Buttermilk and Black Pepper Oven-Fried Chicken Recipe

Learn the secret to tender and moist oven-fried chicken for Labor Day weekend and beyond
Buttermilk and Black Pepper Oven-Fried Chicken

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

If you crave good fried chicken but don’t want to stand over a pan of hot oil, here is a baked version that delivers big on both flavor and texture. A long soak in seasoned buttermilk leaves the chicken tender and moist, and a savory panko and Parmesan crust leaves it finger lickin’ good—and a good deal healthier, says chef and cookbook author Molly Stevens, who created this recipe for Real Food. You can’t go wrong with chicken for a Labor Day weekend get-together or dinner any time. This is also delicious served cold at a picnic—pair it with picnic-perfect sides of coleslaw and potato salad.

Buttermilk and Black Pepper Oven-Fried Chicken

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 quart buttermilk
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 dashes hot sauce
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces

For the Coating
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

cooking oil spray or olive oil spray

  1. In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk with the paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, salt, and hot sauce. Whisk to combine. Add the chicken pieces, turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but not more than 24 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray a baking sheet with pan spray.
  3. In a shallow baking dish, combine the panko, flour, Parmesan, baking powder, paprika, black pepper, and salt, stirring to mix. Drain the chicken, discarding the buttermilk. Do not dry the chicken—the moisture of the buttermilk is essential to making the coating stick—and dredge the pieces in the coating, turning to thoroughly coat all sides. Spray the surface of the chicken with cooking oil spray, and arrange them on the baking sheet, allowing plenty of room between pieces.
  4. Bake, carefully flipping the pieces about halfway, until nicely browned on all sides and cooked through, about 30 minutes for breast pieces and 40 minutes for legs and thighs. Let rest for a few minutes before serving. If serving cold, let sit at room temperature until cool, and then cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Cook’s Note: If you are cooking a mixture of white meat and dark meat, keep in mind that breast meat cooks faster and has a greater tendency to dry out than legs and thighs. Chicken breasts are done when they reach an internal temperature of 165°F, but the richer meat of the legs and thighs becomes tender and succulent when it reaches an internal temperature around 180° to 185°F.

Nutrition info (per serving) Oven-Fried Chicken: Calories 453 (196 From Fat); Fat 22g (Sat. 6g); Chol 111mg; Sodium 868mg; Carb 23g; Fiber 1g; Protein 39g

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.