Hot Chicken

Hot Chicken

In Nashville, ‘hot’ chicken doesn’t describe temperature, it refers to the
near-atomic spice level of this chilli-battered delight, served with bread
and pickle chips at hole-in-the-wall restaurants throughout Music City.

Origins
Scottish immigrants settling in the American South brought with them a taste for fried food. Later, slave cooks on plantations added their spices. The ‘hot’ twist comes from Nashville’s Prince’s Hot Chicken restaurant. Supposedly, the original owner’s girlfriend secretly doused his chicken in pepper as revenge for cheating. He loved it so much he opened a restaurant specialising in the mouth-burning stuff!

You’ll need
8 cups (2L) cold water
1 cup (250mL) hot sauce
(such as Tabasco)
150g (5oz) plus 1 tsp salt
100g (3½oz) plus ½ tsp sugar
1.6–1.8kg (3½–4lb) whole
chicken, quartered
11 cups (2.8L) peanut oil
1 tbs cayenne pepper
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp garlic powder
250g (9oz) flour
Black pepper to taste
Sliced white bread and sliced
pickles to serve

Cooking Method
1 In a large bowl, stir the cold water, hot sauce, 150g salt and 100g sugar until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add the chicken and refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes.
2 Preheat the oven to 195°C (200°F).
3 Heat 3 tbs oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, and add the cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, ½ tsp salt and remaining sugar. Cook for 30 seconds then transfer to a small bowl.
4 Remove the chicken from refrigerator and pour off the brine.
5 In a large bowl, combine the flour, remaining salt and black pepper to taste.
6 Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture then shake off any excess. Repeat, then transfer the chicken to a wire rack.
7 In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the remaining oil to 175°C (350°F).
8 Fry the chicken, two pieces at a time, at 150–160°C (300–325°F) until the skin is golden brown (about 30 minutes). White meat must register 70°C (160°F) and dark meat 80°C (175°F).
9 Drain on a wire rack and keep warm in a preheated oven while cooking the remaining chicken pieces.
10 Stir the spicy oil to recombine and brush over the chicken. Serve sliced white bread with sliced pickles.

Tasting notes
Sampling hot chicken requires patience. The best of the Nashville establishments specialising in the dish use cast-iron pans to fry their chicken, which takes significantly longer than using a deep-fryer. Order a white-meat breast quarter, or – the local preference – a darkmeat thigh quarter, and choose from mild, medium, hot or extra hot. Newbies shouldn’t be embarrassed to go mild – believe us, it will be more humiliating to spit out a bite of extra hot when you discover you can’t take the nuclear heat. The crispy skin is orange with chilli, dripping flavoursome juice from the brined meat. If the heat is getting to you, order extra slices of cottony white bread to cool down your tongue.

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