Fried Chicken with Cornmeal Crust

Photo: John Kernick
Prep Time:
1 hr 30 mins
Total Time:
6 hrs 30 mins

Fried chicken is deeply satisfying when eaten hot, but the beauty of this recipe is that it is equally delicious, and keeps most of its crunch, when served cold or at room temperature. See our Chicken-Cutting Tutorial and Video to learn how to cut a whole bird into 10 pieces.


  • 8 quarts water, divided

  • 1 ½ cups plus 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt, divided

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 whole 3 ½-pound chickens, each cut into 10 pieces

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • ¾ cup fine cornmeal

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

  • Vegetable oil, for frying


  1. Combine 1 quart water, 1 1/2 cups salt, and sugar in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until salt and sugar have dissolved. Remove from heat and add remaining 7 quarts water. Add chicken pieces to brine, cover, and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.

  2. Remove pot from refrigerator and let stand 1 hour at room temperature. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, cayenne, pepper, and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large, shallow dish.

  3. Fill a large heavy-bottomed pot with 2 inches of oil and heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fat thermometer reaches 375 degrees. Drain and rinse chicken; do not pat dry. Working in batches of 4 to 5 pieces at a time, dredge chicken in flour mixture, shaking off excess. Immediately transfer to oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of flesh (do not touch bone) reads 165 degrees, about 15 minutes for white meat and 10 to 12 minutes for dark. Adjust heat to maintain oil temperature between 350 degrees and 375 degrees and return oil to 375 degrees between batches. Transfer chicken as fried to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet to drain. If serving cold, let cool completely, cover, and store in refrigerator up to 8 hours.

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