Smackdown: You Can't Beat Butter


Fried chicken. Mmm.


It’s been on the brain for several weeks now. I’ve only ever made fried chicken once before, and the memory of that chicken has stayed with me. Of course, that particular chicken was also fried in a combination of butter and shortening flavored with country ham, which would stay with anyone.

Sadly, it’s stayed both in my memory and on my ass. Every time I have to lay down on the bed to button my pants, I think of that chicken.

flour one

I flipped through several books until I settled on this recipe from Bobby Flay’s Throwdown!. It met all the requirements: bold flavors (chile, paprika, tabasco honey) and pan fried instead of deep fried* – I never know what do with all that oil.

The chicken got a buttermilk bath with some chile last night, marinating and plumping all day while we were at work. When it was time to fry, I poured some oil into the Le Creuset and put together a chicken assembly line.

Step one: Dry off the chicken.

Step two: Cut a hole in the box Dredge in flour seasoned with garlic, onion, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper

*I am a woman of few requirements.


Step three: Dunk the floured chicken back into buttermilk (fresh buttermilk, that is).

flour two

Step four: Dredge the milked chicken through seasoned flour again.

Note also step 4A: Wash your hands before you handle your camera. I mean, you’ll definitely remember this step. Or you’ll be smart enough not to handle expensive electronics while covered in flour.


The coated chicken rested while the oil heated up the rest of the way. There was a tense moment when I had to go to the bathroom, leaving the chicken unattended in a room with two devious dogs who have no compunction counter-surfing when they’re confident of not being caught, but we made it through unscathed and with chicken intact.


I gently lowered the chicken into 375-degree oil, cooking the drumsticks and thighs up in two batches. I had to work in batches because of the freakish size of these particular chicken pieces. Seriously, what’s up with cheapie supermarket chicken? Actually, don’t tell me, because I probably don’t want to know. Next time, I’ll go back to planning ahead so I can get higher-quality, non-steroidal chicken thighs.

Each batch fried for about 20 minutes; I’m not sure my thermometer is totally accurate, because the coating got a lot darker than I’d expected. To wit:


While the chicken cooled off a bit, I whisked together some Tabasco sauce and honey with a bit of salt to serve alongside

So this was good fried chicken – even Brian, who doesn’t really feel the same way I do about fried chicken, was picking at every last bit of crispy skin. The meat itself was perfectly cooked, and the Tabasco honey gave it a nice kick that gradually built up on the lips.

Sadly, it was not nearly as good as the Edna Lewis lard-butter-ham fried chicken, which is the fried chicken gold standard. And of course, the real test will come when we eat the leftovers cold tomorrow. So: judgement withheld.

6 thoughts on “Smackdown: You Can't Beat Butter

  1. Three Cheers! It’s not everyone who can write a fried chicken post and not have me sneering and snorting, cause I’m opinionated as hell at times like this. Not surprising I guess because your instincts are good and we tend to agree on most things anyway.

    At least Mr. Flay’s recipe here doesn’t make any deal-breaking errors, like using a wet batter or deep-frying.

    Edna Lewis is indeed the gold standard. I was raised in northern central NC, with familial influences from southern Virginia, so it is natural that I should pay homage to her at all times.

    Amazingly enough, Julia Child knew all about frying chicken parts, though she called it “sauteing in butter”. I actually had a lovely conversation once with her about frying chicken.

    Those thermometers are notoriously bad. I spent hours doing research a couple years ago on them, and ended up bringing seven different thermometers home, testing them at boiling and freezing points and confirming that they were all terrible and returning them to stores with stories of outrage. We now have grill thermometers and oven thermometers and digital probe thermometers that actually work.

    I prefer lard, but a mixture of refined and unrefined peanut oil works great as well. I like to add a teaspoon of potato starch to the flour (per chicken).

    Now you’ve worked me up and flung a craving on me. Must. Have. Fried. Chicken.

  2. I’d be a little afraid to use butter in deep frying even mixed with other fats. It doesn’t ever burn? Goodness knows the flavor would have to be the best ever.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who tends to have her fried chicken be a bit too dark. I have come to the point where I just say, “Screw it” and cook the chicken till the coating is crispy and cook it in the oven the rest of the way. Even with the Fry Daddy, where the temperature is supposed to stay consistent, it gets too brown.

  3. I’m a bit terrified of deep frying – I always acquire another burn, the oil seeps into the food and the house smells gross for days. However this, with its multi-layered coating and not-so-deep frying, may tempt me towards that bottle of oil. Because hot damn I love fried chicken.

  4. Next time, I highly recommend using ground ancho chile powder in the honey–also a Bobby Flay idea, and even more freakishly delicious than Tabasco. Oh, and I see that picture up there: does that REALLY count as NOT deep frying?!?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s