My southern fried chicken recipe has spicy buttermilk brine, seasoned flour and cornstarch for maximum crunch! Make this family favorite meal for the best crunchy, flavorful and juicy skillet fried chicken.
Fried chicken is a classic southern recipe and there are as many recipes and versions for it as there are stars in the sky.
Some people make it with buttermilk, while others don’t brine the poultry at all. The flavor can vary from spicy to sweet, and texture can be simple or big and crispy. It’s all about what you define as true comfort food!
Southern Fried Chicken Recipe
Keep in mind that this recipe is not heart healthy, low calorie, or low in fat; it’s an every now and then indulgence. Enjoy the meal for what it is… delicious, perfectly juicy meat with a big time crunch factor!
If you’d like to make something a bit on the healthier side, I have plenty of options for you! Make some oven fried chicken, Greek grilled chicken, harissa chicken, or Chinese steamed chicken.
Ingredient and Equipment Notes
Best Oil for Frying
Vegetable oil is the one and it’s the cheapest. Typically a variety of plant based oils are combined and it’s a neutral flavor. Plus it has a high smoking point of 440° – 450°F. Second choice would be a vegetable shortening or lard and next peanut oil. Don’t use expensive olive oil, that’s wasteful and leaves a bitter taste.
Choosing the Frying Pan
Good old fashioned skillet fried chicken is almost always cooked in some sort of cast iron pan; whether it’s an actual skillet or Dutch oven doesn’t really matter. Because of its heavy weight and ability to retain heat, I think cast iron is the best choice for making skillet fried chicken.
A deep Dutch oven or stock pot cuts down on splash and cleanup, or you can use a portable deep fryer. I own a T-Fal brand, and it’s a beauty! The best part is that it has a filtration system that cleans the cooled oil after use into a storage container.
Video: Skillet Fried Chicken
To see the making of this recipe from start to finish, watch the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
1. Brine: Start with a buttermilk brine, it’s what keeps the chicken moist and tender. Minimum 8 hours, 12 hours tops. Second choice would be a salt water brine (1 cup kosher salt to 1 gallon of water). I add Tabasco hot sauce to the brine, but that’s optional.
2. Dredging/Coating: I always use a well seasoned flour. I use regular AP flour, but add rice flour or cornstarch for that extra crunch and plenty of seasonings like paprika and celery salt.
Don’t just dredge it in the flour and fry it right away. Let the poultry marinate in the buttermilk brine overnight, 8-12 hours preferably, or 4 hours minimum. It allows the flour coating to get hydrated from the chicken and adhere to develop a better outer crust.
3. Frying: Fry the chicken at a continuous 320°F, 10-12 minutes for the dark meat (smaller pieces) and 12-14 minutes for the larger sized pieces (whole half breast pieces). This way the outside doesn’t burn in the time it takes to cook the chicken completely.
If you don’t hear a sizzle as you gently lower that chicken in, stop and wait for that right temperature.
Southern Fried Chicken Recipe Tips
- Bring poultry to room temperature. Allow your chicken to come to room temperature before dropping it into the hot oil. Cold chicken directly from the refrigerator will drastically reduce the oil temp and it won’t be hot enough to crisp up the chicken.
- Preheat the oil. Get the oil temperature up to 350°-375°F before adding chicken. The temperature will drop when chicken goes in. Fry and keep it at a continuous 320-325°F.
- Don’t overcrowd the frying pan. Remember, you want to fry the chicken, not steam it.
- Use the correct amount of oil. If using a large Dutch oven, only fill 1/4 full with oil. If you’re using a deep skillet, add enough oil to fill it half way. You don’t want to drown or fully submerge the chicken; 3/4 of the depth of piece should be covered with oil.
- Use a cooking thermometer to determine doneness. Your southern fried chicken is finished cooking when a cooking thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of each piece reaches 163°F. As it rests after coming out of the oil, it will continue to cook to the food-safe temperature of 165°F.
- Rest and drain on a metal rack. Do not leave the fried chicken on paper towels to drain, place the pieces on a wire rack set over paper towels. This way, the coating won’t become soggy, causing a loss of that crunch you worked hard to achieve.
Talk about crunchtastic!
What to serve with fried chicken?
- Bacon Mac and Cheese Casserole
I load it with crispy bacon, cheddar, mozzarella and cream cheeses. The perfect cheesy pasta dish. Topped with crunchy Panko breadcrumbs and baked to a bubbly, golden brown it’s an undeniable indulgence.
- Classic Potato Salad
To me the classic potato salad needs to have the right balance of sweet and savory, creamy, tender yet firm potatoes, and not an overload of mayonnaise. Let me show you How to Make the Classic Potato Salad. This is your new go to version.
- Mexican Watermelon Salad
Talk about refreshing! This Mexican Watermelon Salad is a spin on my Mexican Grilled Corn, and with only four ingredients, it’s made in minutes! It’s the perfect fruit salad to bring for any Summertime picnic, potluck or your weekend barbecue!
- Root Beer Baked Beans
Slow cooked, tender, sweet and savory, that sums up these Root Beer Baked beans. I use two different beans, root beer and lots of pantry staples with bacon for an out of this world, perfect side dish.
This post, originally published on Kevin is Cooking Aug. 30, 2013, was last updated with new content on Sept. 15, 2021.
Southern Fried Chicken Recipe + Video
- 4 lb chicken (See Note 1)
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 1 tbsp Tabasco or hot sauce of choice
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp celery salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- vegetable oil for frying (See Note 2)
- To a large sealable container or plastic bag, add the chicken pieces, buttermilk and hot sauce. Mix to coat and refrigerate overnight (See Note 3).
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and seasonings. Set a wire cooling rack onto a large rimmed baking sheet.
- Lift brined chicken out of buttermilk and dredge each piece in flour, turning and gently pressing to adhere all over. Place on wire rack and refrigerate 4 hours minimum or overnight (See Note 4).
- Use a deep cast iron frying skillet, filled halfway with vegetable oil. If using a large Dutch oven, only fill 1/4 full and fry in batches.
- TIP: Allow your chicken to come to room temperature before dropping it right into the hot oil. Cold, from the refrigerator, chicken will drastically alter the oil temp quickly.
- Get the oil temperature up to 350°-375°F before adding chicken. The temperature will drop when chicken goes in. Fry and keep it at a continuous 320-325°F.
- Don't over crowd your frying pan, you want to fry the chicken, not steam it! Chicken is done when it reaches 165°F internal temperature. (See Note 4)
- Remove from hot oil and place on wire rack to cool. Season with salt if you like and serve.
- Use one or two whole chickens, depending on how many people are being served. Have your butcher, or yourself, break down each bird by removing and discarding the backbone, then cut the chicken into 8 pieces – 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks each.
- Oils for frying: I use peanut oil because it has a high smoke point (446°F), but any high smoke point oil or fat could be used. Good choices are lard, peanut oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil, grape seed oil, canola oil, corn oil, coconut oil, or ghee.
- Brine for at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours. Another option is a salt water brine (1 cup kosher salt for every 1 gallon of water).
- Dredging/Coating: I always use a well seasoned flour. I use regular AP flour, but add rice flour or cornstarch for that extra crunch and plenty of seasonings like paprika and celery salt.
Don’t just dredge it in the flour and fry away. Let this sit overnight, 8-12 hours preferably, or 4 hours minimum. It allows the flour coating to get hydrated from the chicken and adhere to develop a better outer crust.
- Frying: Fry the chicken at a continuous 320°F, 10-12 minutes for the dark meat smaller pieces and 12-14 minutes for the larger sized pieces (whole half breast pieces). 6-8 minutes for chicken strips. This way the outside doesn’t burn in the time it takes to cook the chicken completely. Times may vary depending on sizes of chicken pieces. Just be sure internal temp registers 165°F cooked. ** If you don’t hear a sizzle as you gently lower that chicken in, stop and wait for that right temperature.
- Bake in Oven: If you don’t want to fry the chicken you can BAKE IT IN THE OVEN. Spray the brined, dredged chicken with cooking spray on both sides and bake in a 425° F oven for 20 minutes, turn over and bake for another 20 minutes, or until crispy. Just be sure internal temp registers 165°F cooked.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.