what’s more american than apple pie, baseball, and fried chicken?

as the 4th of july weekend approaches, it dawned on me that i have made many an apple pie, i have seen plenty of baseball games, but i have never made fried chicken.

when i made my first apple pie, i thought it would be difficult, and although daunting, it wasn’t hard at all.

my apple pie

baseball didn’t appeal to me at one point in my life, mostly because i thought it was uninteresting. growing up in minnesota the twins played in the metrodome, which was frankly a really depressing way to watch a baseball game. there was nothing special about it. when i moved out to los angeles and was introduced to the angels, who play in an outdoor stadium, i was taught about the game, the players, and fell in love with the whole experience.

jeff mathis

my experience with fried chicken has been minimal. growing up it was a bucket from kentucky fried chicken, and even though i liked the crunchy bits on the outside of the skin, i found the actual skin rubbery, and the meat dry with no flavor. it turned me off. over the years i have eaten fried chicken, but none of it ever surprised me. most of it was so greasy it gave me a stomach ache almost instantly. also, i had never really been a fan of chicken until i started eating organic, pasture raised, free-range birds, and especially now that i have been buying whole chickens from the hollywood and santa monica farmers markets, i am a bit spoiled.

so, i thought maybe if i had a good chicken, quality ingredients, and a simple recipe, why wouldn’t i like fried chicken?

you will need a large dutch oven (at least 7 1/4 quart) and an oil/candy thermometer to make this recipe easier.

this is based on a recipe from america’s test kitchen:


  • 1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 lbs), preferably organic, pasture raised, free range, and air chilled
  • 1 quart buttermilk, set aside 1/2 cup
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 tsp hungarian sweet paprika
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 cups peanut oil

you will need to cut up your chicken into 8 pieces, and then half the chicken breasts to make 10 pieces total. this will make them all roughly the same size. place them skin side down in a baking pan that is deep enough to submerge the chicken pieces.

use 1/2 tbsp salt and sprinkle over the chicken, then flip and sprinkle another 1/2 tbsp over the skin.

pour the buttermilk (minus the 1/2 cup that you set aside) over the chicken. cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

whisk flour, baking powder, 1 tsp salt, thyme, paprika, pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder together in a large bowl.

add the 1/2 cup of buttermilk that was set aside, tbsp by tbsp, and mix together with your fingers until it resembles coarse sand. toss each piece of chicken in the flour mixture to coat, gently pressing in order to get as much to stick as possible. don’t worry if it seems clumpy.

transfer to a rimmed baking sheet with a wire rack skin side up.

heat the peanut oil in a large dutch oven until it reaches 375º using a oil/candy thermometer. you will most likely have to do 2 batches, so start with the bigger pieces first like the thicker breast halves and thighs. the 2nd batch would be the legs, wings and the thinner breast halves. the 2nd batch seems to cook quicker, so keep an eye on them, as they will be done earlier.

place pieces skin side down in the oil with tongs and cover. if using a thermometer that clips on the side, the lid will be slightly cracked, which is fine. at about 4 minutes (the oil should register about 300º, adjust heat/burner as needed to keep that temperature) uncover and check if the skin side is golden brown, letting them cook up to 3-4 minutes longer if not, keeping them uncovered. turn them over and cook an additional 6-8 minutes until also golden brown. once all sides are golden i let them get to an even deeper brown by flipping them back and forth a couple more minutes on each side, continually watching.

place paper towels on the wire rack on the rimmed baking sheet you used before. using tongs transfer to drain and let stand for 5 minutes.

in the mean time cook the 2nd batch. heat the same oil back up to 375º and place the remaining pieces in the oil. cover, check and uncover after about 4 minutes, flipping and keeping the oil at about 300º until all sides are equally brown. since these are smaller pieces and not as thick they will cook quicker, so keep an eye on them. transfer to the paper towels and let stand 5 minutes. you can keep the first batch warming in the oven at 200º if need be.

not only were the crunchy bits on the outside perfect, the skin itself was was crisp, and clung to the bits. the meat was extremely moist and not greasy. even the wing, which tends to be the greasiest and most over cooked, had delicious juicy meat. to be honest, for the first time making fried chicken, i was thrilled.

i guess like apple pie and baseball, fried chicken is not only an american tradition, it is easy and wonderful if done right.