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.
Easy Southern Fried Chicken Recipe
How do you make fried chicken? 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 a variety of seasonings, in addition to table salt and black pepper for the breading. Some cook's season the dredge and not the chicken. Some cook's like myself, season every single layer starting with the chicken, the egg wash and the flour. I'm not one to say any of those ways are wrong, and feel that you should have some liberty to make it your way with the flavors highlighted that you enjoy. My rule of thumb is, if you like the flavor then it's a win. Not being a fan of bland fried chicken, I highly recommend seasoning every layer.
How to Make the BEST Southern Fried Chicken Recipe
Making tender and juicy fried chicken takes practice. There are variables and I wanted to mention a few pointers for you to keep in mind when making this fried chicken recipe:
- Ingredients you'll need to make homemade Southern Fried Chicken recipe: One whole chicken divided into 8 pieces, buttermilk, all purpose flour, cornstarch, seasoned salt and black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, large eggs, hot sauce and peanut or vegetable oil for frying.
- I prefer shallow drying this chicken in a cast iron skillet. Shallow frying in cast iron allows you to fry each side of the chicken pieces evenly. It also maintains the oil temperature more effectively.
- To make the best fried chicken, it's best to season each layer. Begin with the chicken, the egg wash and the breading 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 for making fried chicken. Skip the olive oil for this one.
- Never overcrowd the pan. It's best to fry the breaded chicken pieces in batches removing them 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 with the oil heated to 350°F knowing that the temp will drop to around 325°F as you add the pieces to fry. 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. It's also important to 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 can be placed into a 350°F oven for a few minutes to finish cooking.
- Store leftover fried chicken chilled in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- See how to make crispy and delicious Air Fryer Southern Fried Chicken here.
Southern Style Side Dish Recipes to Serve with Fried Chicken
Don't stop at the best ever fried chicken. Take a moment to plan the entire menu with the best Southern side dish recipes to round out the meal. In the summer months when garden vegetables are in abundance, sliced fresh tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden will do. It's good for the soul kind of food. Checkout these recipe for side dishes you may like to try:
- Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Mashed Potatoes are a natural fit.
- Homestyle Green Beans and Potatoes are especially delicious during garden season.
- Whip-up a batch of Homestyle Cole Slaw Dressing and toss it with freshly grated cabbage and carrots for crunch and texture.
- Homestyle Bacon Dill Deviled Eggs can be served as an appetizer or a side dish.
- Fluffy Southern Buttermilk Biscuits slathered with butter.
- Turnip Greens recipe from Southern Living.
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Helpful Kitchen Items:
Southern Fried Chicken
- 1 whole fryer chicken cut into 8 pieces
- 3 ½ teaspoon seasoned salt divided
- 2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper divided
- 3 cups buttermilk divided
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 6-8 cups vegetable or peanut oil for frying
- Season chicken pieces on all sides with 1 teaspoon seasoned salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Place into an oblong baking dish and cover with 2 ½ 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 teaspoon seasoned salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika.
- In a large shallow bowl whisk together the eggs, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ½ 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 about ⅓ 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.
When you say ‘and set breading’ what do you mean?
It means that allowing the chicken to sit before frying allows the breading to adhere to the chicken better.
Any suggestions for making this for 24 people . I will be prepping and making it in my home and then bringing to their facility, my thoughts are to have oven at facility at 200 degrees to keep warm, just note sure if it will dry out the chicken. Any thoughts? Also, do you use the hot sauce for dipping chicken in after cooking? Or is that to be added?
A 200°F oven will keep the chicken warm and shouldn't dry it out unless you plan on keeping it there for an extended period. The hot sauce is added to the egg wash per the recipe.
Loved this recipe!! I have tried several different fried chicken recipes and this one, hands down, was the best one I have ever made. My entire family ate it down to the bone! Thank you for posting Melissa!!
I'm so happy you loved it, thanks!
Best fried chicken recipe EVER! It takes a little bit of time but it so worth it. I had never fried chicken in my life until I made this now my husband asks me for it every week. Thanks, Melissa! (I think lol)
I am writing to you from India.
Please let me know recipe for hot sauce or any key ingredients to check availability in india.
Hi Tanvi, any hot sauce that you enjoy could be used in this recipe.
Melissa, I took Tanvi to mean could you tell her some ingredients for hot sauce. Thanks. Love the vfried chicken.
I don't have a hot sauce recipe, however there are sure to be many online for anyone who needs to make their own.
Can you use regular milk and what can you substitute for the cornstarch
Regular milk isn't what you want for this recipe. You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or white distilled vinegar to each cup of whole milk. Let stand for 5 minutes, then proceed with the recipe. I highly recommend you follow the recipe for the breading, but you can use all flour, if you must.