Rufus Estes’ Fried Chicken is deeply flavorful and juicy with a thin, golden crust

Southern Kitchen
Rufus Estes’ Fried Chicken

About the recipe

This recipe was adapted from Rufus Estes’ recipe in his 1911 cookbook, “Good Things to Eat.” Other inspiration for the adaptation was taken from Michael Twitty’s interpretation of the recipe on his blog, Afroculinaria and Chef Jeffrey Gardner’s technique for the actual frying step. 

The final result was deeply flavorful and juicy chicken with a thin, golden crust. The browned butter and vinegar gave the chicken the same kind of richness and tang you’d get from a full-fat buttermilk brine. The fried parsley was an excellent garnish and made me wonder why we don’t fry parsley more often. Even better — this chicken was just as good eaten at room temperature the next day. 

Read more about this recipe on Saving Southern Recipes.

Serves: 4 to 6

Hands On Time: 1 hour and 0 minutes

Total Time: 4 hours and 0 minutes



8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 carrots, chopped

1 small turnip, chopped

1 bunch scallions, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

6 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup kosher salt

2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 pound ice cubes


1 (4- to 5-pound) chicken, cut into 10 pieces

Vegetable oil, for frying

All-purpose flour, for dredging

Kosher salt

8 to 10 sprigs fresh parsley


To make the brine: In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter is foamy, add the carrots, turnip, scallions and parsley. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and continue to cook until just beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the water, salt, vinegar and peppercorns and remove from the heat. Continue to stir until the salt has dissolved. Add the ice cubes and stir until the ice is melted and the brine has cooled to room temperature.

To make the chicken: Add the chicken pieces to the brine. If necessary, weigh down the chicken with a plate to ensure it is submerged. Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry.

Pour a couple of cups of flour into a shallow bowl and season lightly with salt. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour until well-coated and place on a wire rack set on a baking sheet. Let rest for at least 15 minutes.

As the chicken is resting, fill a large cast iron skillet one third of the way up the sides with vegetable oil. Place the pot over medium to medium-high heat and bring the oil to 325 degrees. Monitor the oil’s temperature using a fryer or candy thermometer. Line a second baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels.

When the oil is hot, add the legs and thighs of the chicken first, placing them around the sides of the skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes before adding the breasts and the wings. Cover the skillet with a wire splatter screen to prevent excess grease from adhering to your kitchen surfaces. Fry, flipping occasionally, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes.

As the chicken pieces finish cooking, transfer to the paper towel-lined baking sheet and season lightly with salt. Once all of the chicken has been removed from the skillet, add the parsley sprigs to the hot oil and fry until crisp, about 1 minute. Transfer to the baking sheet with the chicken. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then serve hot.