Like most fried foods, when done correctly, fried chicken is not bad for you. It should be enjoyed in moderation, but when you feel the urge to fry up some chicken, do it right. I learned to fry chicken from my mother, who learned from her mother-in-law.

There are a few things to keep in mind: The hot fat (and yes, I use lard) should come about halfway up the chicken, and while you can turn the chicken any number of times for even cooking, keep the lid on it between turnings. This keeps the chicken in contact with the bottom of the pan, which is important. The milk brine provides a little tang and also helps the flour stay on the chicken.

INGREDIENTS

Milk Brine
2 quarts whole milk
1 onion, chopped
3–4 garlic heads, hit once with a hammer or the side of a heavy knife
3 tablespoons fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (2–3-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces

Flour Mix
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon toasted, ground yellow mustard seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Frying
1⁄2 cup lard
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter

TO MAKE THE BRINE
Bring 1 quart of milk to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme. Set aside to come to room temperature. Season to taste with salt and pepper, using enough salt so that the milk tastes a little like seawater.

When the milk is nearly cool, stir in the remaining 1 quart cold milk. Transfer the milk brine to a dish large enough to hold the chicken pieces. Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours. Drain the chicken, discard the brine, and pat the chicken dry.

TO MAKE THE FLOUR MIX

Mix together the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, and mustard seeds in a shallow dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Put the chicken pieces in the flour. Turn to coat. Let the coated chicken pieces sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

TO FRY THE CHICKEN

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, heat the lard until liquid and so hot it is nearly smoking. Add the butter to the skillet. Using tongs, lay the chicken pieces in the hot fat, which should come about halfway up the sides of the chicken.

Cover the skillet. Let the chicken fry for 3 to 4 minutes, then turn the chicken pieces. Watch the chicken carefully, turning as needed to brown evenly on both sides and cook through, about 25 to 30 minutes total. (The smaller pieces might be cooked through in 20 minutes.) Adjust the heat if necessary to prevent scorching, but try to keep it as high as you can.

Lift the chicken pieces from the hot fat as they are cooked. Drain on clean kitchen towels or paper towels. Serve hot.

This recipe also appeared in Michel’s Book Sustainably Delicious: Making the World a Better Place One Recipe at a Time and on the James Beard Foundation’s JBF Recipes Blog.