Jeff McInnis is Executive Chef and co-owner of Miami’s Yardbird Southern Table and Bar. His fried chicken — better known as yardbird — is a legendary experience 150 years in the making. He was cool enough to loan us the recipe. “Using a good quality free-range bird always makes the difference if you’re going to brine it properly,” he says. “I like Ashley Farms Naked Bird. Look for a chicken with no water added.”
For the brine
- 1 1/4 quarts water
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup salt
- 1 1/4 quarts ice water
- 5 tablespoons paprika
- 5 tablespoons cayenne
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons granulated garlic
- 2 tablespoons granulated onion
For the dredging flour
- 1 1/4 quarts all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon granulated garlic
- 5 teaspoons granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
For the fried chicken
- 16 pieces chicken (two whole chickens cut into 8 pieces)
- vegetable shortening or lard, for frying
For the brine:
- Place the water (not the ice water), sugar, salt and spices in a pot and bring to simmer over medium heat for 5-6 minutes.
- Whisk to ensure that all spices and sugar has dissolved completely. Remove from heat and combine with ice water to chill. Let chill to at least 40 degrees.
- Place the cut chicken in a container and pour the cold liquid brine over the chicken.
- Chill in refrigerator for 24 hours.
For the flour:
- Mix all spices and flour well.
To make the chicken:
- Remove the chicken pieces from the brine and dredge in the seasoned flour.
- Place the shortening in a 12-inch cast iron pan and melt slowly. The goal is to have the shortening about ½ inch up the side of the pan.
- Heat the shortening over low heat until it reaches 325 degrees. Use a candy thermometer to regulate the temperature.
- Place the 4 larger breasts in skin side down along with the thighs. Fry adjusting the flame to maintain the 325 degrees. after 8 minutes flip the pieces over. Fry for another 6 minutes. Remove from oil and let sit on a rack or paper towels.
- Stick the thickest pieces with a meat thermometer. The chicken must reach 165 degrees. Season lightly with a pinch of sea salt.
- Place the wings and drums in the oil, making sure to maintain 325 degrees, and fry these about 5 minutes on one side, then flip and fry another 4 minutes.
- Check internal temperature again looking for 165 degrees. season with a pinch of sea salt and serve.