Nashville Hot Fried Chicken
To ensure that the exterior doesn't burn before the interior cooks through, keep the oil temperature between 300 and 325 degrees.
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Start to finish: 2 hours
2 quarts cold water
½ cup hot sauce
Salt and ground black pepper
½ cup plus ½ teaspoon sugar
3½- to 4-pound whole chicken, quartered
3 quarts peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
Hearty white sandwich bread (optional)
Pickle chips (optional)
In a large bowl, whisk the cold water, hot sauce, ½ cup salt and ½ cup sugar until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add the chicken and refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
When ready to cook, in a small saucepan over medium, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the cayenne, ½ teaspoon salt, paprika, remaining ½ teaspoon sugar and the garlic powder. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to small bowl and set aside.
Remove the chicken from refrigerator and pour off brine.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Two at a time, dredge the chicken pieces through the flour mixture. Shake excess flour from the chicken, then transfer it to wire rack. Do not discard the seasoned flour.
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 F. Set a clean wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.
In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat the remaining oil to 350 degrees.
Return the chicken pieces to the flour mixture and turn to coat, then shake off the excess. Add half of the chicken to the oil and fry, adjusting the burner as necessary to maintain oil temperature between 300 F and 325 F, until the skin is a deep golden brown and the white meat registers 160 F and the dark meat registers 175 F, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Drain the fried chicken on the prepared wire rack and place in oven to keep warm. Return the oil to 350 F and repeat with the remaining chicken.
When all of the chicken is cooked, stir the spicy oil mixture to recombine, then brush it over both sides of the chicken. Serve on bread, if using, and top with pickles, if using.
Nutrition information per serving: 780 calories; 510 calories from fat (65 percent of total calories); 57 g fat (10 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 140 mg cholesterol; 27 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 38 g protein; 1100 mg sodium.
Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated magazine