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 fried chicken at home with these tips from a professional chef.

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Cornish hens soaking in a buttermilk brine.
Aimee M Lee/Shutterstock

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. Try making buttermilk chicken tenders in your kitchen.

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Cooking in boiling oil deep fryer

Use the Right Oil

When choosing the best oil for frying, 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.

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Raw chicken fillet in flour;
Milka Re/Shutterstock

Double Dredge

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, dip it into an egg wash and place it back into the flour. Then, repeat the process, dipping it into the egg before finishing in the flour once again. Your fingers will get extra clumpy, but it’s worth it!

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Steer fast food fried chicken and pandan for rancid smell oil.

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. Keep it in a 250°F oven! Placing the fried chicken on an ovenproof cooling rack set inside a quality baking sheet is the best way to keep the coating from getting soggy.

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Potluck fried chicken
Taste of Home

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. Looking for side dishes? Check out our collection of delicious fried chicken sides.

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Thermometer in a pot of oil

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°. 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.

Learn more about deep frying at home with confidence.

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Fried chicken in hot oil and boiling in pan

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.

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You Don’t Need a Deep Fryer

Tabletop fryers seem great, but they’re super hard to clean. Use a Dutch oven instead! A cast iron Dutch oven retains heat well, making it the perfect vessel for deep frying.

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Raw chicken meat on wooden board.

Break Down the Chicken Yourself

You can save a ton of money by cutting up a whole chicken. Not only that, but you’ll get a nice assortment of white and dark meat on your fried chicken platter.

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close up focus woman hand hold fried chicken for eat

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.

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay has been writing for digital publications for seven years and has 10 years of experience working as a professional chef. She became a full-time food writer at Taste of Home in 2023, although she’s been a regular contributor since 2017. Throughout her career, Lindsay has been a freelance writer and recipe developer for multiple publications, including Wide Open Media, Tasting Table, Mashed and SkinnyMs. Lindsay is an accomplished product tester and spent six years as a freelance product tester at Reviewed (part of the USA Today network). She has tested everything from cooking gadgets to knives, cookware sets, meat thermometers, pizza ovens and more than 60 grills (including charcoal, gas, kamado, smoker and pellet grills). Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, especially when she can highlight local, seasonal ingredients. As a writer, Lindsay loves sharing her skills and experience with home cooks. She aspires to motivate others to gain confidence in the kitchen. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking with fresh produce from the farmers market or planning a trip to discover the best new restaurants.