Southern Fried Chicken – One bite of this chicken’s crunchy, spicy outer layer followed by the tender, juicy meat inside, and you’ll understand why this is a true-blue Southern classic. Infused with spices for intense flavor and soaked in buttermilk tender juiciness, this is the perfect addition to your collection of chicken recipes!
Honestly, this is one of those recipes that is just plain irresistible. I never have leftovers, and everyone always goes back for seconds. Give this fried chicken a try, and you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. 😋
Besides being utterly tantalizing, this Southern-fried chick recipe is super affordable. Marinate simple chicken cuts in buttermilk, then coat them with seasoned flour, and voila! You’ve got a dish that tastes like a million bucks (but only costs a few dollars 🤑).
What’s the Secret?
What’s the Secret to Perfect Southern Fried Chicken?
I think there are a few secrets, personally. Here’s my take on a perfectly Southern fried chicken recipe:
- Don’t skip the buttermilk,
- Be generous with the seasonings and, most importantly,
- Use good frying techniques.
Don’t worry because I’ll cover all those points in more detail in this recipe so you can make fried chicken that will rival your grandma’s.
- Chicken – You can use any cut of chicken you like, but make it bone-in. I prefer buying one whole chicken and cutting it into 10 pieces for this recipe. It doesn’t take long to cut up the chicken, and it’s cheaper too! 🙌
- Coating – Flour is the base of the crunchy outer coating for our fried chicken. Regular ol’ all-purpose flour is perfect for this recipe. Cornstarch and baking powder increase the crispiness. Yum!
- Seasonings – To get a flavorful outer crust, you’ll need paprika, S&P, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, white pepper, and some dried herbs. Go all out with the spices because it really makes a difference.
- Buttermilk – This is one of the secrets to getting that lusciously juicy chicken meat inside that crispy shell. Store-bought or homemade buttermilk works, but don’t leave out this vital ingredient.
How to Make Southern Fried Chicken
Prepare the Chicken
- Season – Start by placing the chicken in a large bowl. Then, season it with salt, followed by crushed garlic, hot sauce, and Creole seasoning. (Photos 1-2)
- Marinate – Pour the buttermilk over the seasoned chicken and then transfer the chicken in its seasoned marinade to a gallon-sized zipper-lock freezer bag. Refrigerate it for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. (Photos 3-5)
- Make the Coating – Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, herbs, and white pepper in a large bowl. (Photo 6)
- Dredge – Remove the marinated chicken from the buttermilk. Then, dredge each piece in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess flour. You can use a ziplock bag for this process. (Photo 7)
- Double-dip the chicken in the remaining buttermilk, adding fresh buttermilk as needed, and dredge it again in the spiced flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes while heating the oil. That helps the coating to stay on better. (Photo 8-10)
Fry the Chicken
- Heat Oil in a deep fryer or a cast iron skillet to 375℉/190℃. Remember that the temperature will drop once you add chicken.
- Add Chicken – Use tongs to place the chicken carefully and slowly in the hot oil. Work in batches, and don’t overcrowd your skillet.
- Fry the chicken until it’s golden brown, turning once every 10-20 minutes – depending on the size of the pieces. The chicken is done when it’s no longer pink inside and the juices run clear when pierced. You can do a test by stabbing it with a fork.
- Drain the chicken on paper towels and then transfer them to a wire rack.
- Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let them cool for at least 10 minutes before serving your mouthwatering Southern fried chicken.
- Swap out your all-purpose flour with gluten-free flour if you want to make a gluten-free version of this recipe. I haven’t tried it, so you may want to experiment with different flours until you get that classic, flavorsome crunch.
- Use chicken breast tenderloins instead of a whole chicken to make fried chicken tenders instead of regular bone-in chicken. The kids love these. 👧
Tips and Tricks
- When frying, ensure your oil is at the right preheated temperature. If it’s too hot, the outside of your chicken will burn before the inside is cooked. And if it’s too cold, the chicken skin will get soggy and greasy.
- Don’t use extra virgin olive oil to fry chicken because it has a low smoke temperature and will result in bitter-tasting chicken. Neutral-tasting oils with a high smoke point, like canola, vegetable, or, preferably, peanut oil, are a much better choice.
- Don’t let anything fried sit on a paper towel too long, as it’ll start to steam and make it soggy. Instead, drain your chicken using a wire rack over a baking sheet. That way, they’ll cool crisp and won’t taste greasy. 👌
As with most fried foods, this recipe is best served fresh out of the frying pan. I don’t personally recommend making it ahead of time. If you do, though, follow my reheating instructions below to get the crispiness back when you serve it.
Serving and Storage Instructions
Serve Southern fried chicken as soon as it’s had a chance to cool. Be sure to pair it with plenty of Southern sides.
Store leftover fried chicken in airtight containers in the fridge for 3-5 days. To reheat your fried chicken, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature while preheating your oven to 400℉/205℃. Then place the chicken on a wire rack over a baking sheet and bake it for 15-20 minutes until it’s heated through. That’s the best way to get your crunch back.
The biggest culprit for soggy fried chicken is oil that wasn’t hot enough. Always check your oil temperature before starting to fry. It needs to stay around 350℉/177℃ at all times. That means not overcrowding your pan too. Putting too many chicken pieces in at once will cause the oil temperature to drop, and your chicken may become soggy. 😫
Because it is slightly acidic, buttermilk tenderizes the chicken, which keeps the meat from getting tough when you fry it. Buttermilk FTW! 🙌
As I mentioned, the juices should run clear when the chicken is pierced. But a more exact way to know when your chicken is thoroughly fried is with a meat thermometer. The internal temperature should be 165℉/75℃ when it’s cooked through.
What Goes With Southern Fried Chicken
Make sure you have some Southern drinks and desserts on hand, too. Sweet iced tea is a must. Finish off your meal with a healthy portion of apple cobbler or sweet potato pie, and don’t forget to scoop a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top. 🤤
More Classic Southern Recipes to Try
- Southern Meatloaf
- Southern Black-Eyed Peas
- Southern Fried Cabbage
- Southern Baked Beans With Bacon
- Southern Pinto Beans
So get to fryin’! And don’t be intimidated coz you are now equipped with everything you need to make the perfect Southern fried chicken. Already a fried chicken champ? Drop your best tips in the comment section below! I’m all ears. 👂
Watch How to Make It
This blog post was originally published in September 2017 and has been updated with additional tips, new photos, and a video.
Southern Fried Chicken
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoon onion powder
- 1-1½ tablespoon dried herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley, etc.)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt, adjust to taste
Prepping the Chicken and Coating
- Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl. Then season it with salt, crushed garlic, hot sauce, and Creole seasoning.
- Pour some of the buttermilk over the marinated chicken, transfer the chicken to a gallon-sized zipper-lock freezer bag, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight).
- Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, herbs, cayenne pepper, white pepper, and salt in a large bowl.
- Remove the marinated chicken from the buttermilk. Then dredge it in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess flour. You could use a Ziploc bag for this process, too.
- Double dip the chicken in the remaining buttermilk (add fresh buttermilk as needed), followed by the flour mixture – shake off any excess flour. Let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes while preparing the oil. That will help the coating to stay on better.
Frying the Chicken
- Heat oil in a deep fryer or cast iron skillet to 375℉/190℃. The temperature will drop once you add chicken.
- Slowly and carefully place the chicken in the hot oil using a tong. Work in batches, and don't overcrowd the skillet.
- Fry the chicken until golden brown, turning once every 10-15 minutes – depending on the size of the pieces. Chicken is done when it is no longer pink inside and its juices run clear, or your instant-read thermometer reads 165℉/75℃. You may do a test by piercing the chicken with a fork.
- Drain the chicken on paper towels and then transfer them to a wire rack.
- Repeat with remaining chicken pieces. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Tips & Notes:
- After you coat the chicken with the flour mixture and dip your chicken in buttermilk, let it rest first before frying it. That will allow your chicken to form a crust and warm to room temperature, which will help it cook evenly.
- When frying, ensure your oil is at the right preheated temperature. If it’s too hot, the outside of your chicken will get burned; if it’s cold, the chicken will get soggy and greasy.
- Don’t ever use extra virgin olive oil on fried chicken because it’ll result in bitter-tasting meat. Go for a neutral-tasting oil like canola, vegetable, or, preferably, peanut oil.
- Don’t overcrowd your pan with chicken because it will lower the oil’s temperature and slow the cooking time (soggy chicken isn’t good). Do it in small batches instead.
- A cast-iron pan is a must for a perfectly cooked fried chicken because it holds the temperature better and heats evenly, resulting in perfectly cooked chicken.
- Rather than deep frying or submerging your chicken entirely into the pan or deep fryer, only ¾ of the chicken should be covered in hot oil. The weight of the chicken will cause it to sit just almost above the oil’s surface, creating a crispy crust without burning.
- Don’t let anything fried sit on a paper towel too long because it’ll start to steam. Then your chicken might get soggy and stick to the paper towel. Instead, drain your chicken using a wire rack over a baking sheet, and they’ll cool crispy and dry all at once easily.
- Please remember that the nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used in the recipe.