Fried chicken is a classic comfort food that’s loved by many. When done right, it yields chicken with a super crispy, crunchy coating and moist, juicy meat.
Making great fried chicken at home is easy to do. With the right ingredients and frying technique, you can produce fried chicken that’s just as good as your favorite restaurants and fast food chains.
In this detailed article, we’ll break down a simple, foolproof recipe for fried chicken. We’ll go over:
- The key ingredients and ratios for the crispiest coating
- How to prep the chicken and dip it in the batter
- Frying tips to ensure even cooking and maximum crispness
- Common mistakes and how to avoid them
- Extra recipes and variations for different styles of fried chicken
Follow this easy fried chicken recipe and you’ll be sinking your teeth into tender, juicy fried chicken every time.
Why Making Fried Chicken at Home is Better
Fried chicken from fast food chains and takeout places can be quick and convenient. But making it at home has some major advantages:
It’s cheaper – Buying a whole raw chicken and frying it yourself costs way less per portion compared to a restaurant.
You control the quality – You choose fresh, high quality chicken and ingredients. Fast food chicken can be lower grade.
You can season it – Flavor it with your favorite spice blend or kick up the heat. It’s harder to customize takeout fried chicken.
It’s crispier – With the right breading and frying method, homemade fried chicken gets ultra crunchy. Takeout chicken can get soggy.
You can make other parts – Fry up chicken wings, legs, thighs or breasts depending on what you’re craving.
It’s perfect every time – Once you master the frying technique, you can replicate it exactly how you like it. Restaurant quality varies.
Healthier options – Use fresh oil, avoid deep-frying, or bake it. Much healthier than takeout chicken.
More flavors – Try different marinades, rubs and sauces. Endless ways to switch up flavors.
Put in a little extra effort frying at home and you’ll be rewarded with cheaper, tastier, healthier fried chicken customized to your taste.
Ingredients for Crunchy Fried Chicken
Crispy fried chicken starts with getting the coating right. Here are the main ingredients you’ll need:
Chicken – Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks, wings or breast pieces work best. Avoid using boneless breasts which can dry out. Go for good quality fresh or frozen chicken.
Flour – The basis of the fried chicken breading. Self-rising flour contains leavening agents like baking powder that help the coating crisp up while frying. All-purpose flour will also work.
Spices – Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne are classic choices. Adjust amounts to your preferred spice level. Other good options: chili powder, curry powder, poultry seasoning, or Old Bay seasoning.
Buttermilk – Soaking the chicken in buttermilk helps tenderize it. The buttermilk also reacts with the flour to give the coating crispy ridges and bumps. Can substitute with milk mixed with lemon juice.
Eggs – Some recipes have you dip in egg before the flour coating to help it stick better. Optional, but does enhance crispness.
Oil for frying – Peanut, vegetable, canola or corn oil are good choices. You want a refined oil with a high smoke point. Avoid olive or sesame oil which can burn.
Extra flavorings – Consider adding some cayenne pepper or hot sauce to the buttermilk or flour coating for spicy chicken. Other flavor boosters include minced garlic, paprika, oregano, thyme, mustard, etc.
Tips for Preparing the Chicken
Proper prep is key to juicy, flavorful meat:
- Cut chicken into pieces – Whole legs or thighs, breasts cut in halves, wings or drumsticks. Smaller pieces cook more evenly and develop a crisper coating. Don’t bread huge whole breasts.
- Remove excess skin and fat – Trim off excess loose skin or large fatty areas to reduce greasiness. Leave skin on for flavor and moisture.
- Season the raw chicken – Generously rub salt, pepper and other dry spices or seasoning blends into the chicken. This seasons the meat and enhances flavor.
- Soak chicken in buttermilk – Before dredging in flour, soak chicken pieces in buttermilk for 20-30 minutes. This tenderizes and moisturizes the meat.
- Beat eggs – For extra adhesion, beat 1-2 eggs in a shallow bowl. Dip chicken into eggs after buttermilk and before flour coating.
- Dredge chicken in flour mixture – Combine flour, spices and salt in a bag or bowl. Toss buttermilk-soaked chicken pieces in the flour mixture to evenly coat.
- Double dip the chicken – Dip the floured chicken back into the buttermilk, then again in the flour mixture. This helps the coating stick better and creates a thick, crispy crust.
- Let sit for 5-10 minutes – Before frying, let chicken rest for a few minutes so coating adheres. Dredge and let chicken pieces sit in the fridge for even better adhesion.
Frying Chicken for Maximum Crispness
Use these frying methods and techniques for crispy, evenly cooked chicken:
- Use a heavy, high-sided pan – A dutch oven or deep cast iron skillet works perfectly. Heavy pans maintain temperature better. High sides prevent splattering.
- Fill pan 1/3 full with oil – Leave 3-4 inches space so oil doesn’t overflow when adding chicken. Monitor level as oil displaces.
- Use a deep fry thermometer – Essential for maintaining the right temp. Heat oil to 325-375°F depending on crispness desired.
- Don’t crowd the pan – Fry in batches, 3-4 pieces at a time so oil temperature doesn’t drop too much when chicken is added.
- Flip chicken halfway through – Fry on one side for 6-8 minutes until golden brown. Flip and fry 6-8 minutes on other side.
- Check internal temperature – Chicken is safe to eat once it reaches an internal temp of 165°F. Juices should run clear.
- Drain on a wire rack – Let fried chicken pieces drain on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Allows air circulation so pieces stay crispy.
- Reheat oil between batches – Bring oil back up to temp before frying more chicken. This prevents greasiness.
- Alternatively, oven “fry” – For lower fat, oven bake chicken on a wire rack at 400°F for 30-40 mins, flipping halfway. Also stays crispy.
Choose a frying oil with:
- High smoke point – The oil shouldn’t smoke or burn at frying temps (325-375°F). Look for a 400°F+ smoke point.
- Neutral flavor – You want the chicken flavor to shine, not the oil. Avoid olive or sesame oil.
- Affordable price – You’ll need a good amount of oil for frying multiple batches. Save expensive oils for other uses.
The best oils for deep frying chicken include:
- Peanut oil
- Vegetable oil
- Canola oil
- Corn oil
- Sunflower oil
- Soybean oil
Avoid olive oil, sesame oil, butter and margarine which can burn, smoke or impart strong flavors.
Common Fried Chicken Mistakes
Avoid these pitfalls for better homemade fried chicken:
- Not letting oil reheat between batches – Leads to greasy chicken. Bring oil back to temperature before adding more chicken.
- Under or overcrowding the pan – Too many pieces lowers oil temp and steams chicken. Too few and oil overheats.
- Frying at the wrong temperature – Too low causes greasiness, too high burns the coating. Use a thermometer and keep oil between 325-375°F.
- Under or overcooking – Internal temperature should reach 165°F. If undercooked, coating falls off. If overcooked, chicken dries out.
- Not patting chicken dry – Moisture causes splattering. Thoroughly pat chicken dry after buttermilk and before flour coating.
- Using wrong type of oil – Low smoke point oils burn easily. Use high smoke point neutral oils like vegetable or peanut oil.
Tips for Extra Crispy Fried Chicken
Looking for an extra crispy crunch? Try these tricks:
- Use self-rising flour which has more leavening agents. Or add some baking powder to flour.
- Replace buttermilk with pickle juice for added flavor and crunch.
- Add some cornstarch, potato starch or panko breadcrumbs to the flour coating.
- Use shortening or lard instead of oil for frying.
- Let chicken rest refrigerated for 30+ minutes after coating for enhanced crispness.
- Fry chicken once, let cool, then fry again for extra crunchiness.
- Use smaller chicken pieces which have more surface area to get crispy.
- Let fried chicken drain on a rack for at least 10-15 minutes after frying.
- Maintain oil temperature closer to 350-375°F for optimal crispness.
Sauces and Seasonings for Fried Chicken
Fried chicken straight out of the oil is delicious, but don’t be afraid to toss it in a sauce or extra seasoning:
Hot sauce – Dash on some Texas Pete, Tabasco or Crystal hot sauce for added heat and flavor.
Honey – For sweetness, brush honey over fried chicken pieces.
BBQ sauce – Toss fried chicken in your favorite smoky, tangy barbecue sauce. Great combo of flavors and textures.
Ranch – Dip crispy chicken in cool, creamy ranch dressing to balance the crunch.
Maple syrup – For chicken and waffles, drizzle maple syrup over fried chicken for sweetness.
Spice rubs – Coat fried chicken in spice blends like smoked paprika, lemon pepper or cajun seasoning.
Get creative and come up with your own signature fried chicken flavor combo!
Variations for Different Styles of Fried Chicken
Change up the standard fried chicken recipe by trying:
- Nashville Hot Chicken – After frying, toss chicken in spicy cayenne oil and sprinkle with more cayenne.
- Korean Fried Chicken – Toss crispy chicken in spicy Korean red chili sauce or gochujang sauce.
- Chicken Katsu – Use panko breadcrumbs instead of flour for an extra crunchy Japanese-style coating.
- Chicken and Waffles – Make fried chicken for breakfast and serve over waffles with syrup.
- Buffalo Chicken – Toss chicken in Buffalo hot sauce and serve over lettuce with ranch or blue cheese dressing.
- Popcorn Chicken – Cut chicken into bite-size nuggets, fry until crispy, and serve as a snack or appetizer.
The basic frying method remains the same, but switching up flavors and sauces keeps homemade fried chicken exciting.
Healthier Oven-Fried Chicken Recipe
If you want to cut some fat and calories, try baking chicken in the oven instead of deep frying. Here’s a healthier oven fried chicken recipe:
- 2 lbs chicken drumsticks and thighs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs or panko
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil or canola oil
- Rinse chicken and pat dry. Poke skin with fork to allow fat to render.
- Place chicken in bag or dish, cover with buttermilk. Marinate 30 mins.
- Mix flour, breadcrumbs and seasonings in a shallow dish.
- Dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture, coating all sides.
- Place chicken on wire rack on a baking sheet. Drizzle with oil.
- Bake at 400°F for 40-50 minutes, flipping halfway through, until 165°F internal temperature.
- Let rest 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy your healthier oven-fried chicken!
While not quite as crispy as deep fried, oven “frying” cuts fat and calories significantly. Feel free to increase breadcrumbs or flour to achieve crunchy texture you desire.
Simple Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe
Now that you know the secrets behind crispy fried chicken with tender, juicy meat, here’s a classic easy buttermilk fried chicken recipe to try:
- 3-4 lbs chicken pieces (drumsticks, thighs, wings, breasts)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
- Rinse chicken pieces and pat very dry with paper towels. Trim off excess fat.
- Season chicken all over with salt, pepper, and any other desired spices.
- Pour buttermilk into a large bowl. Add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- In a separate large bowl, combine flour, garlic powder, paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne.
- Remove chicken from buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off. Dredge pieces in flour mixture pressing firmly to adhere.
- Dip chicken back into buttermilk, then again in the seasoned flour.
- Let coated chicken sit on a rack for 10 minutes before frying.
- Heat 1-2 inches oil in heavy skillet or Dutch oven to 325°F. Fry chicken in batches, 8-12 mins per side.
- Drain fried chicken on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining chicken.
- Allow chicken to rest at least 5 minutes before serving hot. Enjoy the crispiest fried chicken!
This foolproof recipe results in crunchy, juicy fried chicken with great spice flavor every time. Adjust the seasoning to your preferences and get ready to enjoy the best homemade fried chicken!