How to Make Crispy Fried Chicken
There are as many “secret recipes” for fried chicken as there are cooks doing the frying. Some swear by soaking the chicken in buttermilk. Others create a brine for fried chicken or give it a dunk in beer batter, and a light coating of seasoned flour — or a roll in crushed saltines.
The best way to discover your favorite method of homemade fried chicken is to experiment with different seasonings and techniques until you hit on your perfect preparation.
This is how to get breading to stay on chicken.
- Set up a “dredging station” to minimize mess and make cleanup easy. Put your ingredients and mixtures into large shallow bowls or baking dishes. Then work in one direction (left to right, for example), moving from seasoned flour to egg batter over to bread crumbs/panko/coating mixture. This dry-wet-dry method helps the ingredients stick to the chicken pieces.
- Have one “wet hand” and one “dry hand” — and use your “wet” hand to transfer chicken from the wet mixture to the coating bowl.
- Place the coated chicken on the parchment- or wax paper-lined baking sheet.
- Before easing the coated chicken pieces into hot fat, allow them to rest, which will give the coating a chance to adhere. Do this step in the refrigerator if you won’t be frying the chicken within half an hour. (Allow the cold chicken to come to room temperature before frying or the oil temperature will drop and the chicken will cook unevenly and the coating won’t get crispy.)
- Beer Batter
- Chicken Crumb Coating
- Baked BBQ Fried Chicken
Frying the Chicken:
The two main keys to making perfect homemade fried chicken are the temperature of the oil (keep it hot) and the actual step of frying.
- To get truly golden-brown and crispy chicken, use a cast iron skillet. You can’t beat a heavy cast iron pan for even heat distribution and reliable frying. A heavy-bottomed Dutch oven also works great.
- Choose oils with a high smoke point: vegetable shortening, lard, and peanut oil are all good choices.
- The fat should be about one inch deep in the skillet, coming about halfway up the food.
- Get the fat good and hot before adding the chicken. The fried chicken oil temperature should be about 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Using tongs, carefully lower chicken pieces into the oil skin-side down. Start with the edge of the piece close to you, and lay it in the oil, working away from yourself to avoid spatters.
- Fry in batches. Don’t overcrowd. Overcrowding the pan will lower the temperature of the oil, causing more oil to be absorbed and result in soggy, greasy chicken.
- When the chicken pieces are a deep golden brown, remove them to a wire cooling rack (not paper towels) set over a baking sheet to catch any drips. Take the temp of your fried chicken: Insert an instant-read thermometer into the chicken to make sure it is fully cooked before moving on to the next batch. The USDA recommends cooking chicken to a minimum of 165 degrees F.
- Salt your fried chicken while it’s still hot and, if you’re frying in batches, keep the finished pieces warm in the oven at 200 degrees F.
For more, see our complete how-to instructions on deep frying.
- Crispy Fried Chicken
How to Reheat Fried Chicken
What’s the best way to reheat fried chicken? The hard part, of course, is re-crisping the coating. So the microwave is out. Instead, Cook’s Illustrated recommends first bringing the chicken to room temperature, and then heating it in a 400 degree oven until the internal temp is 120 degrees F. Fried chicken thighs will be ready in about 10 minutes; fried chicken breasts will be ready to eat in about 15 minutes. In a pinch, you can skip the bringing-to-room-temp part. That step helps the chicken reheat more evenly, but it’s not crucial.
Fried Chicken without the Frying: If you love fried chicken but don’t want all the fat, consider oven-fried chicken. It’s crispy, it’s crunchy, but uses just a fraction of the fat needed for other preparations. See our Oven Fried-Chicken Recipes.