Eat it in Nashville or make it at home. Either way, Nashville Hot Chicken is fiery, spicy, crispy, burn-your-tongue-but-can’t-stop-yourself, eat-it-’til-your-buttons-pop good!
(You can find Hattie B’s Nashville Hot Chicken Recipe at the end of this post, along with a giveaway of the cookbook Fried & True: More than 50 Recipes for America’s Best Fried Chicken and Sides.)
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I love fried chicken. I don’t eat it often, but I love it. Back when I was a kid, my BFF’s Gramma Barbara kind of adopted me. She was fun and irreverent, and to this day I love her like my own. Anyway, Grandma B made ⋆ THE BEST ⋆ southern fried chicken I’ve ever eaten, or ever hope to eat, in my life. Tender, juicy, crispy, and seasoned just right, Gramma B’s chicken was so finger-licking delicious that it tasted like it had been fried up in heaven. It was Perfect.
Gramma Barbara tried to teach me to make fried chicken a couple of times, and I think I got the basics down fine, but I could never make it quite as good as she did. I don’t know if was her skillet, or the lard (of course it was the lard) or some other sublime combination of environmental and mystical factors, but her fried chicken was absolutely divine and mine was, at best, pretty darn good.
In my quest to scratch my fried chicken itch, I’ve ordered fried chicken at nearly every place in Portland that serves it, and while some turn out a very decent plate, not even Screen Door – Portland’s refined Southern restaurant and brunch mecca, where the lines go around the block and the chicken and waffles are stacked to the ceiling – not even that rings that elusive Gramma B-worthy, chicken-fried bell for me. There’s always something missing.
Then we went to Tennessee. Hattie B’s Nashville Hot Chicken is literally the first chicken I’ve eaten in at least twenty years that even comes close to Grandma B’s fried chicken – with one important caveat: instead tasting like chicken sent from heaven, it tastes more like the devil himself cooked up a batch of fried chicken on his day off. It’s fiery, spicy, crispy, burn-your-tongue-but-can’t-stop-yourself, eat-it-’til-your-buttons-pop good. It is heaven and hell in a one transcendent bite.
⋆ If you love Spicy and Fried Chicken, are traveling through Nashville, and can only eat one meal, make it THIS ⋆
Nashville Hot Chicken is a hyper-regional specialty with a long, colorful, sordid history involving a philandering man, a jealous woman hell-bent on revenge, and a whole lot ‘a hot pepper juice. It is a finely-woven tale that I simply can’t do justice and still keep this post under a couple thousand words, so I’m not even going to try. (Plus, I don’t need to, because The Bitter Southerner has done a bang-up job telling the story for us: when you have a minute or ten, I strongly encourage you to read this great post about how Nashville Hot Chicken really came be!)
While Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is the acknowledged home of the original Nashville Hot Chicken, when we were in town, we opted to go to relative newcomer Hattie B’s Hot Chicken instead. Reviews said that the lines can get really long here (at the west Nashville location) but we arrived relatively late for a weekday – around 8:30 pm – and had hardly any wait at all.
We ordered two small plates (which turned out to be a ton of food!). Each plate came with a chicken quarter (dark meat for Mr B, light for me) and two sides. Mr B got baked beans and I ordered the potato salad, and we both got coleslaw. Our chicken arrived very quickly, stacked in a basket between the traditional slice of white bread, topped with a dill pickle. It only took me one bite to know that Hattie B’s Hot Chicken was absolutely amazing. Possibly addictive.
I needed that recipe.
When we got back to
Oregon our hotel room (like I waited until we went home 😉 ), one of the first things I did was search to see what I could find on Hot Chicken, and was absolutely thrilled to find Hattie B’s recipe right here, in Lee Brian Schrager’s cookbook Fried & True: More than 50 Recipes for America’s Best Fried Chicken and Sides. Well, you can bet that it took me less than a Tennessee minute to order it.(Which, come to think of it, is probably substantially longer than a New York minute, but still…)
When my copy of Fried & True arrived, I opened it to find the pages bursting with great recipes, valuable tips and cooking methods, personal stories, and a true love of fried chicken.
⋆ If you love Spicy and Fried Chicken and can only make one meal, make it THIS ⋆
Total props and credit for this Hattie B’s Nashville Hot Chicken recipe go to Fried & True author Lee Brian Schrager. The ingredients list in the recipe below come directly from the book; however, the directions have been rewritten.
After the fry, you have the wet application. I take some soybean oil from the fryer, get it really hot, and add the dry rub into that fat. The heat activates all the spices. You want it hot enough that when you baste it over the fried chicken, the skin stays nice and crispy.
Matt Duckor, The Secret Behind Hattie B’s Legendary Hot Chicken
Note that the following recipe is gauged as Medium. Adjust spices according to your own tastes.
- 1 whole chicken (3 pounds), washed, patted dry, and cut into quarters
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon Louisiana-style hot sauce
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- ½ hot frying oil (or hot lard)
- 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon (packed) light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Dill pickle slices
- White bread (optional)
- In a medium bowl, toss together the chicken pieces, salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (Up to 24 hours)
- Whisk together the milk, eggs, and hot sauce in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the four and salt.
- Drag the chicken through the flour mixture, coating evenly. Dip the floured chicken in the milk mixture, and then once again in the flour mixture. Shake off exceess between each step.
- Heat vegetable oil in a deep skillet or deep fryer until it is between 350° - 375° F. The oil needs to be deep enough for the chicken to fully submerge.
- The temperature will drop when you add the chicken. Keep the oil at 300° to 325° F while the chicken fries. (See NOTES)
- Working in batches, use tongs to carefully add the chicken to the hot oil and fry until crispy. (15-17 minutes for breast quarters; 18-20 minutes for leg quarters.) Remove chicken from oil and allow to drain on wire rack.
- Ladle hot frying oil into a heatproof bowl. Whisk in cayenne, brown sugar, and spices. Baste the spice mixture over the hot fried chicken.
- If you want to go traditional, serve your Hot Chicken up over a slice of white bread. Garnish with dill pickle slices.
It’s important to maintain the correct temperature for frying chicken of 325° F. If the temperature of oil in the pan drops down below 300°, the chicken will begin to absorb the cooking oil, resulting in greasy, soggy chicken. If it rises above about 340°, the chicken will cook too quickly on the outside, and not get done in the middle. When fried at the correct temperature, the chicken will come out golden brown, having absorbed very little oil.
You can read more about Nashville Hot Chicken’s rough and tumble history, and get some great recipes in the deal in Hot Chicken Cookbook: The Fiery History & Red-Hot Recipes of Nashville’s Beloved Bird.
Enter to win a copy of Fried & True: More than 50 Recipes for America’s Best Fried Chicken and Sides. This giveaway is open to Residents of the US and Canada only. One winner will be selected via Rafflecopter and notified by email.
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What is something that your parents or grandparents cooked in your childhood that you miss now? Let me know in the comments.