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Fried chicken can be so easy to buy these days, but it doesn’t hold a candle to honest to goodness, mouthwatering, homemade fried chicken. If you’ve never made it yourself, then it might be time to scratch it off your bucket list and get frying. This classic recipe is the real deal with a golden, crunchy buttermilk batter that tastes great hot or cold.
The ultimate summer picnic food, fried chicken is beloved by all who eat it. This recipe is for two chickens, because you want there to be leftovers, you really, really do. Make one for the party and save the second for a midnight snack after the kids are in bed.
How do you cut up a chicken?
You can get a butcher to cut your chicken up into 8-10 pieces, but if you want to tackle the job yourself, here’s the steps to butchering your own bird:
- Extend a leg from the body and slice through the skin to expose the leg’s interior.
- With force, bend the leg back from the body until the ball joint pops free from the socket.
- Cut the leg from the body, through the joint, as close as possible to the backbone. Repeat with the other leg.
- In order to separate the drumstick and thigh, look for the line of fat between them—it marks the location of the joint you need to cut through.
- In order to cut away the breast meat, with poultry shears, cut through the ribs and collarbone on both sides to remove the back and neck in one piece (discard this or save this for stock).
- Turn over the breast, skin side down and begin to split the breast from the neck end just until the knife hits the breast bone, then score down the length of the bone.
- With your thumbs on either side of the bone, bend the breast backward until the top of the bone pokes out. With your fingers, loosen and pull the bone free. Finish up by splitting the breast in half by cutting where the bone was.
- Trim off the first wing joint and then cut the remaining wing from the breast with some of the breast meat attached.
- If you prefer smaller breast pieces, cut the remaining breast in half to get two breast pieces of relatively equal size. Repeat with the other side of the breast.
Should you marinate chicken in buttermilk?
A lot of folks swear by using buttermilk to soak the chicken in overnight, which can tenderize the meat with its acidity. If you’d like to try it, here’s how to marinate chicken in buttermilk:
- Arrange chicken pieces in a glass baking dish, then pour 4 cups of buttermilk over the chicken and cover with plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for 1-24 hours. Drain the chicken, then proceed with the recipe as written.
- If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, substitute plain yogurt or milk, to which a small amount of lemon juice or vinegar has been added (1 teaspoon per 1 cup milk).
Do you have to brine Fried Chicken?
Brining has become really popular, and if you’d like to brine your chicken before frying, here’s what to do to brine chicken before frying:
- For two chickens, pour 4 cups cold water into a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and add ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup salt, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon coriander seeds.
- Allow to cool completely.
- Arrange chicken pieces in a glass baking dish, then pour over the chicken and cover with plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
- Drain the chicken and remove spices, then proceed with the recipe as written.
What oil works best for Fried Chicken?
I recommend using a neutral oil with a higher smoke point, such as vegetable oil or canola oil.
How much oil do you need to make Fried Chicken?
Plan on using enough to fill a large skillet about ⅓ to ½ full with oil.
How do you keep the breading on Fried Chicken?
At first, try to press the batter firmly onto the pieces of the chicken. When cooking, it’s also important not to reduce the heat when frying, and allow the oil to come back up to proper temperature between batches. When the oil gets too cool, the breading can fall off the chicken. And no one wants that!
What’s the best pan for making Fried Chicken?
If you don’t have an electric deep fryer, I recommend a dutch oven, electric fry skillet, a heavy cast iron pan with high edges, or a large, deep saucepan.
How do you keep the Fried Chicken warm after you’ve fried it?
If your goal is hot fried chicken, try putting the cooked chicken immediately in a 275 degree oven on a rack over a cookie sheet uncovered. That allows the grease to drip off while keeping the chicken warm and moist.
Is there a way to make ‘less messy’ Fried Chicken?
A couple tricks for less mess and easier cleanup:
Make your flour mixture in a zip top plastic bag, and use the bag to coat your chicken pieces. Then dip them in the buttermilk and put them back in the bag; this might make things a little easier.
Also, you could line your stovetop with aluminum foil for less spatter and easy cleanup when the frying is done.
- Oil for frying
- 2 whole chickens
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 cups buttermilk
- In a deep fryer or electric skillet, or in a large saucepan with a clip-on thermometer, heat oil to 325 degrees.
- Cut chickens apart into 4 breasts, 4 thighs, 4 legs and 4 wings. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 5 tablespoons salt, 4 tablespoons black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper until blended.
- In a second large bowl, add buttermilk. Place next to bowl with flour mixture.
- Starting with the chicken breasts, lightly dust with flour mixture. Dip in buttermilk, shake lightly to remove excess, and return to flour mixture.
- Firmly and thoroughly press and pinch flour mixture on to chicken (the chicken must be well-coated for the best possible crunch). Place in hot oil.
- Repeat with remaining chicken pieces and place in hot oil in this order: thighs, legs, wings. There should be 16 pieces of chicken in hot oil.
- Set a timer for 15 minutes. When the timer expires, use an internal thermometer to check the temperature of the breast (it should be 165 degrees or higher).
- Remove chicken from oil and drain on paper towels. Cool 10 minutes before serving.
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.
Thanks for the clarification. I’m going to make this on Sunday for an early dinner. My kids are a tad bit excited!
Is the salt content correct? We love fried chicken…. my kids LOVE it!
is the only salt in the coating? I wonder if I could use quite a bit less?
sorry, didn’t mean to post this twice…. I didn’t see my first one when I looked.
No worries, I’m behind on answering comments so sorry about that! I left a reply to your original question and deleted the duplicate. If you don’t see it let me know! Thanks Juli!
Hi Juli, not exactly, but it’s still pretty bad. The entire label was messed up in general. It was pulling in 2 cups of chicken gravy instead of the chicken pieces, and frozen buttermilk waffles instead of buttermilk. I’m SO SORRY. The label as it is now is correct and reflects 5 tablespoons of salt in the flour mixture. Here’s a breakdown of how the sodium changes if you reduce the amount in the recipe:
5 tbsp (original recipe): 4659.7mg – 194%
4 tbsp: 3787.7mg – 158%
3 tbsp: 2915.6mg – 121%
2 tbsp: 2043.6mg – 85%
1 tbsp: 1171.5mg – 49%
0 tbsp: 2995.mg – 12%
I hope this is helpful! Sorry for the delay in my reply. If you need anything else, just let me know. Thanks Juli!