How to Make Classic Southern Fried Chicken
Perfect fried chicken has to live up to some pretty high expectations. You want it to be shatteringly crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, and with a flavor that creates sensory memories for a lifetime. Is that too much to ask for? Not any more. Nicole McLaughlin, aka NicoleMcmom, is here to share her own recipe for Southern-style fried chicken that starts with a buttermilk bath and ends with the perfect bite (and the perfect sip to go with). Watch the video up top and scroll down to get Nicole's own recipe and all her step-by-step tips so you can make perfect fried chicken at home. Bye bye, bucket!
Get Nicole's recipe for Classic Southern Fried Chicken.
- 4 pounds bone-in chicken drumsticks and thighs, with skin
- 4 cups buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce (such as Crystal ®)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 3 teaspoons ground black pepper, divided
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 quart vegetable oil for frying, or as needed
- Combine chicken, buttermilk, hot sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper in a large, non-reactive bowl. Stir until chicken is well coated. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Combine flour, 2 teaspoons salt, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, remaining 1 teaspoon pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl; whisk until well combined.
- Remove chicken from the refrigerator. Working with one piece at a time, remove from the marinade and allow excess to drip off. Coat evenly in the flour mixture, and set on a wire rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet.
- Pour oil into a large Dutch oven to a depth of 1 inch. Heat over medium-high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Add a few chicken pieces to the hot oil and cook, turning once or twice, until golden brown on the outside, no longer pink at the bone, and the juices run clear, 10 to 15 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted near the bone should read 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). Maintain the oil temperature around 320 degrees F (160 degrees C) during cooking. Remove chicken to a clean wire rack set over a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Return oil to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and repeat to fry remaining chicken.
- Serve immediately.
Nicole's Top Tips
- Nicole likes to use chicken drumsticks and thighs for this recipe because small to medium pieces cook more evenly and dark meat is less likely to dry out when you cook it. If you'd like to use chicken breasts instead, cut them in half first.
- Don't skip the buttermilk bath or try to shortcut it. The acid in buttermilk helps tenderize the chicken, so let it soak for several hours or overnight.
- After the chicken marinates, let it sit at room temperature for about an hour so the inside of the chicken isn't super cold when you fry it. This helps the inside cook more evenly.
- Instead of dipping the chicken in the seasoned flour mixture one piece at a time, you can shake it all together in a large paper bag or zip-top bag. Be sure to let the excess buttermilk marinade drip off first before you add it to the bag.
- Set the chicken pieces on a rack and let them rest for about 20 minutes while you heat the oil.
- Nicole likes to fry chicken in her Dutch oven because it holds the heat as well as a cast iron skillet and its high sides keep the oil from splattering her kitchen.
- Temperature control is essential to perfect fried chicken. Clip a candy thermometer to your pot with the tip immersed in the oil so you can keep an eye on the temperature fluctuations throughout the frying process.
- Turn your oven on to about 200 degrees F (95 degrees C) so you can set the fried pieces on a rack in the oven to keep warm while you fry the next batch.
And finally, what's the perfect sip to go with the perfect bite of crispy, juicy fried chicken? Nicole says it's a cold glass of bubbly. And we're not arguing.
More tips, tricks, and ideas from Nicole: