Nashville Hot Fried Chicken

From Cook's Country | June/July 2010
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Why this recipe works:

Mimicking the heat of this Nashville Hot Fried Chicken was harder than we anticipated. We created a spicy exterior to the chicken by “blooming" the spices (cooking them in oil for a short period) to create a complex yet still lip-burning spicy flavor. We added a healthy amount of hot sauce to… read more

Mimicking the heat of this Nashville Hot Fried Chicken was harder than we anticipated. We created a spicy exterior to the chicken by “blooming" the spices (cooking them in oil for a short period) to create a complex yet still lip-burning spicy flavor. We added a healthy amount of hot sauce to our brine to inject spicy flavor into the chicken, making the flavor more than skin deep. Most Nashville Hot Fried Chicken recipes called for fiery cayenne pepper, but only a fraction of a teaspoon. Our Hot recipe calls for at least 12 times that amount.

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Nashville Hot Chicken

Getting scorching hot fried chicken outside of Nashville is nearly impossible. We set out to bring this sweat-inducing treat home.

Watch the Video

Serves 4 to 6

Chicken quarters take longer to cook than smaller pieces. To ensure that the exterior doesn't burn before the inside cooks through, keep the oil temperature between 300 and 325 degrees while the chicken is frying. For an extra-hot version, see related recipe.

Ingredients

  • BRINE
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 (3 1/2-to 4-pound) whole chicken, quartered (see note)
  • COATING
  • 3 quarts peanut or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  1. 1. BRINE CHICKEN Whisk water, hot sauce, salt, and sugar in large bowl until salt and sugar dissolve. Add chicken and refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.

    2. BLOOM SPICES Heat 3 tablespoons oil in small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add cayenne, paprika, ½ teaspoon salt, garlic powder, and sugar and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to small bowl.

    3. DREDGE Remove chicken from refrigerator and pour off brine. Combine flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl. Dredge chicken pieces 2 at a time in flour mixture. Shake excess flour from chicken and transfer to wire rack. (Do not discard seasoned flour.)

    4. FRY AND BRUSH Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Heat remaining oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Return chicken pieces to flour mixture and turn to coat. Fry half of chicken, adjusting burner as necessary to maintain oil temperature between 300 and 325 degrees, until deep golden brown and white meat registers 160 degrees (175 degrees for dark meat), 20 to 25 minutes. Drain chicken on clean wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet and place in oven. Bring oil back to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining chicken. Stir spicy oil mixture to recombine and brush over both sides of chicken. Serve on white bread with pickles.

Keys to Fiery Flavor

To make a version of Nashville Hot Fried Chicken that's worthy of the name, we season the meat down to the bone.

1. We add hot sauce to a standard salt-and-sugar brine. As the chicken soaks, it picks up heat and flavor.

2. We briefly heat the spices in oil to soften their dry, harsh edge and amplify their flavor.

3. To prevent the cayenne from burning in the hot oil, we season the chicken by brushing it with spicy oil after it has been fried.

Building a Bonfire

Most recipes that call for fiery cayenne pepper add a pinch, or maybe 1/8 teaspoon, or 1/4 teaspoon at the very most. Not Nashville Hot Fried Chicken. Our "Hot" recipe calls for a full tablespoon; the "Extra-Hot" demands a mouth-searing 3 1/2 tablespoons for authentic heat.

1/8 TEASPOON CAYENNE What most recipes use to add "serious" heat.

1 TABLESPOON CAYENNE This hefty dose puts the "Hot" in Nashville Hot Fried Chicken.

3 1/2 TABLESPOONS CAYENNE Do NOT mess around with this "Extra-Hot" chicken.

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