Recipe: The Stockyards pitmaster Tom Davis’s crispy, cayenne-kicked fried chicken
By Tom Davis
PREP TIME: 20 minutes
REFRIGERATION TIME: 2 days
COOK TIME: 1 hour
Serves 4 to 8
¼ cup each granulated sugar and kosher salt
½ bunch fresh thyme
1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 whole chickens, each broken down into 8 pieces
2 cups buttermilk
1 bunch fresh thyme
1½ tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp black peppercorns
¾ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp kosher salt
6 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
3 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tsp cayenne pepper
2–3 L canola oil
1. To prepare brine, heat 1 cup water with sugar and salt in a small saucepan over medium until both have dissolved. Pour into large bowl. Add 3 cups cold water and remaining brine ingredients. Stir to mix. Let cool in fridge. When brine is cool, add chicken. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
2. Drain chicken. Stir marinade ingredients in large bowl. Remove chicken from brine and add to marinade. Cover loosely and refrigerate for 24 hours.
3. Stir dredging flour ingredients together in large shallow bowl. Pour oil into a deep fryer or deep pot. Chicken should be totally submerged in oil. Heat to 325º F. If cooking on stovetop, start on high heat.
4. Dredge chicken in flour mixture. Shake off excess. Place a few chicken pieces in oil. You’ll need to cook in batches. Fry at 325º F for 15 to 20 minutes per batch, until chicken is golden and cooked through. When chicken is done it will float and shake slightly. Reduce and increase heat as needed to maintain 325º F. Remove to paper towels. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
If you’re short on time, ask your butcher to cut the chicken into pieces. Alternatively, you can buy 16 skin-on, bone-in chicken pieces.
When it comes to fried chicken, you can’t do better in Toronto than The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder, an 18-seat meat den on St. Clair West. Tom Davis, the pitmaster, opened his southern barbecue spot in 2009. His ribs, brisket, pulled pork and smoked chicken are all popular, but it’s the crispy fried birds that draw lines out the door. Davis spent two years perfecting the recipe, which involves 24 hours in a clove-scented brine, another 24 in a cayenne-kicked buttermilk marinade (a tenderizing agent for the meat) and 20 minutes sizzling in the deep fryer. The end result—a golden exterior yielding juicy flesh—is nothing like the Colonel’s greasy bucket variety. Instead, it’s classic southern comfort, made for elbows perched on gingham-clad tables and eating with your hands.