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Recipe: Chef Kevin's Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken

It's almost summer time, so today I'm combining two of my favorite summer treats to make sweet tea brined fried chicken!

NEW ORLEANS —

Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken

Brine

  • 6 cups water
  • 8 bags black tea
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt

Chicken

  • 5 chicken legs, skin on
  • 5 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp. hot sauce
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. Creole seasoning 
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 3 cups vegetable oil 

Brine:

Bring the water to boil in a large stockpot. When it boils, remove from heat and add the tea bags, cover, and steep for 20 minutes. 

Gently squeeze the bags to extract as much flavor as possible and remove them. Stir in the sugar and salt until they have dissolved. Leave uncovered for an hour or until it reaches room temperature.

Place a gallon freezer-style resealable bag in a large bowl and open it up. Carefully pour the room temperature tea brine into the bag.

Place the chicken into the bag, and seal it, trying to squeeze out as much as air as possible. Refrigerate overnight, minimum 8 hours or up to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

Coating:

Combine the buttermilk and the hot sauce, if using, in a medium bowl. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, Creole seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, salt, white pepper, and paprika in a separate large bowl. 

Remove one piece of chicken from the brine and dunk it in the buttermilk, turning the piece to coat it. Then coat the chicken in the flour mix, turning to coat completely. Move to a rimmed baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken. Discard the brine when done.

Pour the oil into an 11-inch cast iron skillet, straight sided sauté pan, or Dutch oven. Heat the oil to 375 degrees. 

Once the oil is at the right temperature, use tongs to carefully move the chicken legs to the pan, one at a time.

Fry the chicken legs on one side for 4 to 5 minutes or until the bottom part of the chicken is golden brown. Flip the chicken with the tongs and cook the other side for an additional 4 to 5 minutes. Move the legs to the baking sheet with the wire rack.

Repeat the process with the chicken thighs, this time frying each side 5 to 6 minutes. Move the thighs to the baking sheet along with the legs.

Move the entire sheet with chicken into the oven. Bake for an additional 15 to 18 minutes, or until the thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thighs reads 165 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, pierce the thigh with a sharp knife. The liquid that comes out should run clear and not look red.