I’ve been trying to nail Southern Fried Chicken for quite some time.
Some recipes call for the chicken to be brined before cooking. Others marinade the meat in buttermilk instead. Some recipes don’t feature brine or marinade at all. Some cooks coat the chicken with nothing but flour and spices; others use buttermilk or an egg-and-milk mix to help the flour and spices adhere to the chicken. And of course, I’ve come across countless online recipes claiming to have cracked the secret spice blend for a KFC copycat, if that’s what you’re after…
The key problem for us has been in ensuring the chicken is cooked all the way through without overcooking the crispy coating. Of course, setting the right oil temperature helps a lot with that, as does the size of chicken pieces. But it’s remained my main point of difficulty.
When we received our Sous Vide Supreme, we poached chicken in it as one of our first experiments in getting a feel for how it worked and where the strengths of the technique lie. (For the record, the chicken was moist and evenly cooked, but no more so than if we’d poached it in our slow cooker).
But that experiment made it occur to me that we could sous vide the chicken first, to ensure that it was cooked right the way through and then apply the coating and deep fry.
Bingo! No more worries about the chicken being cooked at the core…
Of course, if you don’t have a sous vide machine, you can seal the chicken into bags (or wrap in cling film) and poach at a low simmer until cooked all the way through.
The next question is one of flavourings. The previous times I’ve made Southern Fried Chicken, I’ve blended my own spice mix in which I’ve included dried oregano, dried sage, dried rosemary, garlic powder, paprika, chilli powder, ground black pepper and salt. Of those, I’d say the core ingredients are oregano, paprika, chilli powder and garlic powder.
But this time I realised I had the perfect ready-made seasoning mix sitting in front of me – a tub of African Volcano Seasoning Rub (Medium). In case you can’t get hold of this, I’ve provided an alternative blend in the recipe below.
Southern Fried Chicken | Making Use of Sous Vide
6 boneless chicken thighs
150-200 ml (about 1 cup) buttermilk
150-200 grams (about 1 cup) plain flour
2-3 tablespoons African Volcano Seasoning Rub (or see note, below)
Salt and pepper
Note: You can substitute African Volcano Seasoning Rub with 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 teaspoon chilli powder and 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
- Pre-heat your sous vide machine to 66 °C (151 °F).
- Open out the chicken thighs and cut them into two or three pieces each.
- Add one to two tablespoons of buttermilk to the chicken and coat all the pieces.
- Spread the chicken out flat in a food-grade plastic pouch and seal with a vacuum sealer.
- Cook for two hours in the sous vide machine.
Note: If you don’t have a sous vide machine, seal the chicken and buttermilk into bags (or wrap in cling film) and poach in water at a low simmer until cooked all the way through.
- Before removing chicken from the water bath, prepare the plates of coating ready to dip and switch on your deep fat fryer to pre-heat to 170-175 °C.
- Pour half a cup of buttermilk into a bowl. In another bowl, combine the flour, spice blend and salt and pepper. Have an empty plate ready for floured chicken pieces.
- Remove the chicken from the water bath, open the pouch, discard the juices and remove chicken pieces onto a plate or dish.
Note: you don’t want the chicken to cool down in the centre, as you won’t be deep frying it for as long as usual, so allow it to cool for just a couple of minutes before continuing with the recipe.
- As soon as the chicken has cooled enough to handle, dip each piece into the buttermilk and then into the seasoned flour, ensuring that plenty of flour has adhered to all surfaces of the chicken.
- Repeat for the rest of the chicken, adding more buttermilk to the dipping bowl as and when required.
Ideally, if there are two of you, one person can fry the first batch while the second person dips and flours the remaining chicken.
- Fry in small batches, depending on the size of your deep fat fryer.
- Ours took 5 minutes for the coating to crisp and brown. Increase cooking time if necessary, to achieve the necessary colour and texture.
- Drain on to a paper towel and serve hot.
Although that’s shop-bought coleslaw in the photographs, this southern fried chicken is even better served with my smoky paprika coleslaw, which can be made beforehand. Do give it a try.
Kavey Eats received a SousVide Supreme and vacuum sealer in exchange for sharing my experiences using the equipment.