That’s right! Pickle juice is the secret to a popular fried chicken sandwich everyone loves. Now you know and can totally make it yourself.
If you’ve been paying attention to the fried chicken trends lately (who hasn’t), you’ve noticed an uptick in pickle brined fried chicken. This is supposedly the way Chick-Fil-A serves their chicken, and KFC even had a stint with pickle chicken. Big name food magazines like Food & Wine even shared their own versions of it, showing that it’s not just a hack, but a respected way of cooking fried chicken. Naturally that means it belongs in our lineup of the best Fried Chicken recipes out there.
Why Brine With Pickle Juice?
You want to know why? Science! The pickle juice does a few things to the chicken while it’s brining. The salt and vinegar in the pickle juice helps create the perfect environment for a few things.
The first is an osmosis reaction where the flavors of the pickle juice are flowing into the chicken making sure each bite is moist and flavorful. The salt and vinegar also helps break down the molecules in the protein to make it nice and tender.
Timing on how to do this depends on the thickness of the chicken. With the chicken cut into smaller halves, an hour was perfect for getting all those reactions without curing the chicken for hours. If you’re using thicker pieces of chicken, consider letting it sit a little longer.
Now enough of this chit chat. Let’s get this science experiment started so we can eat some tasty fried chicken.Print
- 3 lb. chicken breasts
- 1 (24 oz.) jar mini hamburger dill pickle slices
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1 and ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. garlic powder
- ½ tsp. pepper
- Peanut oil
- Butterfly the chicken breasts lengthwise. For larger pieces, cut the butterflied chicken piece in half.
- Place in a gallon bag and pour in 1 cup pickle juice from the jar of pickle slices. Close the bag and let rest in a flat layer in the refrigerator for 1 hour, flipping halfway between.
- While the chicken is resting, combine buttermilk and egg in one bowl, whisking until incorporated.
- In another large bowl, mix together flour, paprika, salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Line a large plate with paper towels.
- When the chicken is done in the brine, heat a 12” skillet with high edges over medium high heat with peanut oil filling the skillet about ½” full. Use a candy thermometer to determine when the oil reaches 350°F.
- While the peanut oil is heating, dip chicken pieces in dry mixture, covering entirely, then the wet mixture and back into the dry mixture. Set these aside on another plate until ready to fry.
- Carefully place chicken in the peanut oil, not crowding the skillet. Check the temperature of the oil once the skillet is full and adjust temperature if needed.
- Cook on both sides about 5-6 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F as read on an instant read thermometer.
- Remove from skillet and place on paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately on a hamburger bun with dill pickle slices.
Optional: If you’d like to save the remaining hamburger dill chips left in the jar, top it off with white vinegar.
This post originally appeared in April 2019 and was revised and republished in June 2022.