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Carla Hall’s Nashville Hot Chicken

Carla Hall’s Nashville Hot Chicken

Nashville Hot Chicken Carla Hall

Despite a heaping helping of cayenne and hot paprika, at Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen Hoot & Honey is the mildest of the sauces available for her Nashville-style hot chicken. More daring diners can opt for Hoot (medium), Hootie-Hot (hot), Hoot-N-Nannie (extra hot), or Boomshakalaka (stinging hot). If you want to approximate more intense levels of spice, simply leave out the honey and trade in additional cayenne and hot paprika to amp this hot oil up. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Feeling chicken? Skip the Hoot & Honey Sauce and you’ve got Carla’s grandma Thelma Hall’s southern fried chicken. It’ll still be good, but it won’t let you show off your hot chicken face. One of the things that makes this recipe entertaining-friendly is that it actually needs to be breaded in flour ahead of time and allowed to rest on a rack in the refrigerator for at least an hour. The flour absorbs the moisture from the brined chicken and nearly guarantees a crispy crust that won’t flake off in the frying oil.

Cook’s Note: Plan to make Hoot & Honey Sauce the same day you use it or the honey will separate out. Want to make it ahead of time? Swap out the regular honey for honey powder (available online) which is simply dehydrated honey.

Carla Hall's Nashville Hot Chicken with Hoot & Honey Sauce

Serves 8
Recipe by Carla Hall

Total Cooking Time: 12 hours and 30 minutes (includes brining and rest times)
Active Cooking Time: 1 hour

CHICKEN BRINE

  • 2 cups sliced sour dill pickles, with juice
  • 3 habanero peppers
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 whole chickens, cut into 10 pieces each (wing drumettes, wing flats, drumsticks, thighs, split breasts)

HOOT & HONEY SAUCE

  • 2 cups neutral oil such as grapeseed or canola
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cayenne pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey

CHICKEN DREDGE

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

For Frying and Serving

  • 2 quarts canola oil
  • Sliced white sandwich bread
  • Sliced dill pickles

At least one day and preferably two before you plan to serve the chicken, make the chicken brine. Put the dill pickles and their juice, habanero peppers, 1 cup of kosher salt, and the sugar in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Add to a large vessel and add the water, stirring to combine. Add the chicken to the brine. Place in refrigerator, leaving chicken in the brine overnight, or at least 8 hours.

Then, set a cooling rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the chicken from the brine and discard brine. Rinse each piece of chicken and place it on the prepared rack. Return the brined chicken to the refrigerator and allow it to air dry for about 4 hours before frying.

Meanwhile, make the Hoot & Honey Sauce. In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of neutral oil to 160°F over medium-low heat. Whisk in the sweet paprika, hot paprika, cayenne, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Cook, continuously stirring, until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add the honey and the remaining 1 cup of oil, stirring to combine. Set the sauce aside and allow it to cool.

An hour and a half before frying, mix the chicken dredge. Place the flour, 2 tablespoons salt, and black pepper into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Working with one piece at a time, toss the chicken in the dredge until thoroughly coated and return it to the rack. Once all of the chicken has been dredged, return it to refrigerator and allow it to air dry again for 1 more hour. Set the seasoned flour remaining from the dredging aside.

To fry the chicken, heat canola oil in a wide cast-iron skillet to 350°F. Five pieces at a time, toss the chicken pieces again in seasoned flour. Place the chicken in the skillet to fry until golden brown. Do not overcrowd the skillet; work in batches if necessary. Flip the chicken and fry it until golden brown all over. Transfer the chicken to a cooling rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Stir the Hoot & Honey Sauce to recombine. In batches, as necessary, transfer the fried chicken to a large bowl. Drizzle the Hoot & Honey sauce over it, swirling and tossing to coat the chicken in the sauce. Line a large platter with sliced white sandwich bread and place the chicken on top. Scatter sliced pickles over the chicken and serve at once.

Photo by Nicholas Gang


Emily Teel is the Editor-in-Chief of Spoonful Magazine, as well as a freelance food writer, recipe editor, tester, and developer in Philadelphia. She completed a Master of Arts in Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences. An alumna of Bryn Mawr College and a Legacy Award Winner with the women's culinary organization Les Dames d'Escoffier International, she's passionate about food and committed to the idea that everyone deserves access to meals that are both nourishing and satisfying. 

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