Craving crispy, juicy Southern-fried chicken? Everyone has a homegrown recipe for fried chicken. If yours doesn't seem as crunchy and delicious as your Grandma's did, or you really want to impress your friends and family with the juiciest fried bird ever, learn some inside tips and tricks that will wow a crowd and tease your taste buds.
Start with Perfect Pieces
Don't feel like you need to learn how to cut up a whole chicken yourself to make the best-ever fried chicken. You can ask the butcher to prep it for you. While you’re at it, get him to slice off the tips of the wings that nobody eats anyway. Or, you can simply purchase a pack of chicken pieces,, such as drumsticks or thighs and legs. If you do buy a whole fryer, go for a two- to three-pound bird. A chicken that's too big will not fry up as evenly.
For succulent and moist chicken, put the pieces in a glass bowl and cover with buttermilk. Wrap the dish with plastic wrap and pop it into the fridge for eight to 24 hours. The enzymes and acids in the milk tenderize the meat.
When you are ready to fry, separate white and dark meat pieces. White meat cooks more quickly, so frying like pieces ensures a more uniform result.
Throw together your coating ingredients and give them a test run to see if the mix needs adjusting. Dip a fresh veggie into the mixture and toss it into the hot oil. Fry it up, cool it off and have a taste. Missing something? Doctor the mix and try again. When it tastes just right, you’re good to go.
Refrigerate the chicken pieces after coating them. The flour-crumb-spice mixture will stick to the bird parts better, even when frying.
Make sure you have the right equipment on hand. Have a sturdy cast iron skillet? Perfect. If not, stick with a large, heavy pot or the thickest frying pan you have.
Other gear you will need includes a thermometer to check the temps of the oil and the chicken, a pair of sturdy tongs and a wire rack. Set the rack over a cookie sheet piled with paper towels. This way the grease will drain away from the chicken, whereas setting directly on paper towels keeps it greasy.
Secret Ingredients and Tips
- For a special treat, skip the vegetable oil and heat up some old-school shortening instead. The high smoke point ensures that the grease will get hot enough to fry the meat to crispy deliciousness.
- Add a few dashes of Tabasco to the buttermilk before soaking to give your chicken a savory kick of flavor.
- Toss a handful (or two) of seasoned breadcrumbs, cornmeal, crushed crackers or even cereal crumbs into the breading mixture for extra crunch and flavor.
The real key to making the best fried chicken ever is using flavors you adore. Try a variety of spice and seasoning combos to learn what you love.
Want specific recipes for inspiration? Check out our fried chicken recipes
Do you have a special ingredient or family secret that makes your fried chicken to die for? Share your tips in the Comments section.