A Hot as Hell Nashville Hot Chicken Recipe

March 8, 2016

Hot chicken, a local specialty of Nashville, Tennessee, is quickly earning its place as a 2016 food trend. Outside of the African-American community, little was known about it until recently. This is not your run of the mill fried chicken; no, this chicken will give you something to talk about. When your lips and tongue recover from the blistering spice, that is. For those of you who like it hot and spicy, look no further.

This Nashville Hot Chicken recipe comes from EAT STREET: The ManBQue Guide to Making Street Food at Home (available May 2016). ManBQue is a men’s grilling and lifestyle organization that began as a Chicagoan rock and roll community, but soon grew into a global network of music lovers, craft beer aficionados, adventure seekers and DIY grillers. The cookbook is filled with 200 grilled, fired and charred recipes for the most delicious street foods in the world. It’s hilariously written and seriously delicious. From Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha You Lose Idiots Wings (which pokes fun at barbecue wings competitions and those who enter them) and Bacon S'Mores to Furniture Store Meatballs and Swedish Sauce and Manhattan Street Meat Dogs, you'll find recipes that will bring out your inner frat boy (even if you're a girl) and leave you drooling.

Reprinted with permission from EAT STREET © 2016 by John Carruthers, John Scholl and Jesse Valenciana, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
Photo by Clayton Hauck

“If we’d written this book a year or two ago, we’d be talking about how Nashville hot chicken was an obscure local favorite we can’t get enough of. A population influx and widespread acclaim for local joints including Prince’s and Hattie B’s means that it’s less of a secret local favorite and more of a genuine Southern food phenomenon. Every place guards their recipe like the original Coca-Cola formula, but no secrets are safe from ManBQue. And we’re damned sure that our shot at this Southern classic is legit. If you’re looking for a super-spicy kick, add additional 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne or even ghost powder to the finishing sauce until you melt like one of the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces
4 cups buttermilk, divided
1 cup hot sauce, divided
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, plus 1 tablespoon
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup whole milk
Oil, for frying
3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 slices white bread, to serve
Buttermilk biscuits, to serve
Sour pickles, to serve

1. Place the chicken pieces into a snug-fitting container. Mix the buttermilk with 1/2 cup of the hot sauce and let sit at least 2 hours, up to overnight.

2. Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and 2 teaspoons cayenne. Divide between two shallow dishes. Add a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk to the flour.

3. Mix the eggs with the milk and 1/4 cup of the hot sauce.

4. Heat your oil to 325°F.

5. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk/ brine, pat dry, and dredge in flour, shaking off excess.

6. Coat the chicken in the egg mixture, shaking off excess over the remaining dish of flour.

7. Coat the chicken in flour and lower into the fryer. Fry in batches for 12 to 14 minutes, until a digital thermometer reads 155°F. Remove to a wire rack.

8. Ladle 1/2 cup of the hot oil into a skillet over medium heat. When it begins to shimmer, add the 2 tablespoons of cayenne, 2 tablespoons of hot sauce, and the brown sugar. Stir to combine.

9. Finish the chicken in the sauce and serve immediately with white bread, biscuits, and sour pickles.