May 2, 2017

Gus's Fried Chicken Recipe - An Update to My Gus's Fried Chicken Recipe in Response to an Email - 2017

November 17, 2017, I came as close as one can get to duplicating the Gus's Fried Chicken recipe. Here follows the latest, updated recipe:

Gus’s Fried Chicken
#1 November 17, 2017
 24 hour marinade. Begin the day before you plan to fry the chicken

1 lb (one) boneless skinless chicken breast cut into three pieces
1 cup corn starch
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup water (note: 1 ½ cups is too much. I actually ended up with 1 ¼ cup water and poured off a little water in the morning that had gathered on top of the marinade)

Marinade for 24 hours (begin time: 12:30 p.m.)
Fry at 325-350 F. Note, when the exterior crust looks perfect, the interior may still be uncooked. It is the curse of these huge chickens that they sell now. Try your best to buy a 2.5-3 lb chicken.

Previous Discussions on Gus's Fried Chicken Recipe:

A. Hi Jay,
I stumbled across your blog as part of my on-going search for the ultimate fried chicken recipe. As a Canadian living in England, I don't know if I can say for sure I've ever had a properly decent piece of fried chicken, so all my info has to come via the internet.
I've been perusing your various notes on Gus's fried chicken, and I was just wondering if you had a more fully-formed recipe I could follow. Not your "final" version, but just the recipe you're working from at the moment, with steps and instructions (brine this long, fry at this temp, use this many chillies...etc.) Is this something you have written down already, or are you more of an improviser?
Thanks so much for your hard work and dedication to such a proud (and often unappreciated) tradition. Hopefully one day I'll have occasion to make use of your calendar of Texas fried chicken picnics, and try the real deal.

Cheers, John

B. Hello John! Thank you for this great email.

I lived in the UK in the early 70's and remember watching the change as more and more American fast food chains came to the UK. We used to go to that original Hard Rock Cafe to get a "proper" hamburger. So much has changed. Now I am sure that KFC is everywhere. I am not certain if the UK has Popeye's or Church's fried chicken franchises yet. And actually, if you get to a Popeye's right when they open and the first chicken of the day comes out of the fryers, it can be pretty darn good.

Currently, if I am making fried chicken for friends, I am using the Donald Link Real Cajun fried chicken recipe that shows up in my March 2013 posting. It is my standard default. I use the same spices that he does, excepting the salt, because I am more sensitive to salty foods.

One of the problems we have here in Texas is that the grocery store chickens are so large that there is a problem assuring that the interior will be thoroughly cooked when the crust color is that golden brown that I desire. Thus, I remove the chicken from the fryer pan when the color is golden, and finish by placing the pieces in an oven at around 300 F to finish cooking.

(You'll note that I skip between English units and metric. My preference is metric because of its precision but I also think in terms of cups and Fahrenheit).

With respect to the Gus style batter recipe, I am now putting 2-3 cups of buttermilk in a blender, processing that with 2-3 fresh jalapeño green chiles that I have toasted on an open flame until the exterior skin is blackened, then peeling the skin and processing the softened chiles with the buttermilk. This bath is what I soak the chicken pieces in for 24 hours. I then remove them, shake off the liquid and dip the pieces in the slurry that I described to fry. This is to get some internal "heat" to be absorbed by the chicken. Though I haven't done it yet, I could see also processing several cloves of garlic at the same time for the marinade/brine.

One 3-4 lb chicken cut into pieces, legs, thighs, wings, breast portion cut into four pieces to reduce their size.
Brined for 24 hours in a 2-3 cup buttermilk bath to which has been processed 2-3 roasted, say, 30 grams, and softened jalapeño chiles.
Removed from bath, all excess liquid shaken off and/or pieces dried with paper or cloth towels and dipped in the Gus formula slurry of cornstarch and buttermilk.

Additional note: the original Gus's recipe definitely includes/uses Louisiana style hot sauce and/or paprika. I remember how red their batter was. This recipe does not have that ingredient as I had not worked on that approach as much recently. My recent experiments were to figure out how to get the chicken to have some "heat", thus, my current method of processing jalapeño chiles with buttermilk. Actually I am using a combo of ghost pepper and jalapeño but that is another story for later.

Fried at 325F (note: here is where work needs to be done. I recently judged a fried chicken competition and they did a first fry at 300 F and then removed and did a second fry at 350 F to get the chicken very crispy....I need to work on my temperatures).

Now. My preference is for deep frying where the pieces are totally immersed and not crowded. If you prefer a pan method, that is okay too. You will not need as much oil. But the chicken may be a little greasier if the upper portion that is not fully submerged grabs more oil. Also, because the bottom of the pieces will be in contact with the pan, it will brown more.

When the chicken reaches a golden color, remove the pieces and place into a 300 F oven for about 30 minutes to assure that the interior is fully cooked (you may need to reduce the time) depending on the size of chicken pieces. This is one of the variables that will have to be worked on in your kitchen. Typically it is the breasts, not the legs or thighs or wings that are not cooked all the way through. (What you are looking for and should achieve if successful, is a thin, crackling crust as opposed to the standard, thicker more breadier crust of a seasoned flour/buttermilk dip such as the Real Cajun recipe).

You will note that I did not mention salt or pepper. That is because I do not like overly salty food and prefer to just salt my chicken after it is fried, when served at the table. If you wish, you. Any add 1 tsp of salt to the buttermilk brine. You may also decide to add 1 tsp of salt to the cornstarch and buttermilk batter. Likewise, pepper. If you use the Real Cajun recipe, just use the seasonings that Donald Link recommends.

Now. One further note. In my research around Texas I have seen chickens dipped in ice water followed by seasoned flour, milk and egg followed by seasoned flour, buttermilk followed by seasoned flour. My opinion is that ice water results in the crispiest crunch, followed by buttermilk which is a little more bready but the one most people prefer.

Be sure to plan to serve the chicken hot and don't cover it because any residual moisture or steam will soften the crust and you will lose your crunch. Thus, keeping the chicken in the oven as needed will assist.

One final note. Another "UK friendly" recipe for pan frying, if you don't want to go to this extreme on a regular basis is this very fine chicken cacciatore recipe from Giada de Laurentiis.

Giada de Laurentiis Chicken Cacciatore

Gus's Fried Chicken Recipe - More Ruminations on Gus's Fried Chicken

November 17, 2017, I came as close as one can get to duplicating the Gus's Fried Chicken recipe. Here follows the latest, updated recipe:

Gus’s Fried Chicken
#1 November 17, 2017

1 lb (one) boneless skinless chicken breast cut into three pieces
1 cup corn starch
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup water (note: 1 ½ cups is too much. I actually ended up with 1 ¼ cup water and poured off a little water in the morning that had gathered on top of the marinade)

Marinade for 24 hours (begin time: 12:30 p.m.)
Fry at 325-350 F. Note, when the exterior crust looks perfect, the interior may still be uncooked. It is the curse of these huge chickens that they sell now. Try your best to buy a 2.5-3 lb chicken.

Previous Discussions on Gus's Fried Chicken Recipe:

It is 2017. My previous posts on Gus' Fried Chicken covered my observation that the closest that I could come to the thin, crackly crust would be with a slurry built of buttermilk and corn starch. Is that what the original Gus did back in the 50's? I'm not sure. But it is the closest that I have come in my home kitchen. I never truly cracked the spicing. I could never get the chicken spicy enough, and that was with trying different chiles, black pepper, buttermilk soaks, etc. (see my previous postings).

More recently (actually March 30, 2017 marks the date) I came across a recipe that I had not seen before that calls for an ice water batter with a 50/50 corn starch and flour mix, description of a thin batter to dip the fried chicken in, resulting in a (so said) thin, crispy crust. The writer, Diane Unger, writing for Cook's Country advised: "Ordinary water worked best, bringing to mind some of the Civil War-era-batter-fried chicken recipes I'd researched. Presumably, times were hard and water was fine." Well, this comment sent me in a whole new direction. You see, I was scratching my head, thinking about "what ingredients would have been available in mid 50's, early 60's Tennessee for the recipe? Had someone in the Vanderbilt family spent time in Korea (Korean war era) and learned about the batters used for Korean fried chicken? Maybe not, I'm thinking now after reading her recipe and comments.

Because now, I had Diane Unger mentioning the Civil War.

And so, I began searching through vintage mid to late 1800 cookbooks for batter recipes. So far, I have not turned up anything (I've looked through many vintage African-American cookbooks now without finding any fried chicken batter recipes...just dredge and fry recipes) and hope to contact Diane Unger for some recommended sources. But it would make sense that persons living in Tennessee might have family recipes passed down from that era. Example follows:

Her recipe, published in Cook's Country and republished in the Best Ever Recipes publication called for a brine of sugar, water and salt and then a batter of water, AP flour, cornstarch with baking powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper.

Diane Unger Interview on YouTube

Landing On Love : a website with photos showing preparation of the recipe

Amos Schorr: Low Gluten Flour: In terms of pure crispiness, yes. But you also need to take into account the thickness of the crust itself. Korean-style fried chicken, for example, uses pure cornstarch, and that gives it an incredibly crispy, incredibly thin crust. But American fried chicken is different. It's meant to have a thicker, better seasoned crust.

Chris Young:   Hi @Chris Young. Thank you for your response. I apologise for persisting with the question: why did @Grant Crilly recommend using bread flour for the fried chicken recipe, especially considering how the recipe on Modernist Cuisine's website also recommends using cake flour? I understand that batters and coatings don't work according to one-size-fits-all. However, if you can elaborate on batters and coatings for deep frying and detailed aspects, it will be extremely useful then. Thank you. I think it would have to do with the size of the grains. Cake flour is a finer grain, and bread a little larger. I reckon a larger grain can absorb more milk, and would allow for a thicker coating. Also, cake flour typically is high in starch content

John Fisher, et. al.:   John Fisher@Ellen Hi, any chance you could get an answer for us on this. Which flour will yield the crispier crust, pastry, AP or high gluten? Hi @Saad & @John Fisher: Just had a chance to talk with Grant about this:"The question is, do you want crispy or crunchy? If you want crispy go with the starchier option (rice flour etc.), if you want crunchy, you need high-protein (bread flour).

I've used a combination of cornstarch and rice flour with good results.

That is what I use for crispy chicken wings. Low gluten high starch.

I don't have the answer. However, I would like to point out that in their fish & chips video, the guys coated the fish (dipped in Methyl-cellulose) with cake flour. However, (as you mentioned) in the fried chicken video Grant commented on how using cake flour would result in a soft and spongy coating.

(Here follow my original notes from previous years. But I recommend you go back and read the original posting and the supplements here in my blog.)

Gus's Fried Chicken Recipe

It is not the Saveur Magazine recipe and it is not the Nora Jones recipe (the two most common recipes that show up when one does a search on the Internet).

The secret is that it is a slurry. You have to mix corn starch and buttermilk to the right consistency. It needs to be a slightly thicker batter ( I would describe it as crepe batter consistency, or, a slightly thinner pancake batter) and it turns out it is also important to leave the skin on the chicken to help the crispness.

I switched to Canola oil for a while ("Canadian oil low acid"), ignoring my personal opinion that Canola oil gives food a fishy smell and taste. But I am back to recommending Crisco oil or peanut oil as my personal preferences. I just don't like Canola oil.

So, here is what needs to come together for this to work.

The important thing is:
Buttermilk - 1 1/4 cups buttermilk to....
Cornstarch - 1 cup corn starch to make the basic slurry
(experiment with reducing the amount of buttermilk to corn starch to make a thicker slurry)

The Cynical Cook's Blog and Comments on Gus's Fried Chicken

May 1, 2017

Gus's Fried Chicken - Memphis - August 2017

My most recent visit led me to the conclusion that Gus's recipe is not unlike a classic Korean fried chicken recipe, a corn starch slurry (maybe a touch of flour) and a liquid base of either water, water and milk, or buttermillk, seasoned with black pepper, Louisiana style hot sauce, possibly onion powder and garlic powder, and salt. Better results if your chicken is skinless.  And a long marinade of 24 hours so that the spices can infuse the chicken as well as the batter. On November 17, 2017 I came as close as one can get to the recipe. Refer to my other blogposts for the November 2017 recipe.

Recipes - A Collection of Recipes of Interest From Around the Internet

Jonathon Waxman : Cornmeal, Egg and Buttermilk
Jonathon Waxman Recipe

Gordon Ramsey Pickle Celery Recipe and Buttermilk Batter Fried Chicken Recipe:
Gordon Ramsey Pickled Celery and Buttermilk Batter Fried Chicken

Fried Chicken Recipe from the 18th Century: A vinegar (verjus) and lemon marinade (tart):
Fried Chicken in the 18th Century

Koji Fried Chicken Recipe from Cook's Science:
Koji Fried Chicken (from Cook's Science)

From Ashton Vaughn (from a Diane Unger recipe): Special Note. I tried this. I was intrigued by the fact that Unger mentions that batter fried recipes were common during the era of The Civil War. I found this crust to be chewy and gummy. It held a lot of oil. I did not enjoy it. Not recommended.

Batter Fried Chicken Recipe (Originally Cook's Country)

The March 21 Experiments - Dry Mix Ratios

(Update December 2017) Before getting into my old 2013 experiments report, here is someone from the Chowhounds website who did something similar...that is, testing different starches for batters.

Experiments in Fried Chicken Breading

LumpyNose on Chowhounds Forum | Sep 18, 2015 07:04 PM
I got a new carbon steel frying pan that I'm in love with and have been trying out frying different things, chicken of course being one of them. I like experimenting and here are some ideas that I've come up with. I'm curious to know if others have had success with other off the beaten path ideas.
Of course the most important part is getting the spices and salt right.
Instead of the tried and true white wheat flour I've tried
*) Quinoa flour. I goofed that up because I used an undiluted egg. That makes the breading stiff and it flakes off. I now mix the egg with an equal amount of water. Quinoa does have a different flavor, but I didn't taste it. Quinoa flour is also expensive.
*) Sorghum flour. Nothing special.
*) Instant potato flakes ground/pulverized in the blender until they're like corn meal or bread crumbs. At this point I think I had the spices worked out although it was just a wee bit too salty. It was an nice texture.
*) Masa / tortilla flour. This is the nixtamalized corn flour. It has a very strong flavor so I never use it by itself but will use something like 3/4 cup other flour, 1/4 cup tortilla flour. Or maybe 50/50. Definitely adds an interesting flavor.
*) I also have some teff flour that I'm going to try. I've made quick breads with teff and it has a noticeable flavor. It kinds of reminds me of this Boston baked bread that my grandmother used to buy that came in a can, but that was many decades ago so my memory could be faulty. But it does have a noticeable flavor.
*) Oat flour should be interesting. You can make your own by whirling regular oats in the blender until they're a fine powder.
*) I saw a recipe that used corn meal but I'm thinking that that might be too crunchy and was thinking that grinding the corn meal into a corn flour might be an interesting experiment. (Assuming you have a grain mill; I have the Kitchen Aid grain mill attachment.)
*) White rice flour I'm guessing would be unremarkable, although brown rice flour might have some flavor. My favorite rice is this dark reddish rice called red cargo rice; it has a wonderful flavor and texture for a brown rice. I should try milling some of it.
Besides trying different flours another idea I had was to use powdered chicken bouillon (e.g., Knorr) instead of salt. Powdered chicken bouillon has a lot of salt in it and it should add some more flavor. I think that about 2 1/2 teaspoons per 1 cup of flour is a probable starting point. 3 was a bit too salty and 2 was a bit undersalted so next time I'm going to try 2 1/2 teaspoons.

The Dry Mix Experiment – March 21, 2013

To test batters using ratios of AP wheat flour, brown rice flour and corn flour.

To a large bowl, I added 4 cups (32 fluid ounces) of buttermilk, 4 pounds of chicken breasts cut into thirds, 1 tablespoon each of garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper. I added one small bottle of Louisiana hot sauce. The chicken sat in the wet bath for two hours. Deep fry method and Crisco vegetable oil heated to 350F.

Trial One: 50% wheat flour and 50% brown rice flour
Great crunch right out of the pan. Can definitely taste a subtle Rice Chex flavor, becoming a little sour tasting but not at all unpleasant. I will use the word particulate to describe the crust. Each individual grain as opposed to a smooth overall crust. Bread like or Panko like as opposed to a wheat flour only batter. As the fried chicken sat, the internal heat and steam was enough to cause the crust to fall apart. Thus, this would be an eat while just out of the pan recipe. Not bad.

Trial Two: 100% brown rice flour
This is basically the ingredient, plus salt and seasonings of the store mix called Kentucky style. Very similar to Trial One. A smoother crust reminiscent of those fish stick crusts. Not bad.

Trial Three: 33% each of wheat flour, brown rice flour and corn flour
Again a very particulate crust. When it came out of the fryer I got really excited as it looked like the crust of Gus’s. But no. Not a bad crust though. There’s something in Gus’s batter that makes an almost candy like thin crunch which is leading me back to flour based batters I think.

Trial Four: Back to classic wheat flour only
Except to the ½ cup dry mix I am using for these experiments, I added two teaspoons of sugar before coating the chicken. Absolutely the crunchiest of these so far. I can taste the sugar and would want to reduce it in future experiments. So, the classic yields the smoothest coating and crunchiest-ness.

Trial Five: No dry mix at all, just chicken in buttermilk, thrown into the pan and stand back!
D.O.A. No good.

Trial Six: 66% wheat flour and 33% corn flour
Crunchy crunch. My favorite so far. 

Trial Seven: The Witches Brew
I did 1.2 cup of each dry mix in order to fry up two pieces of chicken. I dumped the rest into a measuring cup and am now just frying up a few pieces from this dry mix.
If it turns out okay, I can always replicate it by looking at the ratios above.
Man, that is some good chicken. Probably not worth the effort of mixing all three flours though.

Trial Eight. The Slurry
I poured a second bottle of Louisiana hot sauce into the buttermilk and dumped the rest of the Witches Brew into the liquid. Let the chicken soak and then threw them in the hot oil.
The first slurry attempt was an epic fail. Greasy, the batter didn’t stick. Just nasty. So increased the amount of flour to result in a thick cake batter consistency dipped the chicken and threw it back in the fryer. Because of the extra hot sauce, the crust got really dark, burned even. But the crunch was terrific. I could taste the hot sauce. And all in all this came closest to Gus’s though still no prize. Still not a thin crackly crust. Back to the drawing board. Could it be as simple as flour, buttermilk, spices in a thick slurry bath?

Trial Nine and Beyond
Have to now work on lower protein flour such as cake flour ratio’ed with AP flour. Another day.

Supplement - Update April 13, 2013: For a friend who does not tolerate wheat flour, I mixed 1 cup of brown rice flour, 1 cup of corn flour and 1/2 cup of potato flour and fried several pieces. In order to cook through, the chicken had to stay in the fryer a long time and the crust got very brown. This was a thin, cracker like crust almost non existent. A sour aftertaste to the crust. Not recommended unless you cannot use wheat flour.

Church Picnic Calendar 2017 - Fried Chicken, Sausage, Barbecue, Polka Music, Bingo and More (Just a little road trip out of town - most are on Sundays)

Food typically begins serving at 11:00 a.m. You can expect fried chicken, sausage, green beans, German potatoes, iced tea, bread, homemade desserts and often, picnic stew or barbecue as well.

April 29 - St. Mark Lutheran - Lake Jackson
April 29 - St. Bartholomew - Katy
April 30 - St. Mary's - Frydek
April 30 - St. Michael's - Weimar

May 7 - Queen of the Holy Rosary - Hostyn
May 14 - Christ Lutheran - Pattison
May 14 - Christ Lutheran - Loebau
May 21 - St. John's Lutheran - Deanville
May 28 - St. Joseph - Dime Box
May 28 - Sacred Heart - Halletsville
May 28 - Sts. Cyril and Methodius - Shiner
May 28 - St. Paul Lutheran - Giddings

June 4 - Sacred Hear - Flatonia
June 4 - Holy Trinity Corn Hill - Jarrell
June 11 - St. Mary's Catholic - Halletsville outskirts / St. Mary's
June 11 - St. Rose of Lima - Schulenburg
June 18 - St. John the Baptist - Ammansville
June 25 - United Church of Christ - Lyons
June 25 - Sts. Cyril and Methodius - Granger
June 25 - Sts. Peter and Paul - Plum
June 25 - Fayetteville Brethren - Fayetteville

July 2 - Sts. Cyril and Methodius - Dubina
July 4 - St. John the Baptist - St. John
June 16 - Ascension of Our Lord - Moravia
June 16 - St. James - Gonzales
July 28/29 - St. Mary of Visitation - Lockhart
July 30 - Nativity of Virgin Mary - Penelope

August 6 -Sts. Peter and Paul - Frelsburg
August 6 - St. Anthony of Padua - Palacios
August 6 - St. Joseph - Yoakum
August 13 - St. Michael's - Weimar
August 15 -Assumption of Virgin Mary - Praha
August 20 - St. Andrew - Hillje
August 20 -St. Monica - Cameron
August 27 -Sts. Cyril and Methodius - Cistern
August 27 - St. Mary - Ellinger
August 27 - Immanuel Lutheran - La Vernia
August 27 - Holy Rosary - Rosenberg

September 3 - Nativity of Virgin Mary - High Hill
September 3 - St. John the Baptist - Fayetteville
September 3 - Our Lady of Guadalupe - Cuero
September 3 - Sacred Heart - Halletsville
September 3 - Sts. Cyril and Methodius - Shiner
September 3 - St. Mary's - Plantersville
September 3 - St. Stanislaus - Chappell Hill
September 3 - Sts. Cyril and Methodius - Granger
September 3 - Immaculate Conception - Sealy
September 3 - Holy Cross - Warda
September 10 - Sts. Cyril and Methodius - Marak
September 10 - St. Mary of Assumption - Taylor
September 16-17 - St. John Nepomucene - Ennis
September 17 - St. Joseph - Moulton
September 17 - St. Wenceslaus - Holmna
September 23-24 - St. Jerome - Houston
September 24 - St. Joseph - Cyclone
September 24 - St. James - Seguin
September 24 - St. Philip the Apostle - El Campo
September 24 - Immanuel Lutheran - Killeen

October 1 - Queen of Holy Rosary - Hostyn
October 1 - Holy Rosary - Frenstat
October 1 - St. Luke's - Loire
October 1 - St. Roch - Mentz
October 1 - Sacred Heart - Crosby
October 1 - St. Ann - La Vernia
October 8 - St. Stanislaus - Anderson
October 8 - St. Anthony - Columbus
October 8 - Holy Cross - East Bernard
October 8 - Church of the Visitation - Lott
October 8 - Our Lady of Victory - Victoria
October 8 - St. Stanislaus - Anderson   (BBQ)
October 15 - Guardian Angel - Wallis
October 15 - Holy Cross Lutheran - Yoakum
October 22 - Sacred Heart - La Grange
October 22 - St. Michael Archangel - Needville
October 22 - St. Paul Lutheran - Columbus
October 22 - Sts. Peter and Paul - Bellville

November 5 - Our Lady of Lourdes - Victoria