Maintaining an even oil temperature is key to the success of this recipe. An instant thermometer with a high upper range is perfect for checking the temperature. A candy/deep-fry thermometer is fine, though it can be clipped to the pot only for the uncovered portion of frying.
1-1/4 cups kosher salt or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons table salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
3 medium heads of garlic, cloves separated
3 bay leaves, crumbled
2 quarts low-fat buttermilk
1 whole chicken (about 3-1/2 pounds), cut into 12 pieces
4 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3-4 cups refined peanut oil or vegetable shortening
In a large zip lock plastic bag, combine salt, sugar, paprika, garlic cloves and bay leaves. With rubber mallet or flat meat pounder, smash the garlic into salt and spices mixing thoroughly. Pour mixture into a large plastic container or nonreactive stockpot. Add buttermilk and stir until salt is completely dissolved. Immerse chicken, cover with wrap, and refrigerate until fully seasoned, 2-3 hours. Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and shake off excess; place in a single layer on a large wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered for 2 hours. (After 2 hours chicken can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 6 more hours).
Measure flour into a large shallow dish. Beat egg, baking powder and baking soda in medium bowl. Stir in remaining 1 cup buttermilk (mixture will bubble and foam). Working in batches of 3, drop chicken pieces in flour and shake pan to coat. Shake off excess flour from each piece. Using tongs, dip chicken pieces into egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing excess to drip off. Coat chicken pieces with flour and shake off excess and return to wire rack.
Adjust oven rack to middle position, set second wire rack over second rimmed sheet, and place on oven rack; heat oven to 200 degrees. Line large plate with double layer of paper towels. Meanwhile, heat oil (oil should have 2-1/2 inch depth in pan) to 375 degrees over medium-high heat in large 8 quart cast iron Dutch oven with a diameter of about 12 inches. Place half the chicken pieces skin side down in oil, cover, reduce heat to medium and fry until deep golden brown, 6-8 minutes; lift chicken pieces with tongs to check for even browning after 5 minutes; rearrange if some pieces are browning faster than others. Check oil temperature, after 6 minutes of frying oil should be about 325 degrees. Adjust burner if necessary. Turn chicken pieces over and continue to fry, uncovered, until chicken pieces are deep golden brown on second side 6-8 minutes longer. Using tongs, transfer chicken to paper towel lined plate. Let stand 2 minutes to drain. Transfer to rack in warm oven. Replace paper towel lining on plate. Return oil to 375 degrees and fry remaining pieces as above. Cool chicken pieces on wire rack outside oven about 5 minutes then serve.
From Americas Test Kitchens.