature to drop, which makes for greasier chicken — and fry for 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, turn each piece over, then cover the pan to cook for another 6 minutes. The chicken is done when it’s deep brown, cooked through. Drain on paper towels and salt well.
For the Tabasco honey:
Mix the honey and Tabasco in a small bowl and serve alongside the chicken, for dipping or drizzling.
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