Nothing beats the first bite of this iconic Southern sandwich.

By Mary-Frances Heck
July 29, 2020

Over the past decade chefs and fast-food chains alike have relentlessly riffed on the Southern fried chicken sandwich. Traditionally a piece of boneless fried chicken on a burger bun with pickle chips and, sometimes, mayo, these days they’re often spiced and sauced to the edge and back. True of all takes: They’re joy-inducing hunger crushers, pairing equally well with Coke or Chardonnay.

And while the new-age versions are fun to try, we find ourselves coming back time after time to the classic. Really great fried chicken sandwiches start with really great fried chicken. Boneless, skinless thighs become extra-juicy, tender, and full of umami when pre-seasoned with salty dill pickle brine and dried chiles and alliums, which are more concentrated-tasting than fresh. A dunk in a buttermilk-egg mixture and a single dredge in a peppered cornstarch-flour blend yields a super-crunchy crust that’s just thin enough to fit comfortably in a bun. Cooked in a thin layer of oil in your favorite skillet, this fried chicken is entry-level—great for first-time fryers and easy enough to cook for a hungry crowd without destroying your kitchen.

Credit: Eric Wolfinger

The assembly is simple, a sum of parts that flatters the crispy thighs like a pair of vintage Levis. The bun must be soft yet sturdy enough to contain the crunch. The lettuce should be ice-cold and shredded. Pickles and mayo are nonnegotiable. Tomato is optional, to be applied only in season before two-handing these super summer sammies.

1. Pre-Season

Credit: Eric Wolfinger

Tenderize and season the chicken thighs with a mixture of pickle brine and dried spices for deep flavor that can stand up in a sandwich.

2. Get Set Up

Credit: Eric Wolfinger

Combine ingredients for the buttermilk-egg wash and cornstarch-flour dredge in wide, shallow dishes. Place the dishes near the stove.

3. Dip

Credit: Eric Wolfinger

Add chicken thighs to buttermilk mix- ture. The buttermilk adds tang and hydrates the flour for a crunchy, sealed crust; the egg helps the crust adhere to the chicken.

4. Dredge

Credit: Eric Wolfinger

Add the chicken pieces to the flour mixture, coating each piece completely. Gently shake off the excess into the bowl; flour that falls into the oil will burn.

5. Shallow Fry

Credit: Eric Wolfinger

Carefully place chicken in hot oil, taking care not to overcrowd skillet. Adjust heat as needed to maintain oil temperature of 350°F.

6. Flip and Baste

Credit: Eric Wolfinger

Turn chicken pieces with tongs every 1 to 2 minutes to brown the crust evenly. Use a metal spoon to baste chicken with oil, which will help with even browning.

Credit: Eric Wolfinger
Get the Recipe: Super-Crispy Fried Chicken Sandwiches