Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken
© Max Kim-Bee

Lemon-Brined Fried Chicken


To make this juicy and delectably crisp chicken, chef Thomas Keller soaks it in a lemony brine, then coats and fries it. The chicken, which is served every other Monday at Ad Hoc, is one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant. "Since Fried Chicken Night only happens twice a month," Keller says, "people have a wonderful sense of anticipation."

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  1. 1 gallon cold water
  2. 1 cup plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  3. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
  4. 12 bay leaves
  5. 1 head of garlic, smashed but not peeled
  6. 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  7. 3 large rosemary sprigs
  8. 1 small bunch of thyme
  9. 1 small bunch of parsley
  10. Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
  11. Two 3-pound chickens
  12. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  13. 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  14. 2 tablespoons onion powder
  15. 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  16. 2 cups buttermilk
  17. Vegetable oil, for frying
  18. Rosemary and thyme sprigs, for garnish
  1. In a very large pot, combine 1 quart of the water with 1 cup of the salt and the honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme and parsley. Add the lemon zest and juice and the lemon halves and bring to a simmer over moderate heat, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Let cool completely, then stir in the remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Add the chickens, being sure they're completely submerged, and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Drain the chickens and pat dry. Scrape off any herbs or peppercorns stuck to the skin and cut each bird into 8 pieces, keeping the breast meat on the bone.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne and the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt. Put the buttermilk in a large, shallow bowl. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the chicken in the buttermilk, then dredge in the flour mixture, pressing so it adheres all over. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet lined with wax paper.
  4. In a very large, deep skillet, heat 1 inch of vegetable oil to 330°. Fry the chicken in 2 or 3 batches over moderate heat, turning once, until golden and crunchy and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of each piece registers 160°, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain, and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remaining chicken pieces. Transfer the fried chicken to a platter, garnish with the herb sprigs and serve hot or at room temperature.

Suggested Pairing

Alexis Swanson Triana pours a Merlot with fried chicken, as fried foods tend to work best with a full-bodied, somewhat tannic wine that can cut through the richness of the fried skin or breading.