Sunday, February 26, 2023

The Perfect Fried Chicken


Over my years of living, it’s fair to say that I’ve relished my share of fried chicken.  Much of my experience came as I grew up and feasted on my grandmother’s and mother’s fried chicken—both exceptional.  

I have so many precious memories of my grandmother hosting a dinner replete with her fried chicken (expertly fried in her cast iron skillet) and whatever else she added to the menu.  It was always clear, to me at least, that the fried chicken was the main event—the star—of the meal.  And if I may go further back in my heritage, she inherited her skills honestly from her mother, my great-grandmother, who won awards and was written up in the local paper for her fried chicken way back in the early 20th century.  

So great, award-winning, exceptionally delicious—dare I say, perfect—fried chicken is in my genes.   I truly did get it from my mamas (great grandmama to grandmama to my mama.)  As I have a way of doing, I’ve slightly adapted my own approach to making “finger-licking good” fried chicken in the years since.  And because it’s not a dish that I make often these days, when I do, it has to be GREAT!  I mean, I can’t be bothered with the additional mess of frying, and the extra calories, for mediocre chicken.  Anybody?

So before I delve into what makes my chicken the fried chicken you never knew you needed, allow me to share the two elements to achieving the perfect fried chicken:

Moist, flavor-filled meat; and 

Crispy, crunchy (and flavor-laden) skin.

That’s it.  

Flavor, crunch, and juicy chicken is what we came for, no?

So without further ado, let’s get into it a few key techniques to make your next batch of fried chicken, your best batch yet.

Getting the Juiciest Meat:

If you’re familiar with my tips for the best turkey, then you know that brining is an essential in my arsenal.  The same applies for the juiciest fried chicken.  A quick (2-3 hours will work) brine in a salt, sugar solution is worth the payoff in making your chicken the most moist and tender bird.  (*Cook’s Note: if you prefer a buttermilk brine, be my guest.  It will work equally well, I just don’t prefer the strong buttermilk notes it infuses into the chicken.)

The Spice Is Right:

As a long-time spice girl, who must have flavor bite after bite, I use my custom fried chicken spice blend to make my chicken unforgettably scrumptious.  The key ingredients are kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, celery salt, cayenne pepper,  garlic powder and smoked paprika. (*Cook’s Note: I use my spice blend to season both the chicken and the flour mixture for extra goodness.) 

The Perfect Frying Temperature:

For perfectly done, golden brown chicken, you want to fry it at a temperature of 350 degrees F.  To maintain this temperature and to ensure your chicken actually fries to a golden crisp, rather than steams or burns, in the oil, avoid over-crowding your frying pan/pot and keep an eye on the oil temperature throughout. This may require working in batches, but it will be worth it in the end!  Aim for 160 degrees F (dark meat) to 165 degrees (white meat) for perfect doneness.  

Tools to Have On Hand:

I recommend a deep-frying or candy thermometer to measure and monitor the temperature of the oil (sometimes it can cool down a bit as you add in new pieces or unexpectedly get too hot).  I additionally recommend an instant-read thermometer to test doneness.  A baking rack will also come in handy, if you have one available. 

For more of my tips and techniques, you can checkout my fried chicken tutorial where I walk you through all of the steps and show you my end results. Refer to it as often as needed.

Now that we’ve gotten all of that in place, let’s get on to what really matters…

Happy Eating!

The Perfect Fried Chicken


Skin-on chicken legs (or whatever cuts you prefer)


2 cups all-purpose flour or more, as needed

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Quart of canola, vegetable, or peanut oil for frying

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon celery salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

For Brine:

1/4 cup salt

1/4 cup sugar


*Gauge ingredient quantities based on the amount of chicken you’re frying and adjust accordingly.


Mix brine solution, add chicken, and brine in the refrigerator for two hours up to overnight.

Remove chicken from the refrigerator and the brine solution. Pat the chicken with paper towels until completely dry and set aside.

Mix salt, pepper, celery salt, garlic powder, cayenne and paprika together.  Mix flour and cornstarch together. Generously season chicken and flour mixture.

Dip chicken pieces in buttermilk, followed by the flour mixture, to coat.  Let chicken rest on a baking rack for 15-20 minutes before frying.

When ready to fry, heat oil to 350 degrees F in a heavy-bottomed pan (like a Dutch Oven) or deep-fryer.  Add chicken into oil and fry until done, approximately 8-10 minutes or so (use your thermometer to test doneness, however!).

Place fried chicken on a baking rack over a baking sheet/tray to drain any excess oil and lightly sprinkle the hot chicken with a bit of salt or more of the seasoning blend, if desired.  

Serve and enjoy!!


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