Crispy Fried Chicken Will Be An Instant Classic

March 20, 2024

Homemade crispy fried chicken, alongside a scoop of mom’s homemade potato salad, is the definition of pure delight to us. Sure, there are plenty of excellent restaurants a stone’s throw away that probably do a great job of making fried chicken, but it can’t really compare to doing it yourself.

Whether for a or , this fried chicken is bound to impress. We would know—everyone went crazy for the crispy chicken pieces in our Test Kitchen. They loved the hot pickled peppers on top of the flavorful chicken, which has an incredible tang from the buttermilk, pickle juice, and hot sauce it marinates in.

Learn how to make crispy fried chicken, and serve it on white bread with extra pickles or alongside and for the ultimate Southern meal.

Ingredients for Crispy Fried Chicken

This crispy fried chicken is breaded in a seasoned flour mixture after chilling in a flavorful buttermilk marinade. While most of the ingredients are pantry staples, there are a few special items to have on hand, including quite a bit of oil for frying.

  • Pickle juice: Using pickle juice in the buttermilk marinade infuses the chicken with briny, tangy flavor and is a great way to use up the leftover liquid when the pickles run out. Use the pickle juice as an opportunity to add or accentuate certain flavors by using the juice from garlic or spicy pickles. 
  • Hot sauce: You probably already add hot sauce to your fried chicken when serving, but adding it to the buttermilk before cooking the chicken allows its heat and flavor to permeate the chicken, not just sit on top. 
  • Seasonings: KFC has its secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, but we have our own mix of seasonings we add to fried chicken breading that we think tops the Colonel. We use paprika for a subtle smokiness, cayenne and black pepper for a little heat, and garlic and onion powder for savoriness. Our blend can serve as a starting place for you to come up with your unique combination of spices. 
  • Whole chicken: We call for you to cut a whole chicken into 8 pieces, but you can also just buy the pieces your family likes.
  • Buttermilk: We’re big fans of marinating or for several reasons: The buttermilk has a natural acidity that helps to tenderize the meat. It also imparts a bit of flavor, and it’s a good vessel for other ingredients like spices and herbs.
  • Oil: We recommend you fry in canola or vegetable oil for the best flavor and easiest heating experience. Some lower-temp oils may quickly develop off flavors.
  • All-purpose flour: The seasoned flour mixture clings to the buttermilk-soaked chicken, frying up wonderfully crisp.

How To Make Crispy Fried Chicken

Frying chicken at home may seem like a lot of work, but it’s easier than you think, and your effort is rewarded with hot, freshly fried chicken. Here’s a brief outline of this crispy fried chicken recipe; the full thing is further below.

  • Marinate the chicken: Combine chicken with buttermilk, pickle juice, hot sauce, and kosher salt in a large bowl, coating each piece completely. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for four to eight hours. You can soak longer, but more than 24 hours isn’t advised. The chicken may become stringy and tough after a long marinade.
  • Set up the frying station: Pull the chicken out of the fridge, and let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over high to 325°F. While the oil heats, place flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, seasoned salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and kosher salt in a large ziplock plastic bag. Seal bag, and shake to combine. 
  • Dredge the chicken: Place a few pieces of chicken in the bag, seal, and then shake until each piece is well coated. Transfer chicken to a wire rack set over a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken.
  • Time to fry: Working in batches of 2 to 3 pieces, fry the chicken in hot oil, turning occasionally and adjusting heat as needed to maintain oil temperature. Fry until golden brown and chicken registers 165°F internally, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Serve with hot pickled peppers and additional hot sauce. 

A Guide to Perfect Fried Chicken

Deep frying at home is no joke—you’re working with a lot of very hot oil. Here are a few things to know before you get started.  

1. Choose the right oil

Not all oils can be used for deep frying. Neutral oils, like vegetable, , or peanut, are the only kinds of oils you should be using for deep frying. That’s because they have higher smoke points than other oils, like olive oil. The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which the oil starts to break down and smoke (two things you don’t want while frying). Neutral oils also won’t impart flavor onto your chicken and are inexpensive, which is helpful when you need such a large volume for deep frying. 

2. Grab a thermometer 

Deep-fry or candy thermometers are important for frying at home. They clip to the side of your pot for hands-free and constant monitoring of the oil temperature. This is crucial, so you know when to adjust the heat. 

3. Don’t crowd the pan 

Nobody likes soggy fried chicken, so to ensure a crisp texture, don’t crowd the pan. Adding too much chicken at once rapidly drops the oil temperature, and at lower temperatures a good crust doesn’t form, and the chicken absorbs the oil, leaving it greasy and often soggy. Fry a few pieces at a time, and keep them warm in a low temperature oven while the rest cook. 

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