A flavorful crispy breading on the outside with a tender and moist center is what Southern Fried Chicken is all about. It’s the sort of finger-licking-good comfort food that appeals to everyone. Serve it with your favorite homestyle sides and wash it all down with a glass of sweet tea for a taste of the South in your mouth.
To Season Or Not To Season
Typically, the way fried chicken is seasoned in the South, depends solely on how you grew-up eating it. Some cooks add herbs to the flour, some marinate chicken pieces in hot sauce, some add more seasonings, in addition to table salt and black pepper for the breading. Some cook’s season the dredge and not the chicken. Some, like myself, season every single layer starting with the chicken, the egg wash and the flour. Now, I’m not one to say any of those ways are wrong, and feel you should have some liberty to make it your way with the flavor palate that you enjoy. My rule of thumb is, if you enjoy the flavor then, it’s a win. Not being a fan of bland fried chicken, I definitely go for seasoning every layer.
Tips For Frying Chicken
Some things to keep in mind when frying chicken:
- Shallow frying in cast iron allows you to fry each side of the chicken pieces evenly. It also maintains the oil temperature more effectively.
- Season each layer beginning with the chicken, the egg wash and the flour coating for the best flavor.
- It’s best to use a neutral tasting oil with a high smoke point such as peanut, canola or vegetable oil. Skip the olive oil for this one.
- Never overcrowd the pan. Fry chicken pieces in batches removing to a rimmed sheet pan fitted with an oven safe rack. Skip the paper towels. Preheat the oven to 200°F and place the pan into the oven to keep chicken warm between batches.
- Don’t guess the oil temperature, use a thermometer. Start each batch at 350°F knowing that the temp will drop to around 325°F when frying. Adjust heat as needed to maintain the oil temperature between 325°F-350°F.
- Adjust cooking time depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Generally, dark meat takes longer to cook but, also consider the size of large breast pieces and adjust accordingly.
- If you’re concerned that the outside of the chicken is cooking too quickly and over-browning, chicken may be placed into a 350°F oven for a few minutes to finish cooking.
Who Can Learn To Fry Chicken?
Most importantly, be assured that anyone can learn the best technique for making fried chicken. Just keep in mind that it takes practice. When cooking, there are always variables so, practice makes perfect. There are so many side dishes that go well with fried chicken such as mashed potatoes, green beans, cole slaw, homestyle deviled eggs and buttermilk biscuits. In the summer, a tasty side dish would be slices of fresh tomato and cucumbers from the garden. It’s good for the soul kind of food.
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Helpful Kitchen Items:
Southern Fried Chicken
- 1 whole fryer chicken cut into 8 pieces
- 3 1/2 tsp seasoned salt divided
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper divided
- 3 cups buttermilk divided
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- Oil for frying preferably peanut or vegetable oil
- Season chicken pieces on all sides with 1 tsp seasoned salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper. Place into an oblong baking dish and cover with 2 1/2 cups buttermilk. Turn to coat. Chill overnight, turning once.
- 30 minutes before frying: Remove chicken from buttermilk, discard marinade. On a plate sift together the flour, cornstarch, 2 tsp seasoned salt, 1 tsp black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika.
- In a large shallow bowl whisk together the eggs, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 cup buttermilk and hot sauce.
- Dredge chicken pieces in flour, into egg wash then into flour again. Arrange on a baking sheet. Let stand for 30 minutes to bring to room temperature and set breading.
- To fry: Preheat the oven to 200°F. Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with an oven safe baking rack. Set aside.
- Fill a 12-inch cast iron skillet between 1/3 full with oil. Heat to 350°F. Carefully lower chicken pieces in oil. Fry dark meat and white meat separately.
- Maintain oil temperature around 350°F. Fry chicken in batches cooking dark meat pieces and white meat separately. Cook for 10-15 minutes per side or until juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Turn carefully using tongs to avoid splatters.
- Place fried pieces on rack and keep warm in oven between batches.
- Rest for 10 minutes before serving.