10 Secrets to Making the Best Southern Fried Chicken—Straight From a Chef
If you've ever had a piece of crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside Southern fried chicken, you know how heavenly it can be! Learn how to master making a fried chicken recipe at home with these tips from a professional chef.
Soak it in buttermilk
Marinating your chicken in buttermilk the day before you fry it is an essential part of deliciously juicy fried chicken. The buttermilk’s acids and enzymes break down the proteins in the chicken, making it extra tender.
Check out this Real Southern Fried Chicken recipe to see how much buttermilk you’ll need.
Use the right oil
When choosing the right fryer oil, consider something called the smoke point: the temperature at which the oil begins to break down and smoke, making the foods cooked in it taste off. Lard is my favorite cooking oil for infusing the chicken with extra flavor, but you could also use neutral-tasting canola oil or peanut oil.
The best way to ensure the breading will stay on the chicken is to double down on the flour. This creates a super thick, extra crispy coating on your chicken. After dredging the chicken in seasoned flour like this, dip it into an egg wash and place it back into the flour. Then, repeat the process, dipping it into the eggs before finishing in the flour once again. Your fingers will get extra clumpy, but it’s worth it!
Keep it crispy
After you’ve finished frying the first batch of chicken, don’t let it get cold and soggy sitting on a pile of paper towels. Hold it hot in a 250° F oven! Placing the chicken on an oven-proof cooling rack set inside a quality baking sheet is the best way to keep the chicken from getting soggy.
Don’t get fancy with the breading
I’ve seen all kinds of fried chicken tips over the years that recommend bread crumbs, beer batter and even cornflakes as the coating. In my experience, plain old flour works best. It not only adheres well to the chicken, but it fries up golden brown and crispy every time.
Fry it hot
If the fryer oil is too cold, the breading will get oil-logged and soggy—how sad! Get your chicken crispy by frying at temperatures around 375° F. Keep in mind that the temperature will go down when you drop in the chicken, so make sure to turn the heat up a bit to compensate.
Don’t crowd the pan
One of the most common frying mistakes is overcrowding the pan. When you add too many pieces at once, the temperature drops and you’ll end up with soggy breading. It stinks to have to fry multiple batches of chicken, but you have to if you want chicken that’s crispy and crunchy.
Cut up your own chicken
You can save a ton of money by breaking the chicken down yourself. Not only that, but you’ll get a nice assortment of white and dark meat on your fried chicken platter. It’s easy; we’ll show you how.
Don’t rush it
All good things take time, including fried chicken. Take the time to brine the chicken overnight, then be patient as the chicken fries in the hot oil. Don’t be tempted to crank up the heat—that’s a great way to burn the coating without cooking the chicken all the way through.
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