Nashville Hot Chicken: Fiery, Juicy, And Made At Home

Nashville hot chicken is officially a thing. It can be made anywhere from mild to extra hot and is both painful and addictive.

This zippy variation on fried chicken was created in Nashville at Prince's Hot Chicken Shack and is now served citywide and has caught on nationwide. Hattie B's is another famous hot chicken shack in Nashville. Some KFC restaurants are even serving a version.

The origin story is a doozy. Apparently, Thorton Prince was a ladies’ man and when he got home late one evening after consorting with a lady friend, his live-in girlfriend was livid. According to Prince’s website, "Instead of a lecture the next morning, Prince awoke to the sizzlin’ smell of fried chicken. The trap set, Prince’s cuckolded lover served up a plate of homemade fried chicken. Without noticing the devilish amount of peppers and spices she had sprinkled on the chicken, Prince dug in. Much to her dismay, Prince didn’t fall over weeping in pain. Nope, he asked for seconds, and, at that moment, the legend was born. Thorton Prince’s great niece, Ms. Andre Prince Jeffries, is still serving the legendary dish."

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If you like fried chicken and the tang of Buffalo chicken wings, this recipe is for you. Popularized in Nashville, this recipe puts some extra zip in your fried chicken. Variations include crispy fried chicken that is dipped, brushed, or showered with some kind of hot pepper mixture. Some even put hot pepper in the fry oil. Most places guard their recipe as carefully as KFC guards theirs, but here's my unguarded, improved version. Before you start, please read my background article on frying at home and how to do it best, on a gas grill.

Now here's my favorite way to do this: Remove the bones from the breast and pound it to about 1/2" thick. Bread it, fry it, annoint it with the hot stuff, put it on a bun, and top it with a creamy cole slaw.

Course. Lunch. Dinner. Entree.

Cuisine. American.

Makes. About 3/4 cup, enough for 10 pieces of chicken (1 whole chicken with the breasts cut in half)

Takes. 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup vegetable oil

6 tablespoons dried hot chiles or chile flakes of your choice

4 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons sweet American-style paprika or smoked paprika

2 tablespoons mustard powder

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons Morton's kosher salt

1 whole chicken cut into 10 pieces (2 drums, 2 thighs, 2 wings, and 2 breast lobes split in half)

About the oil. You can use just about any oil you want. Many restaurants use the oil they fried with. I have done it with a blend of butter and bacon. Duck fat anyone?

About the chiles. I use chipotle powder and cayenne. Chipotle is not bright red as you might want. To get the bright red color use really fresh bright red pepper flakes.

Method

1) Make the hot oil. Pour the oil in a small pot or pan over medium heat. Add the dry ingredients (everything but the chicken), turn the heat to its lowest setting, and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes or so to fully extract the flavors. Set it aside. You can refrigerate for a day or two. To make a lighter more subtle burn, pour through a fine mess strainer and push down on the pulp with a large spoon to extract as much oil as possible. The chicken will not be dark red, but the heat will be there (shown in picture).

2) Fry the chicken. Use this recipe and technique. Please note that the chicken is fried in fresh oil, not the hot oil from step 1.

3) Season. After frying the chicken, paint the hot oil on the chicken with a basting brush.

4) Serve. Tradition says to serve with pickle slices on white bread.

"As a small business owner, an interviewer once asked me what keeps me awake at night. I answered "Nashville Hot Chicken.""Meathead

Meathead Goldwyn

Meathead is the founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, and is also known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", a New York Times Best Seller and named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.

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