• Traditional Hot Chicken

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Nashville’s Beloved Bird

By Timothy Charles Davis

Most every Hot Chicken devotee has his or her own recipe, and the ingredients are always closely guarded. This Hot Chicken recipe is traditional in flavor and spice but includes dry mustard and sugar. While mustard and sugar don’t pop up in many published recipes, I wouldn’t be surprised to find them hidden on the spice rack at many Hot Chicken shacks. The mustard lends pungency and the sugar helps round out the flavor. The rub and paste used here can be used to accommodate most any degree of heat. For more heat, simply use more of each.

Traditional Hot Chicken

  • Servings: 8 to 10

Ingredients

  • 1 whole fryer, cut up
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons rub (recipe below)
  • Peanut oil (or frying oil of your choice)

For the paste

  • 3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked or hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Bacon fat or used oil, as needed for paste

Instructions

Fill an iron skillet or Dutch oven about 2 inches deep with oil and heat to 350°. Mix the flour and a tablespoon of the spice mix (use the paste recipe, except for the oil) in a paper grocery sack. Working in small batches, drop the chicken into the bag, shake, let rest briefly, and shake again. Test the oil by sprinkling a small pinch of flour into it—when ready the oil should gently bubble around the flour. Carefully lower the chicken into the oil. Fry only a few pieces at a time so as not to crowd the pan. Cover partially and cook until one side begins to brown. Turn the chicken and cook until golden brown. (Internal temperature should be at least 165°.) Remove from the oil and drain on a wire rack or paper towels. Cook in batches until all is done.

Ingredients for the paste are for what most would consider medium heat. To add heat, simply add more cayenne to the mix. To make the paste, heat your bacon fat (or use a couple teaspoons of the just-used fry oil) and add a little at a time to the spices listed for the paste. What you’re looking to achieve is a brushable consistency that is neither a hard paste nor too liquid-y; aim for something along the lines of stone-ground mustard. Liberally brush the finished chicken with the paste. Grab a thick stack of napkins. Enjoy.

Excerpted from The Hot Chicken Cookbook by Timothy Charles Davis. Copyright © 2015 by Timothy Charles Davis and Spring House Press.

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