Golden crispy outsides, juicy, tender insides and loads of mouthwatering flavor from all the right seasonings, this Southern Fried Chicken recipe is the best of the best! And with these easy-to-follow steps, anyone can serve up this Sunday dinner classic just like a pro.
If I’m honest, fried chicken is my absolute favorite. My last meal request. My perfect dinner. But not just any fried chicken. We’re talking crunchy Southern Fried Chicken made at home in the kitchen where your people gather. Where the love happens. Where the breading is crispy and golden, the chicken is tender, flavor is in every layer and that chicken is served hot from the skillet!
Now, before you say you can’t, hear me when I say you can! Of all the recipes and things to cook in the world, I meet more people who say they can’t make fried chicken. What they really mean is they don’t… But don’t be intimidated. I promise you that you can do it.
This recipe lays out the process from the buttermilk bath to the flour dredge to frying and ends with all my tips and secrets for making it delicious every single time. And you can use it for all cuts of chicken- breasts, thighs, drumsticks, bone-in or bone out- whatever you like best. It’s traditional, made-from-scratch Southern Fried Chicken at its easiest and best!
Ingredients for Crispy Southern Fried Chicken
- whole fryer chicken– or 8 pieces of your favorite skinless cuts; we usually forego wings and add extra legs
- buttermilk– keeps the chicken tender and juicy
- hot sauce– the heats cooks away, leaving only delicious, savory flavor
- garlic powder– seasonings are added to the dredge and the chicken for flavor in every bite
- onion powder
- salt & pepper
- cornstarch– adds an extra crisp and crunch to your flour coating
- canola, peanut or vegetable oil– these oils are neutral in taste and best for frying chicken
How to Make the Best Southern Fried Chicken
#1 rule of good fried chicken? Don’t rush. Real southern food takes time. So give it a little bit of yourself.
Season & Soak. Mix together all the seasonings for the chicken and generously season both sides of each piece of chicken, using all of the seasoning mixture. Whisk together buttermilk and hot sauce and pour over seasoned chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate from 2 hours to overnight.
Set Up Dredging Station. Get out a large, shallow bowl for flour mixture, & place a baking sheet with a baking/cooling rack on top next to where you will batter your chicken. Remove chicken from refrigerator.
Dredge. In the large shallow bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch and dredge seasonings. Remove chicken from the buttermilk bath one piece at a time. Place in flour and coat. Dip both sides floured chicken back into buttermilk bath and dredge once more to create a nice thick coating. Place battered chicken on baking sheet/cooling rack to “set” while dredging the rest of the chicken and heating the oil.
Fry. Over medium high heat, heat oil to 350° Fahrenheit (using a thermometer) or until it pops and crackles when a little drop of water is dropped in. Using tongs, gently add chicken to hot oil, turning it occasionally.
When chicken is golden brown and has reached an internal temperature of 165° (takes about 10-12 minutes), remove from skillet and place on clean baking rack in a sheet pan to drain. Sheet pan can be placed in the oven to keep chicken warm.
The Secrets to Good Southern Fried Chicken
- Don’t overcrowd the skillet. In a 12 inch skillet, I usually cook about 2-3 pieces at a time. Even though it looks like you could fit in more pieces, don’t. Each piece of chicken added drops the temp of the oil, resulting in less than crispy chicken.
- Use a thermometer. Keep your oil between 335 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything cooler will result in greasy fried chicken with wimpy breading. Anything hotter will brown the breading, but not cook the chicken.
- Turn the chicken early and often. To avoid overly browned spots where the chicken rests on the bottom of the skillet, turn it after one minute in the skillet and continue to turn it another 2-3 times while cooking.
- Legs and thighs take longer. Because of the larger bones in those pieces of meat, they take longer to cook. Cook them first so the white meat doesn’t sit and get cold.
- Sprinkle with salt. When the chicken is on the cooling rack but still hot from the skillet, sprinkle it with a little salt for an extra flavor boost.
What to Serve for A Fried Chicken Dinner
Let’s be honest, southern fried chicken goes with everything! But here are a few comfort side dishes that will never let you down.
- Southern Deviled Egg Potato Salad
- Ultimate Pepper Jack Mac & Cheese
- Fluffy Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Baked Gouda Cheese Grits
- Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole
- Crisp Apple Coleslaw
A big plate of fried chicken is perfect for picnics, Sunday dinners, family gatherings, special occasions and birthdays. We even have it for Easter sometimes! No event in the south is quite complete without a piece of fried chicken!
Other Classic Chicken Recipes You’ll Love
- Easy Crockpot BBQ Boneless Chicken Thighs
- Tender Roasted Buttermilk Chicken
- Southern Pecan Chicken
- Southern Chicken & Dressing
- Southern Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole
IF YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE, BE SURE TO LET ME KNOW!
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Crispy Southern Fried Chicken
- 1 whole fryer chicken (about 3 pounds), or 8 pieces of skinless chicken
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1.5 cups buttermilk
- 3 tablespoons hot sauce
- canola, peanut or vegetable oil for frying
- 2.5 cups flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1.5 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
- 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder
- In a small bowl, mix together garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder. In a large 9×13 dish, arrange chicken. Generously season both sides of each piece of chicken, using all of the seasoning mixture.
- Whisk together buttermilk and hot sauce. Pour over seasoned chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate from 2 hours to overnight.
- Remove chicken from refrigerator. Place a baking sheet with a baking/cooling rack on top next to where you will batter your chicken.
- In a large shallow bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch and dredge seasonings. Remove chicken from marinade one piece at a time. Place in flour dredge and coat. Dip both sides floured chicken into buttermilk soak again and dredge once more. Place battered chicken on baking sheet/cooling rack to "set" while dredging the rest of the chicken and heating the oil.
- Fill a large cast iron skillet about ⅓ full with cooking oil. Over medium high heat, heat oil to 350° Fahrenheit (using a thermometer) or until it pops and crackles when a drop of water is dropped in. Using tongs, gently add chicken to hot oil. Don't overcrowd the skillet. Fry legs and thighs first.
- Turn chicken occasionally to keep from over browning where chicken rests on the bottom of the skillet. When chicken is golden brown and reached an internal temperature of 165°, remove from skillet and place on clean baking rack in a sheet pan to drain. Sheet pan can be placed in the oven to keep chicken warm.
Cast Iron Basics For Your Kitchen
Why do I cook with cast iron? It is maintains and distributes even heat better than any other cooking tool. And treated correctly it can be as easy to clean as any non stick pan. Not to mention, they never have to be replaced. It really can’t be beat for frying chicken. Here are few cast iron staples my kitchen would absolutely be incomplete without!