The Best Fried Chicken I’ve Ever Made | Thomas Keller’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe

Happy New Year!

This year, we resolve to spend more time eating, drinking, and conversing with like-minded friends. And by like-minded, we mean people who like to eat, drink and be merry. And talk about food.

So today took us to the canyon where we contributed to a New Years Day potluck lunch. Because I am the proud recipient of a brand new FryDaddy (thank you December ugly sweater holiday party, white elephant gift exchange, and impeccable steal!!!), I brought it with me to fry a batch of chicken wings.

I first tried the buttermilk fried chicken recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home a few years ago, and I loved it. It was hands-down, the best fried chicken I had ever had. (Yes, I’ve been to Roscoe’s, and Bruxie’s… and N’awlins.) But for whatever reason (maybe it’s that we don’t fry a lot), I hadn’t made it again… until now.

There’s a note from Mr. Keller on page 16 that says this: Fried chicken is a great American tradition that’s fallen out of favor. A taste of this, and you will want it back in your weekly routine.

I agree.

And I hope you do too.

Because I was only trying to serve 12 people, the modified recipe posted below significantly cuts down what Mr. Keller writes in his book. I also used my backyard Meyer lemons because it was convenient, and I stuck with chicken wings instead of using the whole bird. (Better meat to crust ratio, in my opinion.)

Below, a few more photos from the afternoon.

1. Backyard Meyer lemon and tangerine haul. 2. The men babysitting the rib roast. 3. Priscilla’s Hoppin’ John salsa. 4. Roast beef sandwich with bread that Anita brought from the OC Baking Company. 5. Mr. RGBistro sneaking a piece of fried chicken. 6. Meyer lemon cake and freshly churned ice cream for dessert. 7. The making of ice cream, with Grand Marnier and tangerine zest. 8. Fried chicken! 9. A post-meal view. 10. The picnic table at mealtime. 11. The fireplace during a round of “Foodie Fight.” 12. Austin’s lunch plate.

It was a beautiful, beautiful day. I’m so looking forward to more of this in 2013.


Thomas Keller’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe

Prep Time: 12 hours

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 12 hours, 30 minutes

Serving Size: Serves 12

The chicken is brined for 12 hours in a herb-lemon brine, which seasons the meat and helps it stay juicy. The flour is seasoned with garlic and onion powders, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. The chicken is dredged again in the seasoned flour, dipped in buttermilk, and then dredged again in the flour. The crust becomes almost feathered and is very crisp.


  • Ingredients for chicken brine
  • • 1 lemon, sliced
  • • 6 bay leaves
  • • 1 ounce fresh Italian parsley
  • • ¼ ounce fresh thyme
  • • 2 tablespoons clover honey
  • • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • • ½ cup (2.5 ounces) kosher salt
  • • 4 cups water
  • • 4 cups ice cubes
  • • 4 pounds chicken wings
  • Ingredients for fried chicken
  • • Up to 2 quarts of peanut oil
  • • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • • 1 tablespoon cayenne
  • • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • • 2 cups buttermilk
  • • Handful fresh thyme stems


  1. Day 1: Brine chicken. Combine first 9 ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and pour into 12-cup glass bowl (preferably a marked Pyrex bowl, so you know how much liquid equals 8 cups). Add enough ice to bring mixture to 8 ½ cups. Stir mixture with wooden spoon until the ice melts and the mixture is cooled down to room temperature. Add 4 pounds of chicken wingettes to the mixture, cover and refrigerate for 12 hours.
  2. Day 2: Remove the chicken from the brine (discard the brine) and rinse under cold water, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Pat dry with paper towels, or let air-dry. Let rest at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until it comes to room temperature.
  3. Fill a pot or fryer with at least 2 inches of peanut oil and heat to 340°F. Note: The oil should not come more than one-third of the way up the sides of the pot. Line a serving platter with two sheets of paper towels.
  4. Combine flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Transfer half of the coating to a second large bowl. Pour buttermilk into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station: the chicken pieces, one bowl of coating, the bowl of buttermilk, the second bowl of coating, and the serving platter.
  5. Just before frying, dip the chicken pieces into the first bowl of coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess; dip them into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl; then dip them into the second bowl of coating.
  6. Carefully lower the pieces into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperature. Fry for approximately 7 minutes. While chicken is frying, add fresh thyme stems into the fryer and cook for approximately 15 seconds, then fish them out with tongs. When the chicken pieces are done, remove them from the fryer with tongs, transfer to serving platter, and sprinkle with fine sea salt. Arrange fried thyme stems over the chicken.


Time commitment: 2 days (15 minutes to prepare the brine, 12 hours to brine the chicken, and 30 minutes to fry the chicken)

Source: Ad Hoc at Home, by Thomas Keller. Modified to reduce recipe scale by the Rustic Garden Bistro.

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Bistro Eats is a collection of recipes we think could work in a bistro setting, i.e. the brick and mortar Rustic Garden Bistro. Click on this category to see a snippet of what the menu may look like.


  1. says

    I think your resolution is a splendid one! Thomas Keller is someone whose recipes I’ve been wanting to try but have yet to actually give it a go, but this recipe looks like a good place to start. Michael is a big fan of Alton Brown’s recipe–I make Momofuku’s Octo Vin to go with it–but these look so good that I’m pretty sure he’ll be persuaded to try another recipe.

  2. says

    I love all your photos. I have this cookbook getting dusty on my shelf – I think this was part of Chef Keller’s last meal he made for hid Dad. Time to dust it off and try this and other of his recipes.

  3. says

    Love, love, love, fried chicken. I grew up eating the best fried chicken ever. It astounds me to think just how frequently my dad would make chicken for ten or twelve of us. To this day, my last meal request would be fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and creamed corn. Very southern of me, wouldn’t you say. Are you happy with your Fry Daddy? Lovely photos!

  4. says

    This sounds like such a lovely day! I’ve bookmarked this fried chicken recipe for some time but have yet to get around to it. I think the shot of the herbs on the place of fried chicken convinced me though. I mean, with all that green, it’s almost health food :) Happy New Year!

  5. says

    Happy Happy New Year Kim! I’ve heard magical things about that chicken recipe and definitely need to try it out. I secretly want a fry daddy. We had a deep fryer growing up that got used at least one a week, some of my best childhood food memories. Sure hope to see you in 2013.

  6. says

    Great pics – you totally captured the day! Totally agree – best fried chicken. ever. I have the Ad Hoc cookbook and made the fried chicken once, your wings have triggered an intense craving for more. And you’re absolutely right about the ratio of meat to crust in wings, never thought of it that way :)