fried chicken

Did you miss me? We here at the smittenkitchen are terribly sorry about this week’s downtime; I’ll do better to warn you (oh, and myself) next time. However, it was all in the name of, in Martha Stewart parlance, a “very good thing” which is a long-overdue migration from a hosting system whose customer service was nonexistent and whose servers we’d apparently long outgrown to a new, shiny and already more helpful one. There are still a few kinks being worked out, and there are still people (probably about one-third of you) for whom this site is not fully back up, but by the end of the weekend this will hopefully just be a blip on the radar screen of the complicated world of DNS propagation.

But you know what is especially unfair? It has been six whole days since this Yankee, this Jewish New Yorker without a single prior deep-frying experience under her belt, made her very first batch of fried chicken and she hasn’t gotten to tell you about it yet. But, oh, it was awesome.

fried chicken, round twofried chicken, round three

Well, it was eventually awesome, if you must know. The first piece turned instantly black and filled our 660-square foot apartment with a thick plume of smoke, just as our first guest were arriving on Sunday afternoon to watch the Giants, astoundingly, win. The second batch wasn’t much better, and the third, in the spirit of honesty, was still not exactly a shade of cooked you’d be proud to serve to the eight and a half people in your living room. As it turns out my candy thermometer–which I had patted myself on the back for finding for a low $2.99 last year–well, it’s kind of a big, fat liar.

Though I had never deep-fried anything before, I have watched enough cooking shows hammer home the importance of making sure the oil is the right temperature in making perfectly fried food that I felt confident I knew exactly what to do. Too low, and the food gets heavy and soggy, and we have pots full of black-on-the-outside, raw-on-the-inside chicken that’ll tell you the upshot of too high a temperature. But just right, which for fried chicken a steady temperature no lower than 350 or higher than 375 degrees, you have chicken that is golden and crisp that manages to leave most of the cooking oil it was cooked right in the pot.

first acceptable piece of fried chicken

Eventually we worked out the differential between my cheapo thermometer and the actual temperature (75 degrees, people! let this be a lesson to me for buying a cheap thermometer. Also, for those of you who asked, it probably explains just maybe why my caramel was so much thicker than everyone else’s a few weeks ago on that caramel cake.), and the fried chicken was on. I had cobbled together elements I liked from four recipes from people who seemed like they’d just *know* good fried chicken–Cook’s Illustrated, Emeril, Paula Deen and Ina Garten–but in the end, as should not be surprising, leaned mostly on the CI one.

flour dredging chickenbattering fried chicken

Here is what is absolutely brilliant about it: while most recipes have you soak the chicken for a few hours or overnight in buttermilk (Kosher folks who may have been eating fried chicken unknowingly, feel free to pretend you didn’t read that), CI’s approach has you make a buttermilk brine, and brine is our Word of the Week here at smittenkitchen. The buttermilk makes it plush, the brine makes it juicy and the battering and double-dredging in flour then sinking into a deep vat of peanut oil makes it “oh my god.” Even from a Yankee kitchen. Cook’s Illustrated truly creates miracles.


Fried Chicken
Adapted from several sources, but mostly Cook’s Illustrated

2 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) chickens, cut into 10 pieces each (breasts cut in half)

5 cups buttermilk
1 cup kosher salt
2 medium garlic heads, smashed but not peeled
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons paprika

2 large eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups buttermilk

6 cups flour

Mix brine ingredients in a large bowl. Place the chicken pieces in brining solution and refrigerate for two to three hours. Remove and place on rack to air-dry.

Mix batter ingredients and place in a large bowl. Place coating in large pan to coat chicken.

Coat chicken with flour, then place in batter. Drain excess batter off chicken and place in flour again and cover. Use tongs for transfers.

To fry, heat peanut oil to 375 degrees in a cast-iron skillet. Do not fill the pot more than half full with oil. Place five to six pieces of chicken, skin side down first, in the skillet and cook, covered for seven minutes. Turn chicken and cook, uncovered, for another seven minutes. Allow the oil to return to 375 degrees F before frying the next batch.

Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan, keeping warm in the oven until ready to serve.

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151 comments on fried chicken

  1. kate

    as a transplanted southerner, i can’t overstate the importance of brining. in fact, i brine my chicken overnight (in a regular old salt water bath) and *then* soak it in buttermilk for another 6 hours. it almost doesn’t matter how burnt the outside gets, the inside’s juicier than you ever thought chicken could be. i’m also a fan of double battering and adding a little cayenne (or curry powder — it sounds crazy, but it’s delicious) to the flour. but that’s the best thing about frying your own chicken — there’s endless room for experimentation.

  2. Joy

    OMG…that chicken looks like KFC, although I’m betting (well hoping) it tastes better.

    I have NEVER brined chicken. We just bought chicken breasts so I think we’ll try your recipe this weekend. :)

  3. Meg

    Wow. I think after try #2, I would have been on the phone with the nearest Thai take-out. Okay, it would have been after try #1, with smoke filling the kitchen. There’s a saying in my house: “30 minutes after the smoke alarm goes off, dinner will arrive.” I’m impressed with your perseverance.

  4. Maggie

    Slurp! Looks awesome – I’ve been itching to try some real fried chicken – no matter how good the baked chicken is, it just isn’t the same! Two questions:

    1- Would Canola oil substitution markedly dimish the taste factor?
    2 – Do you think I could do this in my big La Creuset dutch oven? How deep would the oil need to be? A couple of inches?

    Thanks for the warning about the thermometer too – I think I own its cousin.

  5. deb

    I use an aggregator too, and find it frustrating. However, the partial feeds are an annoying feature of the most recent WordPress upgrade, in which all truncated entries (which I do here to keep the Index page from taking too long to load) show up as partials in RSS feeds. I’m going to look for a solution to this (perhaps a plugin?) but we have a whole bunch of other kinks to work out first, grr.

    That said, I totally think we are worth the click-through!

  6. Oh Deb, why do you taunt me with such amazing looking chicken? Interesting that there was the double-flour coating on the chicken – it looks like there was a pretty intense and delicious crust on there. And re: the oil temp, we were having issues with our candy thermometer a while back when we made marshmallows, so we used our instant-read and it worked great!

  7. Linda

    5 cups of buttermilk…so you have to buy two quarts of buttermilk? Just for one extra cup?
    I have to say that Ina’s oven fried chicken is very good….messy but good!
    I will give this one a try!

  8. deb

    The original called for 7 cups and I found it to be way too much. You *might* be able to get away with one quart, but I felt most confident only knocking it down two cups.

    The only thing I didn’t like (from studying all those recipes) about Ina’s was the lack of baking soda or powder. I wanted a breading that would puff up a bit in the oil. Some suggested self-rising flour for the dredging, but CI’s seemed simplest just putting it in the batter.

    However, do try to resist the temptation to just use the brine as the batter (we briefly considered it) but then tried the tiniest, gut-wrenching taste (ewwwww) and determined it to be way too salty for batter. Plus, it would make it very difficult to double-dredge, which I think puts a nice coating on.

  9. That’s hilarious about your thermometer! I tried fried chicken about two weeks ago for the first time – well, I didn’t know it was going to take that long. Dinner was a little late that night :)

  10. YUM… I saw the two chicken recipes and immediately thought “but Deb doesn’t like chicken!”. I’ve gotta say, when chicken is done right, I looooooove chicken…

    This is a totally dumb question, but an inquiring mind wishes to know: smashed, but not peeled? Is there merit to not pulling the peel off?

    Thanks for the fantastic looking recipe! That texture of that breading almost makes me drool

  11. Can you skin the chicken first? (I know, all the Southern Purists just screamed “NO!”). It’s just that I can’t bring myself to eat skin anymore, but I miss the crunchiness of fried chicken. I usually cook chicken with the skin on and then peel it at my plate (way more flavor that way). But with fried chicken, the peeling-at-the-plate thing negates all the work and flavor. Dare I try to fry skinless breasts and thighs?

  12. Leah, FWIW, I fry skinless pieces all the time — legs, thighs, you name it. It takes a little while to “peel” all those raw pieces, but if you do the soaking/brining overnight, and the double dipping in flour, you still end up with a nice, thick, crunchy coating even with no skin. I prefer it this way. (In fact, I just ate the leftovers for lunch today, though I wish I’d seen this brining recipe before I made the chicken last night!!) I also add a few spices to my flour — salt, pepper, and a bit of thyme usually.

    And, Maggie, I fry in Canola b/c I have a toddler who I think might be allergic to peanuts. I don’t know if peanut oil is better, since I haven’t done that in a long long long time, but Canola is pretty darn good!

    (Deb, hope you don’t mind me throwing in my two cents to other readers. :)

  13. I think fried chicken may be the most drool-inducing food on the planet. Maggie, even though I have two of my grandmother’s cast iron skillets, I always fry chicken in my Le Creuset (it’s a tip from Ina Garten — higher sided pan means less splatter on you and the stove top).

  14. LyB

    Wow, fried chicken! I would never have thought to make that myself, it seems so complicated! It looks so crispy and delicious, really impressive.

  15. Looks a bit overdone to me :) I prefere vienna style, with bread crumbs, and in order not to over done it (and got it baked in the core – I am not using a deep fryer, but frying in the pan with ~ 1 cm deep oil) is a fake, but it works, cook the peaces first, so you will have chicken builon, and than coat it with bread crumbs, and fry.
    I loved your site, and it is in my favorites! Thx. for having it, and a lot of greetings from Germany!

  16. I ment cooked chiken peaces should be taken out of chicken bouillon, cool down, than coat with flour, than soaked in egg, and than in bread crumbs, and than fried…

  17. OK – now that does explain the caramel cake mystery. I still liked your thick caramel better! Mmmmmm!
    I have yet to deep fry anything. I have a great fried chicken that I would like to try, but I just don’t know if I’m ready to delve into that yet.
    This looks finger licking good!

  18. whoa, wait a minute. what was half a person doing in your living room?!?

    this makes me rethink my $4 candy thermometer purchase a few weeks ago, untested so far…

  19. Neesha

    i have a question… i have left a few comments on a some entries here, just asking questions and maybe tips, but when i come back after a few days to check if there were any replies i find that my comments have been deleted. do you screen comments? i wonder what’s wrong with mine since i was only asking for help. can only specific people leave comments here?

  20. joanne

    I learned the hard way about cheapie candy/fry thermometers too. My cheapie was registering 50*F under! I had the runniest caramel. I ended up making another batch using my digital meat probe/timer thermometer. I MacGyvered a ball point pen clip to attach to the pot, and kept the probe in place. I have been eyeing a really pretty digital candy/fry thermometer now.

  21. I am also deep frying “challenged”. I have never been able to get fried chicken right! It is always raw in the middle. What I have resorted to doing is fry the chicken for about 5 minutes and then bake it the rest of the way in the oven. It does come out pretty good that way, but I do wish I could master traditional fried chicken. Sigh…..

  22. deb

    Neesha — I do not screen comments, however, we did lose a bunch of comments when hosts were moved over this week (so, if your comments were from the last three days, this would explain it). We did try to save the last 100 or so, but you guys are such prolific commenters (and I love it!) I still think we missed a bunch. Feel free to leave them again!

  23. Neesha

    that’s good to know. :) i love this site and thanks for letting me know about those one bowl brownies. they’re the only brownie recipe that has worked for me.

  24. Oh, I haven’t eaten fried chicken since forEVer (actually, maybe only 1 month since I started dieting, but for a Filipino that’s an eternity). Your looks fantastic! I would spike my coating with a big handful of freshly ground black pepper :)

  25. Good job, Deb! As a Southerner, I’m extending you honorary membership when you fry chicken, especially if you season the flour and add a shot of hot sauce to the batter. If you’re ever without a thermometer when frying, take a pinch of flour or a pinch of the flour-batter goo on your hand and add it to the oil. If it starts to fry properly (healthy bubbles, versus sitting there doing nothing or quickly blackening), the oil is right.

    Save the oil. Drain it back into it’s orginal bottle and put it in the refrigerator. If the urge hits you to fry again in the next couple of months, you’ll already have oil. And used oil fries better than fresh oil (at the proper temp, used oil will fry to golden brown on the first batch versus new oil which will fry very light). Make sure you filter it before refrigeration.

  26. kat f.

    i was going to ask if this could be done in the oven instead of a deep-fryer, as i do not own one (although i do own some large pots and i suppose i could just buy a thermometer…) because to be honest your chicken looks amazing but the thought of all that hot oil kind of makes me nervous.

  27. Congratulations – on everything!!!!!!

    This also is the method for a couple other delicious Southern dishes: Chicken-fried steak ( no brine) and chicken-fried chicken, breast (pounded to, maybe 1/2-inch, skin removed) – So good!

  28. That chicken looks delicious! I’ve never deep fried anything, but this recipe will be the first for sure! If I wasn’t already brining a pork shoulder to make CI’s Cuban-Style Oven-Roasted Pork for tomorrow’s Giants game, I’d make this. Oh well, there’s always the Superbowl! Go G-men!

    The Teacher Learns to Cook

  29. It’s been years since I allowed myself to make fried chicken at home, because it is oh-so-good and then I feel that I want to eat every piece of it. In fact, I’m getting that feeling now, looking at your photos!

  30. deb

    Re: the 8.5 people. I’m actually cracking up because I barely remember writing that. Can we say “too many hours typing away at a keyboard” this week? Nonetheless, there were 8.5 people, sorta. The .5 is 1 year, 4 months and quite cute. Turns out our apartment (crystal glasses, CK stoneware, a madhouse of strip outlets, sharp corners, big fancy mirrors, shotgun propped in the corner) was not exactly toddler-proof! Not that he minded. We gave him our single kid toy to play with: a Russian doll.

  31. RobbieAnn

    Dear Deb and Company,
    For a Yankee your chicken looks pretty good. I had to laugh at your story. I don’t fry with skin on as the women in my mama’s family hate chicken skin. To compensate we flour up and let our chicken sit on the counter for 30 minutes on a piece of wax paper. The chicken will look icky and gooey but will you be surprised at how lovely it cooks. I’ve had people call me a liar when I told them there was no skin on my fried chicken. NO!! Salmonella wil not develop when you do this. We’ve been doing this in the Windham family for two hundred years. RobbieAnn

  32. deb

    Elbow — I could use a good thermometer so am hoping for some suggestions too (as my story above should evidence that I am not capable of picking one out for myself!).

    Neesha — I’ve never baked fried chicken, so perhaps someone else can make a suggestion? Personally, I’m either in the fry it or forget it camp. ;)

    Helen — I used smoked paprika and it was delicious. I love that extra depth of flavor.

  33. Just a quick question – what kind of pan did you use? I know you said cast-iron skillet, but what size, make etc? I have a le creuset dutch oven but that’s about it for the cast-iron. Additionally, I have a 13-inch non-stick skillet. Could I use that?


  34. Karen

    I once burned half the kitchen down after attempting a Paula Dean fried chicken recipe, no joke – I had the whole fire company here and it took weeks to get the smoke out – half the house had to be repainted. So be careful!! Fried things can go awry quickly! Just be forewarned and more informed and cautious than I was… So I haven’t worked up the gumption to try fried chicken again, but when I do, this recipe looks dee-lish…

  35. akaellen

    I am southern the two things I really need to master are fried chicken and biscuits — neither of which i have a mastery degree in at the moment. I am intrigued by Padma lakshmi’s book — which has a fried chicken recipe where you batter dip the chicken in saltine crackers and then rice crispies for a double crunch.

    i’ll be sure to let you know if I get brave enough to try it.

  36. Florrie

    Another drawback of frying your own chicken that you failed to mention – the kitchen completely covered in grease top to bottom after you’re done! Perhaps you smartly used a splatter screen. My one attempt at fried chicken turned out poorly and required hours of clean-up afterwards, which proved to be a potent deterrent to ever trying it again. Luckily I live in Atlanta, so it’s easy enough to get my fix. Good bagels are another story…

  37. deb

    Funny you should say that as I discovered just an hour ago that my back burners and oven knobs were speckled with week-old grease (ew!). Also: yeah, I have barely cooked this week, thus I didn’t notice sooner. Guilty as charged!

  38. Your first black & burnt piece brings back memories! My friend Melba, from Tennessee, inspired me to cook outside my comfort repertoire and try my hands at southern comfort cooking. So I made an attempt at Melba’s famous fried chicken and botched the first few pieces because the oil was too hot. My technique is a bit better now, but they still don’t look as good as yours! Thanks for lunch!

  39. Congrats on the successful migration and on the chicken. Who knew it wasn’t kosher…! It looks absolutely drool-inducingly perfect, though, and surely that’s what matters.

  40. I made this tonight and it was DELICIOUS!! I stuck to your recipe, only adding a few shakes of cayanne to the first flour dip. Surprisingly, I found the chicken breast pieces to have more flavor than the thighs, which isn’t usually the case with me. The breasts were sweet and juicy and rich. Sooooo, rich – I may have gone a bit overboard with the batter, heh. I’ve definitely scratched that fried chicken itch!! Thanks for sharing your tips and the recipe!!

  41. SharonM

    The best fried chicken is Ina Garten’s recipe that you soak in buttermilk, dedge in flour, seasoned salt and pepper, deep fry for 6-8 minutes, bake on a rack in a pan in a 350 oven for 25-35 minutes. Wonderful!! It’s much easier and foolproof for getting done. We do this at church for 100-120 people. It’s a lot of work, but great. And they love it!

  42. Nice job! RobbieAnn’s got the right idea about letting the battered/floured chicken sit on wax paper for a bit. It makes the crust “stick” to the chicken. I stumbled upon that one day when I coated more than I could fry. I also season the flour with a special seasoning my Dad came up with…we call it “Coot Spice” since we refer to him as “The Old Coot”…lovingly, of course. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll send you the recipe for it.

  43. Ooh, it looks so flaky and crispy. I love fried chicken. I love it TOO much. That’s why we only make it about once a year. Or we would be huge. Oh, and let me just say Congratulations on your NY win! That was a great game. I thought those poor guys were gonna freeze!

  44. Neesha

    deb yeah i know what you mean about either frying it or forgetting about it… it’s just i don’t own a thermometer and i hate to burn the chicken or our kitchen LOL.

  45. I’m looking for a few (okay, more than a few) GREAT recipes for Super Bowl parties; I thought food blogs might be a good place to see those out. If you have any interest in linking a previous recipe that might fit that bill, I’d love to read it :).

    Your photography is AMAZING!

    If you’re interested, please click here for the details.

  46. jane

    i know i’m a little late with this, but just catching up on back posts — this is an always reliable recipe that my husband has been making for some time. when my brother was sick in the hospital for some weeks, he made a list of food he wanted to eat as soon as he got better and my husband’s (really CI’s) fried chicken topped it. glad you found it! (p.s. deb, i sent you a gushing e-mail some years back when i first started reading you. please forgive me if i came off sounding like a stalker.)

  47. OMG!!! I saw the picture and I could taste and smell the chicken at that very moment. Thanks for the inspiration, I’m having a newly pregnant girlfriend over for dinner this weekend and she’s HUNGRY! Looking forward to satisfying her with some proper country comfort food.

  48. This is my GOTO fried chicken! I am also a Jewish girl, once horrified by the buttermilk soak but got over that after I tasted it. The covering is the totally seals in the juices. Love CI!!

  49. Vanessa

    My daughter’s birthday is coming up and she loves chicken. So of course the meal will be fried chicken, which I’ve never made. I think we’ll be trying your version. Looks delicious!!

  50. Emily

    I’m feeding this to a crowd tonight! For timing purposes I put the chicken in the brine last night and won’t get to it until this evening! Buttermilk and all. Is there such a thing as brining it too much?!

  51. Deb, have you tried a oven-fried chicken? I am craving fried chicken but looking for a healthier recipe. After reading a whole bunch, the oven baked ones don’t seem to use buttermilk, does it matter?

  52. deb

    I have not. Buttermilk is about tenderness and flavor, I probably wouldn’t skip it. But I also haven’t tried it without, so can’t say for sure.

  53. I found a great recipe for fried chicken. You fry until golden brown and then bake for about 30 minutes in a 375 oven on a rack placed over a cookie sheet. It works great, because you aren’t doing all the cooking in the oil, just crisping the dredge, then the oven baking makes sure the chicken is cooked through. And you can clean up while it finishes in the oven, its awesome!

  54. Susan

    I’m doing fried chicken today and knew I’d find one at the Smitten Kitchen! The buttermilk soak is sure a popular one. I’ve tried Martha’s Mahogany Chicken and it was very good..just too dark for my taste. I think it was her oil temp that made it too dark as 350 worked better for me.

    Do give Paula Deen’s Lady and Son’s recipe another’s really good. It’s a little eggy as written (for my taste) so I just don’t use as many eggs and bulk it up with buttermilk for the soak. There’s a nice warmth with all the hot sauce called for in the recipe, but it’s not bitter and not spicey once done. It mellows in the cooking and, if you didn’t know it was in there, you would be quite surprised, maybe even astounded, that it was. Very tasty.

    I like the double dredge called for in this recipe but I’ve never brined before, but only because I’m not one for the salty aftertaste that I taste from it. I know, everyone says it only makes it retain the juices..but it also holds the salt too and it’s just too much for me usually. Maybe the buttermilk will tone the salty flavor down. Thanks, Deb, it sure looks like the perfect FC in your pictures.

  55. Stephanie

    As a displaced Southerner (Texas for 7 years, Georgia for 18 years), I like things a little hotter. I added chili powder, cayenne, poultry seasoning, ground pepper and celery seed to the dredging flour to give it some extra kick. Turned out perfectly. This was my first time using a buttermilk brine, and I’ll never go back!

  56. Paul Camp

    Your flour has to have cayenne and black pepper in it. I hate to say it, but Cook’s Illustrated leans way yonder too heavily on Chris Kimbel’s bland Yankee taste buds.

    Also, frankly, if it is deep fried, it isn’t Southern. Down here we only make pan fried in a cast iron skillet.

  57. Kevin

    The best fried chicken is slow cooked with very little batter. I like to cut the chicken into small pieces and make cuts down to the bone. The first fry is for ten minutes. The chicken gets a rest, and then another ten minute fry. The temperature is 350. The skin becomes like paper and the meat is perfect.

  58. Vidya

    Whoa you had NEVER deep fried before? That’s amazing. My parents are Indian. I’ve been deep frying since I could walk or talk or whatever. Well, kinda. Wow.

  59. Francheska

    I don’t want to fry chicken ever again if anyone here requests fried chicken again i’ll give them a twenty and kfc’s number

    It was scary there’s flour everywhere the oil…THE OIL and the blood THE BLOOD

    I used chicken thighs and not even 15 minutes were enough to stop the hemorrhage I took em out called mom and told her to deal with them bake them double fry them toss them away, Her choice I don’t care I just want a salad

    I’ll stick to sweets and breads ;_;

  60. Matt

    Deb – this is AMAZING!!!! I know this is an old thread but had to say I made it and loved!

    I used a combination of veg/canola oli – it was what I had and I added a heap of black pepper and Cayanne to the flour.

    I had this hankering for Fried chicken and my wife was skeptical I could use our small apartment kitchen to do something this involved. I should have come here first because your stuff is awesome!

  61. madruby

    I made homemade fried chicken this past Saturday using a combination of this recipe (ie CI) and another recipe and it was DELICIOUS!!!! My guests loved it; I went wild. I also baked homemade dinner rolls (I have this “idiot-baker” proof recipe for people like myself) and a DIVINE skillet corn bread to go with the fried chicken; we all thought we were in heaven. I never thought I could do fried chicken and using all the 1000 comments and tricks I read, I was able to deliver one sensational poultry dish. Smitten Kitchen recipe was the best one I found to accomplish this.

    The brining was crucial to the outcome (although I never did real fried chicken before, I could tell that brining made a great difference). I was able to use 4 c of buttermilk (I know that CI used 7 c and this one called for 5 c), and dissolved 1/4 c of kosher salt, garlic (smashed), paprika, and cayenne into the b.milk. I let the chicken brine for appx 3 to 3h30 hrs.

    Discarded the brine liquid and threw the chicken in a bowl with regular bread crumbs (I love the brand Grissol) (rather than edge twice with the same flour seasoning, I decided that the first coat would be with bread crumbs just bcuz I love this stuff). After the crumb breads splash, I put the chicken into the batter.

    For the batter, I somewhat modified this recipe again. Rather than using 2 cup of b.milk, I had 1 can of cream of chicken (you heard me – AWESOME), 1 can of b.milk (ie filled the empty can of soup with b.milk), and 1 egg. Mixed everything together. I soaked the chicken in the batter for appx 1 hr and refrigerated.

    Pulled the chicken out of the batter and put the chicken into the ZIPLOCK seasoning bag which contained the following ingredients: 1 c of flour, 1 c cornstarch, gralic powder, onion powder, cayenne, paprika, whatever dried herbs I had at home. After I coated the chicken with the flour seasoning, I let the chicken sit on a rack for a few hours before frying it (rule is at least 20 min). I read somewhere that doing this will allow the flour to sink into the batter which will help with the crispiness….ABSOLUTELY true! Deep fried the chicken in peanut oil and when ready, let it cool on a rack. There was NO mess, no oil dripping…just absolute joy.

    PS – as stated by Smitten Kitchen, oil temperature is EVERYTHING. Must be right before the chicken goes in and to avoid burning the crust (while the inside is still not fully cooked). YUM, YUM……

  62. madruby

    PS, PS…it’s me again. I forgot to mention earlier that I used 1 c of self rising flour for the seasoning bag (got this trick from Paula Dean’s recipe).

  63. Heide

    Seriously, THE BEST fried chicken. Can’t wait to share. I grew up down south, and this is better than any fried chicken I got down there. Thank you, thank you!

  64. Heide

    Oh, and here’s a question…What’s the best way to reheat this? We’re going to have it for dinner tomorrow, and I’m not sure how to keep it crispy? Covered and then uncovered? Help!

  65. Katie

    I made this and it is delicious! I am planning on making it Saturday for my son’s second birthday story…cowboy theme. I would prefer to make this with boneless tenders since there will be kids at the party and I don’t want parents to worry about having to pull the bones and stuff off the chicken. Would the brine recipe change? I am wondering if I would need less salt since the chicken will be boneless. Thanks SOOO much for all your help and delicious recipes! I look forward to hearing your recommendation!

  66. KitchenChemistry

    I tried this tonight, and it turned out great. It was my first time ever frying chicken! Question: Would there be any reason I can’t keep the brine in the fridge to reuse a second day in a row, or would you suggest starting with all new brine? I’m feeling lazy about going out to buy more buttermilk.

    1. deb

      I wouldn’t be comfortable reusing brine only because raw chicken had sat in it. But I’m not a food scientist; there may be no actual harm since the chicken will be thoroughly cooked when it’s done.

  67. Rose

    Ok. I have followed your blog and learned to cook mostly from your approachable recipes and humor. I’ve always been too nervous to comment, but here I am and it is because I am at work and managed to convinve the hubby to start the brine at 3pm so when I get home we can make this! He is a southern boy so I suspect that helped me win. But I can’t stop staring at it and drooling…god help my co-workers. Thank you deb. Let you know how it comes out!

    1. deb

      Anything you feel comfortable deep-frying in. Cast iron is often suggested because it is heavy and holds heat well, but you can really use any pot or Dutch oven.

  68. M

    I halved the recipe and thought that it came out rather salty for me, although my bf thought it was just a perfect treat after long day of work. I paired it with vinegar potato salad, it balanced out well with the saltiness of the fried chicken. I did wonder though: does the poultry get saltier with time while it’s in the brine solution? or should I simply cut salt from 1/2 c (for half recipe) to 1/4 c next time? Overall it was a definite treat!

  69. Jeanne

    Ok trying this right now in our actifry I am too nervous to deep fry. Never tried before and can’t bring myself to do it now. Do you think this will work. Quite excited and nervous to try.

  70. Madeleine

    I’m in the process of preparing this for dinner tonight–my boyfriend is getting a tattoo of his ex-girlfriend’s name removed after work, so I’m making this for him as a sort of “thank you for going under a laser for me!” It’s brining in the fridge as we speak. THANK YOU FOR YOUR BLOG, DEB. I love it!

  71. Laura

    Deb, I am in the process of frying up the chicken. To me, it tastes very salty. But, I did use half the salt. The problem may be that I soaked it way too long. I thought I read that the longer that it marinades the better. That could have been the other reicipe. After coming home from working the midnight shift on Tuesday I put the frozen chicken into cold water and I layed down for a while. When I woke up, I made the brine and put the chicken it and put it in the refrigerator. Today being Thursday, since yesterday was our anniversary, I am cooking the chicken now. I can say, that it is very juicy. If I do this again should quarter the salt or rinse it off? I really Love your rcipes, your stories, and I so enjoy watching your son grow up.

  72. Olivia

    My mother was from Alabama, and taught me to fry chicken. I am always surprised when I meet people afraid to fry. It never occurred to me that this would be the case, even though I grew up in NYC! Anyway, this looks great. I anticipate a batch of fried chicken in my near future! :)

    And, if you have leftovers, do what southerners do, smother it in gravy for smothered chicken! Add mashed potatoes (or rice) and your favorite green veggie and you have the comfort food hall of fame! Thanks, Deb.

  73. Jade

    As a transplanted North American living in New Zealand, I sure do miss certain foods. And fried chicken is one of them. This recipe came out a treat. Added chili powder to the flour for some kickiness. My kiwi boyfriend loves it something fierce Thank you, Deb!

  74. Oh my goodness, made this tonight and it was deliciousss. Of course I had to top it off with mashed potatoes,gravy and green peas (would’ve loved some biscuits too, but I don’t think my thighs could take it) Thanks again for an awesome recipe :)

  75. deb

    You flatten/crush it with the side of a knife or something else heavy. It helps get the juices released even before it is chopped or without chopping.

  76. Megan

    Kind of had bad luck with this. Our thermometer only goes up to 220 so I’m not sure the oil was the right temp, and the breading slipped off of the chicken, and it was really salty and kind of raw for some pieces. But I’d also soaked the chicken in salt water before I started your recipe (I always do this and should have skipped it). It smells good, though and my husband and 14 month old liked it.

  77. Megan

    Also I was in a huge rush and don’t have a food hammer or anything so I ended up just using one bulb of garlic and using a press to crush each clove, although I didn’t peel them. I didn’t have anything to crush the entire clove.

  78. Pam

    Can you use soy milk instead of real buttermilk in this recipe (assuming we follow your instructions and add some lemon juice or vinegar to it first)?

  79. I love this blog! 2 questions, re: fried chicken, as this Jewish New Yorker’s one experience frying chicken was much like your first, black smoke inducing piece, but I’m feeling renewed determination to Get It Right after reading your blog post. 1) Do you have to let the chicken warm up to room temperature first? I thought this was part of the reason why the outside burned before the inside was finished cooking. and 2) Do you cook dark and light meat separately? I’ve heard they cook at different rates. Wait! I have a third question! Do you think the size of the pieces is relevant?
    Sorry for the lengthy comment, but thanks for having this blog in the world!

    1. deb

      Tracy — When it smokes and burns before it’s done, it’s just too hot. Bigger pieces can take longer, but the time difference shouldn’t be significant. Ideally, chicken (and all meats) should be at room temperature before cooking (the recipe assumes that it will warm up while air-drying) for even cooking. I haven’t cooked light and dark meat separately before but I do take each piece out as it looks done.

  80. Kim

    Sugar? Seems to me that would add to the burn factor??? I have never used sugar with my fried chicken. Buttermilk and a dash or two hot sauce in the brine to add a little kick . Sugar almost seems sacrilegious, but I’ll give it a shot before I knock it.

  81. Inspired by you, I braved fried chicken for the first time. A-Ma-Zing. My seven year old turned to me and said, “Mom, I have a name for your fried chicken. Chicken of Awesomeness.” It’s all thanks to you!!

  82. Helen

    I realize I’m coming incredibly late to this party but I do have a question. I made this recipe today and halved it but otherwise followed the recipe to the letter and I found the chicken almost indelibly salty. Should I have rinsed it after brining? It seems almost obvious in retrospect (anything else I’d brine I would also rinse) but I guess I found the instructions a bit confusing.
    Anyway, I love the site and I’ve never had a problem with any other recipe. Thanks!

  83. Michelle

    Someone named Rachael also asked about this back in January, but I didn’t see a response. You are supposed to smash two whole garlic heads? And not peel the heads? Why wouldn’t you peel the heads? Wouldn’t this get the peelings all over the chicken? I am a little confused and need clarification here. Thanks!

  84. deb

    I didn’t get peelings on my chicken; it’s more about bruising/breaking the cloves slightly so that the brine gets infused. There’s no reason you cannot peel them if you’re concerned, but you then might be able to use fewer since it’s likely the garlic infusion would be more efficient (and economical).

  85. Kitty

    This was my 1st ever fried chicken, and it got rave reviews! Used fresh breasts cut into strips and soaked in that amazing brine for TWO DAYS (mostly because I lost my candy thermometer and had to get a new one). Delish.

  86. Chad

    Helen: Our experience was that the chicken was a) amazing; and b) ever-so-slightly salty. Next time we’ll brine for 2 hours – the low end of Deb’s range.

    Michelle – As Deb says, no need to peel. Just give a full garlic head a few good whacks with the side of a large chef’s knife. If there’s a peel or two stuck to the chicken when you pull it out of the brine, just pick it off. Deb’s method shortens prep time – no need to peel each clove and it still nicely infuses the brine.

    We added 2 tsp Tabasco to the brine and 1/4 tsp cayenne to the flour for a hint of spicy depth. But the smoked paprika seemed to provide most of the (tasty) complexity.

    Love this recipe.

  87. It’s not as easy as it looks to get a perfect fried chicken but this recipe has gave me some beautiful ideas! thanks!

    I agree that the brining is very important to the outcome so take care with that guys!

  88. Julie

    Hi Deb,

    Would it be possible to adjust the ingredients in the brine so I could start it before work and cook the chicken when I got home (say a 10 hour brine)? I assume I’d need to reduce the salt quite a bit, but is there any reason aside from saltiness that a longer brine would be a problem?

  89. Theresa

    Deb, we just made this last night and I cannot BELIEVE chicken that good came out of my own kitchen. Fabulous recipe! BTW I brined with homemade buttermilk (aka 2% with vinegar added) and it tasted great, but I have not compared to brining in real buttermilk.

  90. Steph

    This is now my go to recipe for fried chicken. I’ve tweaked it to suit my own tastes but that’s just what I do. =D
    In regards to saltiness I didn’t notice [though I do love me some salty goodness]. I don’t rinse the brine off either before battering and flouring. I do a single dip [straight to batter after brine then flour then fry] as the crust was a little too bready for my taste. I feel the chicken is the star of this and shouldn’t be over shadowed by anything, not even sauce – I eat it with Japanese mayo. Yum!

  91. Rachel G

    Made this tonight and it even won a seal of approval from my hubs…who (I never knew after 15 years together!) has a true aversion to fried chicken. Apparently he was traumatized by his mothers version which was according to him, “soggy with slimy chicken skin”. He definitely couldn’t complain soggy with your version! He did kind of dissect the skin off (weirdo!) so next time I will spare him (and me!) by removing the skin prior to frying.
    I really like fried chicken but I haven’t made it since I was a teenager. It is a little tricky getting the oil temp just right, as the temp plummets the second you put the food in…my first piece came out a bit over browned, but I got the hang of it, and I was very pleased with the results!

  92. Katie H

    We’ve made this recipe 3 times this summer and it is delicious each time. I’ve grown to like it with Crystal hot sauce and honey drizzled on top. Thanks & congrats on your newest addition!

  93. El

    I am a huge fan of every dessert of yours I’ve ever made deb. But I made this chicken tonight and it was a pretty big disappointment. Despite being cooked and juicy and brown on the outside it was bland , the flour needed much more seasoning even though i added smoked paprika, salt and pepper, and the double dip of brine, batter, flour, batter, flour left too much of a breaded, cutlet type of crust under the oil soaked crunch. Even though I’m a yankee I was raised by a southerner so all in all my standards may be different than others

  94. Christine

    As a fellow Yankee, I commiserate with you…never have fried my own chicken before…..but we made this last night for dinner in our electric turkey fryer, yummy!
    Thanks for the delicious recipe, it was fun to try it!

  95. Heather

    What does mashed head of garlic mean? Do you mash the individual cloves or leave it as a head and mash it? In which case do you need to cut tops off? Help!

    1. deb

      I think it should say “smashed” (d’oh) as in break it up, smash the cloves lightly with the side of a knife but no need to peel them. The garlicky flavor will get out plenty enough without it.

  96. pb

    Made this tonight. Turned out perfect. I didn’t have any issues with it being too salty, I thought the seasoning was perfect.

  97. Kate

    Hi there,

    This fried chicken recipe is so delicious! I also served it up with your buttermilk biscuit recipe — and smothered both in Mike’s Hot Honey.

    How would you modify to turn this recipe into a Nashville-style hot fried chicken?


  98. NJChicaa

    I know I’m way late to the game trying this recipe but here I am. This is my 3rd attempt at doing fried chicken. I tried someone else’s recipe twice (and failed miserably both times). Yours worked like a charm. The coating was so amazingly crisp and crunchy and perfect. Thank you so much for showing me that even an Italian-American Jersey girl CAN make fried chicken! haha

  99. April Kennedy

    I made this last night and it didn’t turn out so well. I left it in the brine longer than the recipe called for, and it turned out very salty. Also, I had large pieces of chicken and had trouble getting them done on the inside. I am not sure I am going to try this again as it was a lot of work, especially the mess. If you make this, I would recommend not going over the recommended brining time and also cut your chicken pieces smaller and/or finishing in the oven.

  100. bird

    Could you expand upon air-drying the brined chicken? Reading the recipe, I allowed the brined chicken to sit on cooling racks in rimmed baking sheets (a little too crowded, honestly) while I measured the flour for the coating and mixed the batter. I made no effort to sweep off the clinging buttermilk and it was certainly not dry when I was done prepping the flour and batter. Feeling under the gun I barreled on. My friends loved the chicken, but I wondered if understanding the part between the brining and the dipping and frying is what stood between me and something truly transcendent. Also, any suggestions for keeping the oil temperature consistent? I am confident in the candy thermometer I used, but I was startled at how much the temperature dipped (and it didn’t recover quickly) when I added the chicken and it then took a long time to recover.

  101. HJ

    Breading is excellent, although I did add some spices to the flour (and next time will likely add a little more). As far as the brining, based on comments that it was too salty, I followed Martha Stewart’s recipe for that portion and used a salt level higher than she recommends but lower than what is recommended in this recipe. Next time I will go with Martha’s salt recommendation because we still found the chicken a little too salty, even with the reduction. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts which I halved, so perhaps that made a difference. Left to brine for around 4 hours. The chicken was a hit and we will use this recipe again. Note that for the boneless, skinless, halved breasts the cook time was much less, and I was able to fry at a slightly lower temperature. Thinking about doing a homemade Popeye’s chicken sandwich with this recipe – maybe add some heat.

  102. Jonathan Stone

    I’m going to attempt this over the weekend. What temp would you recommend for keeping the chicken warm in the oven??!

    BYW I made the Blueberry crumble! Yums! Will definitely be a go to for friends!!

    1. deb

      Glad it was a hit! First, I think room temperature or “picnic” fried chicken is awesome. For just warming it up, I’d say 350. For keeping it warm, I’d say 275-300.

  103. Sandy Rosenberg


    My daughter made this for us in December and it was delicious! I just tried it and some of my coating completely came off after frying. What did I do wrong?