Ad Hoc Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe

nothing beats fried chicken and waffles!

My love for fried chicken, much like my love for noodles, is not very discerning. I can definitely tell the difference between good and bad noodles and chicken, but my love is so all-encompassing that I can forgive faults easily. With so many kinds of fried chicken in the world, how would I be able to tell good from bad if I didn’t try them all?

Chang’s Fried Chicken in Octo Vinaigrette is pretty damn tasty, but one fried chicken recipe in the whole book just leaves me wanting more. It’s too bad he didn’t include the recipes for the Korean and Southern style fried chickens of his Fried Chicken Feast.

salt, flat leaf parsley, lemon, honey, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme for brine

Even if they were in the book, knowing Chang, the recipes would be multi-day, multi-step processes. Not wanting to miss out on making more homemade fried chicken, I found a stand-in that is both multi-day and multi-step: Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Fried Chicken.

People on the internet have long been singing the praises of Keller’s fried chicken so I couldn’t wait to try it. I’ve had Ad Hoc at Home for a while now, but I’ve only made the chicken pot pie and vanilla cupcakes. (A certain other cookbook has been taking up entirely too much time!)

cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, flour for coating

Keller cooking style is precise, detailed and well-thought out, as is reflected in his Buttermilk Fried Chicken recipe. Chicken is brined for 8-12 hours in a lemon, bay leaf, flat leaf parsley, thyme, honey, garlic, peppercorn and salt concoction, then dried and brought to room temperature before dredging in a seasoned flour mixture, then buttermilk, then seasoned flour again.

The flour is seasoned with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, kosher salt and black pepper. Be careful not to breathe too hard when mixing everything up. I accidentally inhaled some onion powder and had a coughing attack for nearly 5 minutes. I think I still have some onion powder stuck in my lungs. It was so bad that Mike actually offered to finish mixing up the spices.

flour coating

The coating on the fried chicken is phenomenal and well worth the onion lungs. Dredging in flour, then buttermilk, then flour again creates an incredibly crunchy skin. I’m talking audibly crunchy skin! It was also nice that the coating caused minimal spattering when frying.

I know lots of people who don’t like deep-frying at home, but I grew up watching my mom fry chicken (she makes some wicked deep-fried wings) so I’m not afraid of a little hot oil. What does concern me is the amount of fried chicken I can consume in one sitting.

all ready to fry

It took all of my willpower to stop after two pieces. I know, it sounds lame, but after 4 and a half bowls of ramen in one day, I really have to cut back a bit. It was genius saving some of the fried chicken because it was awesome straight out of the fridge the next day.

In the introduction of the Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe Keller says, “if there’s a better fried chicken, I have not tasted it.” Does his chicken live up to his claim? It is a pretty good fried chicken. Super-crunchy skin gives way to moist, juicy, tender meat. Is there a better fried chicken out there? I think I have to reserve judgment, just so I’ll have to keep looking.

I scaled the recipe down a bit and still had a ton of brine and coating so you could easily double the amount of chicken I used.

seriously good!

Ad Hoc Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe


8 pieces of chicken (I used legs and thighs)


1/2 gallon water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup honey
6 bay leaves
1/2 head of garlic, cut horizontally
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/4 of a bunch of thyme sprigs
1/4 of a bunch of flat leafed parsley sprigs
Grated zest and juice of 2 large lemons

3 cups all purpose flour
1/8 cup garlic powder
1/8  onion powder
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups buttermilk
oil for deep-frying
Kosher salt

Thyme and flat leaf parsley for garnishing


For the brine: Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely before using.

Rinse the chickens and place the chickens in the cold brine and refrigerate overnight or for up to 12 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse and pat the chicken dry, removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Let the chicken come to room temperature outside of the fridge, 1 and a half hours to two hours.

Mix the coating ingredients together in a bowl, transfer half to a second bowl and set up a dipping station: chicken, coating, buttermilk, second bowl of coating, tray.

Bring the oil to 320˚F in a pot deep enough so the oil does not come up more than one-third of the way. You want two inches of oil in the pot.

Just before frying, dip each piece of chicken into the coating, patting off the excess, then into the buttermilk and back into the coating. Place the chicken on a tray.

When the oil has reached the proper temperature, carefully lower the pieces of chicken into the oil. The temperature of the oil will decrease, so adjust the heat as necessary to bring the oil to proper temperature. Fry for about 13 minutes, to a deep golden brown, cooked throughout and very crisp. Remove the chicken to a tray lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

Let the chicken rest for a few minutes to cool slightly.

While the chicken rests, add the herb sprigs to the hot oil and let them cook and crisp for a few minutes. Arrange the chicken on the serving platter and garnish with the fried herb sprigs.

62 Comments add yours

  1. Wow! Looks delicious & crispy! I think the spices that you used in the coating & the brine make a big difference! great recipe! thanks!


    Sara @ OneTribeGourmet

    Thanks! It was a little bit more time consuming than my regular fried chicken, but worth it! The brine really makes the chicken super moist and juicy.

    steph on March 2nd, 2010 at 1:06 pm
  2. Looks great. I’m one of those scared of hot oil and frying, so I have to live vicariously through experiences like you describe.

    If I lived in Florida, you could come by for fried chicken anytime!

    steph on March 2nd, 2010 at 1:15 pm
  3. Keller’s fried chicken is like a crunchy coated piece of heaven. I made his (similar recipe to this one)chicken after reading about a picnic he had for Gourmet.

    I put my pan on the side burner of my grill and did it outside. No fuss…no muss.

    It is a crunchy coated piece of heaven! Yum.

    steph on March 2nd, 2010 at 1:23 pm
  4. I LOVE fried chicken too. Thanks so much for digesting this recipe and whittling it down to a step-by-step, amateur cook-friendly post! Yummy pictures too!

    Thanks! You should give the fried chicken recipe a try!

    steph on March 2nd, 2010 at 10:48 pm
  5. I actually prefer momofuku fried chicken which isn’t coated but your ad hoc version looks so amazing I may have to try it one day!

    Mike likes the Octo Vinaigrette fried chicken better too, but I have enough love for all fried chicken!

    steph on March 3rd, 2010 at 1:01 pm
  6. This recipe looks like a really nice buttermilk fried chicken recipe. I love that you are having it with waffles too.

    Fried chicken and waffles is the BEST!

    steph on March 3rd, 2010 at 1:00 pm
  7. That looks AMAZING! I’m guessing you didn’t do the sous vide step?

  8. Thi,
    Nope, no sous vide. Ad Hoc doesn’t have a sous vide step, but sounds like a good idea!

  9. Hello! This was one of the best posts I’ve seen anywhere in a while! I stole your picture and linked to your site in my blog so I could share this joy with even more of the world! I will be making this SOON!

    Thanks :) Enjoy your fried chicken!

    steph on March 3rd, 2010 at 6:38 pm
  10. I had no idea this book existed until I was wandering around Borders today. I saw it. I ripped on the plastic wrap (because I’m a bad person) and I dug into it immediately. It took all my composure not to buy it instantly (but I’m buying a house and purchases right now are being monitored by the husband with hawk like precision). There is really no way to describe how badly I want this book. Pathetically. Horribly. Eagerly. And soon!

    I don’t want to fuel your cookbook obsession, but it is a pretty good book!

    steph on March 4th, 2010 at 6:36 pm
  11. Your chicken looks so good. I love all the glass labware you use. Where did you get it?

    I bought my lab ware at a local science supply store. I’m sure your local science supply store would be happy to sell you some!

    steph on March 4th, 2010 at 6:37 pm
  12. Very nice looks. Your dish looks exactly like the pictures I took of the fried chicken and waffles at Ad Hoc.

    Ad Hoc is amazing, they actually made me a gluten free dairy free egg free version of this dish that was phenomenal, my brother actually preferred it to the buttermilk version which they served him.

    I can’t wait until I can make it back to the bay area for some food tourism.

    I haven’t been to Ad Hoc, but I so want to go and try everything there!

    steph on March 8th, 2010 at 1:45 pm
  13. Wonderful photos! Looks really great!
    but… the cupcakes???
    what about the cupcakes? :)
    Would you please consider posting the Vanilla Cupcakes recipe?

    The cupcake post is on my to-do list!

    steph on March 10th, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Great!!! Such fun! :)
    Thank you for a very enjoyable blog!

    shell on March 11th, 2010 at 8:43 pm
  14. This looks DELICIOUS. I love fried chicken but i avoid making it at home since it would take a while to completely remove the fried food smell from the apartment.

    I think that’s one of the reasons people don’t deep fry at home!

    steph on March 10th, 2010 at 10:14 am
  15. Oh wow, your pictures are so beautiful! And that looks fantastic. I was just in Napa Valley and really wanted to go to Ad Hoc but didn’t have time. :( Maybe this will be the next closest thing!

    It’s as close as I can get without going to California. I really want to go!

    steph on March 10th, 2010 at 10:17 am
  16. I was wondering what type of oil did you use to fry? I’ve noticed that certain oils fry food a lot better (meaning giving a clean taste even after a 2nd batch and not burning too quickly. Did you use peanut oil, corn oil, or maybe even shortening? Thanks!

    I use grapeseed oil or canola.

    steph on April 11th, 2010 at 10:36 pm
  17. We made this today. I have to say, it’s not my favorite fried chicken. Very crispy indeed, but the actual skin of the chicken sort of steams within the crust, which I didn’t much like. Also, the brining made the meat a bit too salty.

    I didn’t find that the skin steamed within the crust, but I did find that they fried up a bit dark because of all of the spices.

    steph on June 1st, 2010 at 10:54 am
  18. I tried this recipe today and wow. I had a bit of a hard time keeping my oil temp to 320 degrees. It dropped to about 280 and settled around 300 once I kicked the heat back up, but it never really got over that. Still, I gave it a couple 5 extra minutes and it was cooked thru and super crunchy. Any suggestions? Maybe start slightly higher? Personally, I will add some extra black pepper to the mix next time, but really happy with everything else and it’s a great base to personalize. Thanks!

    If your oil didn’t hold the heat, it might be better if you use more oil in a larger pot, that way adding the chicken won’t drop the temperature as much. Also, it’s important that the chicken is at room temperature otherwise that will drop the heat too.

    steph on June 7th, 2010 at 2:35 pm
  19. Hi there! Just wanted to let you know I tried frying chicken for the first time using this recipe and your commentary. It was a success! You have a wonderful website, delightful commentary and attitude and mouthwatering pictures! Thanks so much!

  20. I’m confused! Why does the other blog’s AD Hoc Fried Chicken process is pre-sous viding the chicken before the deep-frying. What’s the real recipe?

    I’m not too sure what the “real” recipe is, because I’m pretty sure Keller has more than one fried chicken recipe. The one I’ve posted is straight out of Ad Hoc.

    steph on October 15th, 2010 at 7:37 am
  21. Im a culinary school student and I made this recipe for my family when I went home to visit last week. All I can say is BOOM! Absolutely delicious

    I feel like most recipes call for a buttermilk soak for no REAL reason. I thought the brine in this recipe penetrates the flesh and flavors the flesh much better. The buttermilk is nice for the crust though :)

    Awesome recipe. Please try this one people!

  22. For those who are concerned about fatty frying…

    Try frying in much less oil, only enough to crisp the skin.

    Then finish in the oven!!

    Got this idea from COOK’S ILLUSTRATED.

  23. This looks absolutely delicious! I am a big fried chicken fan! I have tried several recipe will definetly be trying this one soon1 Great blogs and pics btw…Cant wait to read more.

  24. Hi! been lurking in your blog (it is awesome!) and want to try this recipe. We don’t have fresh herbs available, can I use dried ones instead?thanks so much!

    I haven’t tried with dried herbs, but I think they’d still impart the right flavours.

    steph on December 20th, 2010 at 6:36 pm
  25. hi! i made this recipe before as well.
    i think you should re-try it with chicken breasts as well.
    im normally a huge dark meat fan, but the brining makes the breast so unbelievably tender and flavorful, that its the best part! never thought i’d say that about chicken breast.

    best wishes cooking through ad hoc

  26. Hi, I just want to let you know that your recipe doesn’t include the rosemary sprigs as it should. I’m sure it will still turn out good; just the fact that it’s being brined…

  27. I’m currently making my way through Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home and Bouchon cookbooks, which has been great fun so far. The brine in Bouchon requires rosemary, but the brine in Ad Hoc omits the rosemary. Another difference I noticed was that, in my Ad Hoc book, the brine recipe doesn’t tell you to zest and juice the lemons. Though, the brine recipe in Bouchon does!

    Are there difference versions of the cookbooks??

    Regardless, I’m looking forward to fried chicken tonight!

    cremebrulee on May 4, 2011 at 2:00 am
  28. H, I made this receipe before, but I was short on time (or patience) so I brined the chicken in the cold butter milk with everyting listed for the brine except the water. I let the chicken sit overnight in the brine (in the refrigerator of course) and proceeded with the remainder of the receipe except I didn’t dip it in buttermilk again. I prefer to cook it the way my mother who was from Georgia did, which is just coating it with the seasoned flour and shaking of the excess. This avoid the “steaminess” on which one person commented. It was fabulous. It was very light and crispy (although I did drain the cooked chicken on some Trader Joe shopping bags (hey recyling can take many forms:) Even better than Mom’s and that’s saying alot. One thing no one mentioned is what type of pan they used. In my experience the best (and only thing I fry chicken in) is a cast iron skillet that I have had for over twenty years. It browns the chicken wonderfully.

  29. Can you fry this up in one of those deep fryers?

  30. I just don’t get chicken and waffles – such a weird combination – but obviously I’m in the minority as they’re wildly popular :)

  31. Just made this tonight and it turned out EFing AMAZING!

  32. Thank you for this amazing recipe. I’ll be making these this comming weekend. I hope my family would like it. And can you fry these in deep fryers?

  33. What recipe did you use for the waffles? I just made the brine :) wish me luck!

  34. My kitchen is being redone. I’m cooking on one induction burner in my basement. I’m taking that puppy outside and FRYING chicken! What kind of skillet did you use?

    Patricia Davis on June 27, 2012 at 6:06 am
  35. Oh my goodness. Fried chicken paired with waffles = heaven!!

  36. fired food i don’t like it! but i think it is so good to u!

  37. Since you halved the recipe, should it not be zest and juice of 1 large lemon? I’m looking at the different posts of Thomas Keller Ad Hoc Chicken recipes online and I think the original recipe calls for 2 lemons.

  38. come on let’s go to another things!! come here!!

  39. I love all kinds of Fried chicken..Southern, Korean and this. I have had the AD HOC book for 12 years and never bothered with his FC. I’m such a brat. Now it’s time to add another to my Repertoire. MoMofuko is the best ever for all things perfection..SORRY MING. Still pissed that you closed BLUE GINGER!

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