Learn how to make fried chicken that is juicy and tender inside and crispy outside — using science of course, but the easy way. The best fried chicken recipe ever!
Are you crazy for fried chicken? My family, too! They have begged me for a long time to make the best Southern fried chicken recipe ever and I resisted for a while. I hate frying… but here I am!
And I really delivered it — all according to their demanding palates. Phew!
I know that many Southern Grandmas have great deep fried chicken recipes, but I am telling you our Easy Fried Chicken Recipe is the bomb. Pardon my lack of humility!
Ready for the science-made-easy/chef approach?
STEPS TO ACHIEVE A JUICY AND EXTRA CRISPY FRIED CHICKEN
1. Select same-size cuts, when possible
Same-sized cuts likely cook at the same rate, while different cuts demand different cooking times. If you butcher a whole chicken you will get different sized pieces (breasts, wings, drumsticks and thighs). So be sure to cook the largest pieces first, such as breasts and thighs.
Then, after these first have cooked a while, throw in the smaller cuts to fry along with them. If your attention wanders, it can get confusing sometimes, causing you to wind up with under-, or worse, over-cooked pieces.
2. Use either a wet or dry brine for a flavorful, juicy and tender chicken
Brining is the process of either submerging meat into a salt mixture (wet brine) or seasoning with salt (dry brine). The wet brine works best for a few hours or overnight (in the fridge in both cases). In contrast, the dry brine has to be done at least 30 minutes at room temp prior to dredging in flour, or overnight in the fridge prior to dredging in flour.
This step helps to dissolve the muscle proteins while locking in moisture. This means that the salt not only flavors the chicken but also makes it juicier. Moreover, adding an acidic ingredient such as buttermilk, pepper sauce and/or lemon helps to tenderize meat.
For that reason I personally prefer a wet brine. I can add salt and acids into the wet brine at the same time, making the chicken moist, juicy and tender. My brine incorporates buttermilk, buffalo sauce, lemon juice, Dijon, and salt.
3. Add extra flavor to chicken with spices
After either using a wet or dry brine, add extra flavor to the chicken by seasoning with a blend of spices. Some like to use half the amount to season the chicken and the other half to season flour.
The problem is, spices mixed into the flour are exposed to the frying oil and can burn more easily while frying, leaving an awful aftertaste. For this reason, I prefer to cover the chicken heavily with spices, and then dredge in a mixture of flour with no spices at all, shielding the underlying spices from the burning effects of the sizzling oil.
4. Use egg whites or alcohol to batter chicken
Although not necessary, egg whites help to bind the flour coating, acting as somewhat of a “glue,” while adding structure. Beaten whole eggs have the same function, but will produce a softer crust because of the fat content of the yolks.
Alcohol sets the coating, creating flaky layers — similar to the effect when it’s added to pie crusts, remember? And don’t worry! It will evaporate in the frying process. The chicken will form crispy pockets on the exterior.
5. Dredge chicken in a mixture of flour, cornstarch and baking powder
Coating chicken with a mixture of flour and starches makes it crispier. While cornstarch weakens the flour, making the coating tender, baking powder makes the exterior more puffy. As for other ingredients, best of all would be salt (to add extra flavor) or cornmeal (to make it extra crunchy).
5. Deep-fry in oil in a heavy bottom pan or frying machine
You can either pan fry or deep fry chicken. Pan frying presents a problem — it is a conduction method (the bottom of the pan comes into direct contact with the meat) making it harder to control temperature and cook uniformly. On the other hand, deep frying is preferred — as a convection method, heat moves oil around the meat, evenly cooking the meat.
Although some enjoy frying their chicken in shortening or lard, keep in mind that it has a lower smoking point than certain oils, and because it is solid fat, it uses the pan-frying method. Since the heating is not tightly controlled, it has the potential to produce a burned/bitterish crust.
Some oils such as peanut and canola have a high smoking point, making them ideal for frying. Canola and peanut have also a neutral flavor, not leaving the chicken with a nasty aftertaste.
Choosing the right pan is essential, too! Because of the high temps involved, use one with a heavy bottom and high sides, avoiding splatter and mess. A dutch oven or frying machine works best!
6. Use one or two thermometer(s) to control temperatures
If using a frying machine, you will need only a probe thermometer to check the chicken’s internal temp, which should be 165 F in the thickest part of each piece, according to the FDA food code. Just make sure that the thermometer does not touch the bone.
If frying chicken in a dutch oven, make sure to get a deep-fry or candy thermometer to read the oil temp, and also a probe thermometer to obtain the chicken’s internal temp.
Speaking of thermometers, heat oil to 350 F instead of 325 F. The reason why is because the cool pieces of chicken will lower the temperature once added to the oil. So avoid at all costs overcrowding the pan –otherwise you may end up with greasy chicken.
WHAT TO DO WITH USED FRY OIL
Once oil has completely cooled, you can either:
1. Pour it into a bottle and discard;
2. Strain, pour into a bottle, store in the fridge, and reuse once more.
Be sure to NEVER pour into the sink drain because it can clog the pipes.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST FRIED CHICKEN
Whisk buttermilk, buffalo sauce, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and salt in a large bowl, or divide into more than one large plastic bag. Add drumsticks, making sure to cover them completely in the mixture.
Cover bowl with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or zip the bag closed, first removing as much air as possible. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight. Drain in a colander, shake off excess buttermilk, and reserve.
In a separate bowl, mix spices and salt. Sprinkle on the drumsticks, making sure to cover them all all over. In another bowl, whisk egg whites with water; reserve.
In a baking dish, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.
Dip each drumstick in the egg mixture and then dredge in the flour mixture, making sure to cover them well. Shake off excess. Repeat process for all the remaining drumsticks.
Fill deep fryer with oil and heat to 350 F (or a dutch oven with a deep-fry/candy thermometer attached to the edge). Gently add the drumsticks, cooking in batches in order to not overcrowd the fryer.
Fry the chicken until cooked through and crispy (about 10 minutes), or until a probe thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 165 F.
Place fried chicken on absorbent paper towels to drain oil. Serve while hot and enjoy by itself or with any sauce of your choice.
HOW TO STORE FRIED CHICKEN
Store this extra crispy fried chicken in the fridge in a shallow airtight container, or wrap tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil/plastic wrap for up to 4 days. Or, freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags for up to 4 months.
OTHER CHICKEN RECIPES TO TRY:
- Ranch Chicken Thighs (Keto/One Pan)
- Cauliflower Mac and Cheese with Chicken Thighs (Keto-One Pan)
- Roast Chicken Adobo (One Pan)
- Slow Cooker Chicken Satay Curry
- Honey Soy Chicken (One Sheet Pan)
- Honey Mustard Chicken (One Sheet Pan)
- Coconut Chicken Curry (Low Carb)
- Brazilian Chicken Pot Pie (Empadao de Frango)
- Turmeric Lime Chicken (Anti-Inflammatory)
- One Pot Chicken in Lime Coconut Sauce (Keto)
How to Make Fried Chicken
- 3 cups buttermilk
- 1/2 cup buffalo sauce
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 lemon juiced
- 3 1/2 tbsp salt divided
- 12 chicken drumsticks thawed
- 2 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 4 egg yolks large and beaten
- 2 tbsp water
- 3 cups flour (All-purpose or GF)
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 3 tbsp baking powder
- canola or peanut oil enough to fry
- Whisk buttermilk, buffalo sauce, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and 1 tbsp salt in a large bowl, or divide into more than one large plastic bag. Add drumsticks, making sure to cover them in the mixture.
- Cover bowl with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or zip the bag closed, removing as much air as possible. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander, shake off excess buttermilk, and reserve.
- In a separate bowl, mix spices and 2 tbsp salt. Sprinkle on top of drumsticks, making sure to cover them all all over. In another bowl, whisk egg whites with water; reserve. In a baking dish, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and 1/2 tbsp salt. Mix well.
- Dip each drumstick in the egg mixture and then dredge in the flour mixture, making sure to cover them well. Shake off excess. Repeat process for all the remaining drumsticks.
- Fill deep fryer with oil and heat to 350 F (or a dutch oven with a deep-fry/candy thermometer attached to the edge). Gently add the drumsticks, cooking in batches in order to not overcrowd the fryer.
- Fry the chicken until cooked through and crispy (about 10 minutes), or until a probe thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 165 F. Place fried chicken on paper towels to absorb oil. Serve while hot and enjoy by itself or with any sauce of your choice.