Chicken fried chicken served with creamy gravy is one of those down-home comfort dishes that's hard to pass up when ordering at a restaurant, but getting perfectly crispy, fried chicken at home? It takes a little know-how. It's not that it's , but knowing which ingredients to use and how to get the perfect, light, and crispy breading? Well, what you need to master the method is this recipe from recipe developer , who has perfected chicken fried chicken. "I love how crunchy the breading is without being too thick. The leavening agents make it light, yet crispy," she says.
But aside from the leavening ingredients that help with that extra crispy crust, the flavor of Maroney's chicken fried chicken is next-level good, thanks to a somewhat surprising ingredient: pickle brine. "The is definitely the special ingredient. The garlic and dill flavor, as well as the salt and vinegar, gives the chicken extra juiciness and flavor," she shares. So if your mouth's watering just thinking about digging into this classic Southern favorite, hit the store for your chicken, pickles, and a few other essential ingredients. You won't regret the decision.
For the perfect chicken fried chicken and gravy, make sure you have the following ingredients on hand before you start cooking. You'll need chicken thighs, salt, pepper, flour, seasoned salt, garlic powder, milk, pickle brine, an egg, , honey, and heavy cream. You'll also need oil for frying — generally vegetable oil or canola oil work best.
As far as the cut of chicken is concerned, Maroney prefers thighs, but says it's really up to you. "Chicken thighs are great for this recipe as they are typically nice and juicy," Maroney says. "However, if you prefer chicken breast, you can easily make the swap."
Before diving in, you want to prep your chicken and the dredging station so everything is when it's time to start frying the chicken.
Use a mallet or rolling pin to pound the chicken until it's thin and all the pieces are roughly the same thickness. This helps ensure a more even cooking time for each piece. Place the chicken on a plate or in a bowl and season it evenly with salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.
Grab two wide, but shallow bowls. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, seasoned salt, garlic powder, and remaining black pepper to one bowl, mixing the dry ingredients well. In the second bowl, whisk the milk, pickle brine, egg, hot sauce, and honey together. "The hot sauce and honey add an undetectable amount of spicy and sweet," says Maroney. "It's sort of like how you add salt to baked goods. [It] doesn't make [them] salty, but it improves the overall flavor profile."
Set the plate of chicken next to the bowls of wet and dry ingredients so your dredging station is ready.
With your dredging station ready to go, add oil to a large, cast iron skillet. There should be at least an inch of oil in the pan — you want to make sure there's enough to almost fully cover the chicken when it's added. Use a thermometer to ensure the oil reaches 350 F before you start frying.
To dredge your chicken, you'll be double-breading each piece. Start by placing a piece in the flour mixture, fully coating both sides. Move it to the bowl of wet ingredients, again coating both sides, before moving it back to the flour mixture. Again, you'll dredge both sides in the flour. Set the dredged chicken back on the plate and repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken.
When the oil is nice and hot, add a few of the breaded chicken pieces to the oil. You'll likely be able to fit two or three pieces — it's just important that the chicken is in a single layer without overlapping. Cook the chicken for 3 minutes per side until the breading is golden brown. If you have a meat thermometer, check the temperature to make sure the internal temp is 165 F.
Remove the chicken from the frying pan and drain it on a plate lined with paper towels or on a cooling rack set on top of a baking sheet. If you have more chicken to fry, continue the process.
Set your oven to 200 F and when each batch of chicken has sufficiently drained, transfer the pieces into the oven to keep it warm.
When all of the chicken has been fried, discard most of the oil from the pan, but reserve 1/4 cup, keeping it in the skillet. Turn the heat on the stove to low, and using ⅓ cup of the remaining flour from the dredging process, whisk the flour into the oil until there are no lumps. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Pour the heavy cream into the flour and oil mixture, continuing to stir as you go, cooking until the mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes more. You can use water to thin out the gravy to your preferred consistency if needed. Season the gravy with salt and pepper.
Your dinner is now ready to serve. Remove the chicken from the oven and plate it, pouring the gravy over the fried chicken. "I definitely recommend serving it with mashed potatoes, but a baked potato can work as well. Any kind of vegetable side like green beans is also delicious," recommends Maroney.
Just be aware that this dish is best eaten the same day you prepare it. "You can make this dish ahead of time and reheat it in a 400 F oven for 15 minutes. However, this dish is best served immediately after cooking. If you need to store the leftover chicken in the refrigerator, make sure to store the gravy separate from the chicken so it does not get soggy," Maroney advises.