Learn these few steps to make the best-fried chicken recipe of all time that is crispy, juicy and full of delicious flavor.
This is one of the most comforting foods to eat. It’s delicious, It’s fairly easy to make and the ingredients aren’t too expensive. While all these things are true, it can be difficult to achieve maximum flavor, tenderness and juiciness because of overcooking, under seasoning and breading falling off. I’m going to show you my 3 important steps to making the best recipe ever.
Southern Fried Chicken
It is chicken parts that are breaded in seasoned flour and fried in oil until crispy and cooked throughout. The origin of it, in general, has been around since the middle ages and is said to be founded by the people of Scotland who have a tradition of frying whole chickens in fat.
The history of it in the south stems back 3 centuries to African American slaves who became household cooks and furthered the tradition of frying chicken by incorporating seasonings and spices into the recipe. It is still often commonly made today and served up in households and across the United States.
How to Make the Best
In my opinion, there are 3 secrets to making the best recipe around. While there are some other techniques that can help you achieve really good tasting chicken, these steps are imperative.
- Buttermilk Brining for at least 12 hours
- Double breading using cornstarch
- Rendered bacon fat incorporated into frying oil
If you chose to skip any of these steps, I cannot guarantee the final outcome.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken
Brining the chicken in buttermilk alone will certainly help tenderize the meat. Buttermilk is simply milk that has acid incorporated into it and most commonly it’s white distilled vinegar. With that being said you can use lemon juice as well.
While the buttermilk is great, don’t stop there because we also want to flavor the meat in addition to tenderizing it. The way to achieve this is by making a simple brine to incorporate into it as this will be the driving step into the flavor department of this recipe.
- Mix together water, salt, and vinegar into a pot and bring to a boil until the salt has been dissolved. Add in ice cubes to chill.
- Add the brine to the buttermilk and mix together.
- Place in the chicken parts to the buttermilk brine submerging it completely
- Marinate in the refrigerator overnight for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
The longer the marinade brining process the more flavor and tenderness that can be incorporated into it. I recommend 24 hours of brining time. If for some reason you don’t want to make the brine simply drain your pickle juice jar to render about 2 cups of the brining liquid and use it instead of the homemade brine, I made.
How to Make It Crispy
The absolute secret to making it really crispy and crunchy is by double breading it and using a bit of cornstarch to help crisp it up. Cornstarch swells when being mixed with the hot oil which makes the little granules of starch to separate from each other which is why it pushes outward from the chicken in layers. During the frying process, these granules lock into place making the crispy crunchy outside that is so coveted.
The other important piece to crispy fried chicken is doubled breading which makes the best outer crust. Go from the buttermilk brine to the seasoned cornstarch flour, back to the brine and back to the seasoned cornstarch flour, and then in the fryer.
The outside breading will be thick, perfectly crunchy and nothing short of delicious. In addition to the corn starch, you will definitely need flour. I only season the cornstarch and flour with paprika, salt, and pepper but you can also add things such as garlic, onion granules, cayenne and herbs to help enhance the flavor.
What Kind of Oil to Use
There are several different oils you can use when making this to achieve that perfect brown outside crust. The most important factor to remember is that the oil has a high smoking point so that the chicken does not burn. In addition to the oil, an absolute necessity is rendered bacon. This not only preserves the original culture of fried chicken but it just adds so much complex flavor to the recipe that it really elevates it to the next level.
Here are some good oils to fry chicken in
- Canola Oil (this is what I used)
- Peanut Oil
- Vegetable Oil
The best temperature of the oil for frying chicken is 350°. If you have a lot of leftover rendered bacon fat and are not sure what to do with it, it freezes well or incorporates it into pie crusts for the most tender flakiest crusts ever like in my Homemade Chess Pie Recipe.
How to Deep Fry It
My guess is that most of you don’t own a deep fryer and that is totally ok because the most Southern way to fry chicken is pan-frying it in a cast-iron skillet. Cast iron holds heat well which will help your oil stay up to temperature.
- Add the oil and rendered bacon fat to the cast iron skillet until it reaches the halfway point. CHEF NOTE: You need to allow for the oil to expand and go up the pan as it gets hotter and chicken is added to it.
- Heat the oil until it reaches and holds 350°. You can check the oil using a high temperature or candy thermometer or if when you add a dusting of flour to the oil it pops and fries.
What to Serve it With
Here are some of my favorite recipes to serve with this recipe.
- Boiled Green Beans Recipe with Butter Glaze
- Creamy Polenta Recipe with Parmesan Cheese
- Chive Mashed Potatoes
- Roasted Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
- Vinegar Based Coleslaw
Recipe Chef Notes + Tips
How to Reheat: Add it to a rack over a sheet tray and cook in the oven at 375° for 12 to 15 minutes or until hot. You can also refry the chicken in oil to re brown and cook through. If frying does so at 325°. If you microwave it, the breading can become soggy.
How to Store: Store it, once cooled, into a plastic container with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. It does not freeze that well because once thawed the breading can become really soggy, however you can re-fry it straight from the freezer.
The best temperature of the oil for frying chicken is 350°.
More Southern Style Recipes
- Smoked Chicken BBQ Recipe
- Southern Ham, Green Beans, and Potato Stew
- Smoked Pork Shoulder
- Pork Chops with Apples
- Chess Pie
The Best Fried Chicken Recipe Ever
For the Brine:
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons sea salt
- ½ cup white distilled vinegar
- 1 cup of ice
- 6 finely grated cloves of garlic
- 1 quart buttermilk
- 1 whole roasting chicken cut up into parts
For the Breading:
- 3 cups Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- ½ tablespoon ground black pepper
- 5 cups canola oil for frying
- 1 cup rendered bacon fat for frying
- Brine: Add the water, salt, and vinegar to a small size pot and bring it to a boil until the salt has been completely dissolved.
- Immediately remove the brine from the burner and add in a heaping cup of ice cubes. Pour the mixture into a plastic bag along with the garlic and buttermilk and whisk to combine.
- Add the chicken parts to the plastic bag with the brine in it and submerge. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
- Breading: In a bowl or loaf pan mix together the flour, corn starch, paprika, salt, and pepper until combined. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl or loaf pan, drain the buttermilk brine from the chicken into the bowl or pan.
- Next, add a piece of drained brined chicken to the seasoned flour and coat. Pat off any excess flour and submerge into the brine coating it. Remove it again and add it back to the seasoned flour and dredge it completely coating it. Set on a sheet tray lined with parchment paper or a plate. Repeat the process until all the chicken is breaded.
- Add the oil and bacon fat to a large castiron skillet and heat to 350°.
- Cook the chicken in batches in the oil cooking it for 7-8 minutes per side until crispy golden brown and an internal temperature of 165°.
- Drain the chicken on a rack over a sheet tray to collect the dripping oil.
- Serve hot!