I never thought fried chicken would enter my lexicon of last meal possibilities, but here we are. As soon as I’m done eating them, I start dreaming of the next time I will be eating them. If you are not yet a convert to the superiority of thighs over breasts, this recipe should do the trick. They are beautifully crisp on the outside without the overabundance (or hassle) of batter thanks to Judy Hesser’s brilliant oven solution. At the same time, they are juicy thanks to the thighs themselves and a boost from Mark Peel’s brining solution.
If I’m going to go to the trouble of brining, it’s worth making a big batch. I use the leftovers for sandwiches the next day. Mmmm fried chicken sandwiches. But you can half the recipe for one family dinner if you want.
Oven Fried Chicken Thighs (a mash up of Judy Hesser and Mark Peel)
5 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
1/2 cups kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
6 whole cloves
6 allspice berries lightly crushed
2 bay leaves
2 arbor chilis, torn
1 tablespoon peppercorns, crushed with a mortar and pestle
2 cups water plus 9 cups cold water and 1 cup of ice
3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
4 tablespoons butter
In the morning, combine the salt, sugar, cloves, allspice, bay leaves, chilis and peppercorns in a saucepan with 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Pour into a large container that can hold 4 quarts. (I used a cambro container but you could use two large bowls) Add 9 cups of water and 1 cup of ice. Stir to combine. Add chicken thighs. Place in the refrigerator and leave for 8 hours or so.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Remove the thighs from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Combine the flour and seasoning salt in a wide bowl. Coat each thigh in the flour mixture, tapping them lightly on the sides to remove excess four. Place on a plate as you go until all thighs are coated.
Divide butter and place 2 tablespoons each on 2 sheet pans. Place pans in the oven until the butter is melted. One at a time remove the pans from the oven and swirl them to coat the pan with the butter. Place half the thighs on each pan, skin side down and return to the oven. You could probably fit all the thighs on one pan but don’t. Leaving them with extra space allows them to crisp up nicely rather than steam.
Bake for 40 minutes until the skin side is crisp and golden. Depending on your oven this might take up to an hour. Turn over and continue baking until the other side is also golden, another 20 minutes. Serve. If you need to hold them for a little while, you can turn your oven down to its lowest setting and leave them for up to an hour.