Southern Cuisine: Crispy Fried Chicken, with How-To Video
Fried Chicken Recipes
If Southern food and Soul Food had a signature dish, surely it would have to be fried chicken! It's definitely one of my all-time favorites, and I have several wonderful fried chicken recipes. I even order it sometimes when we go out to restaurants for lunch or dinner. I love the stuff, although I try not to eat it too often because of the fat content. But as they say, ya gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet, or in this case, ya gotta clog a few arteries to make perfect fried chicken! I’ll admit, I’ve never eaten “northern fried chicken,” but I’ve certainly had my share of southern fried chicken, and I can vouch for its deliciousness. Of course, there are hundreds of different fried chicken recipes. In my family alone, several members have our own favorites, and some include “secret” ingredients. Obviously, since I write so many articles about cooking, it’s darn near impossible for me to keep an entire recipe or even a single ingredient a secret! Read below to learn how to fry chicken and how to make crispy fried chicken.
How To Fry Chicken
As I've told you before, dear reader, to get the perfect fried Southern foods, you need a black iron skillet - the heavy kind. You know, the kind that can double as a deadly weapon should the need arise. This type of skillet keeps an even, consistent heat that's imperative for tantalizingly crusty foods, including crispy fried chicken. If you’re frying a whole cut-up chicken, you might want to swap the black iron skillet for a black iron Dutch oven. Since the cooking vessel is deeper, you won’t have to worry as much about sloshing the oil. You’ll still get the advantage of consistent heat, and you’ll have more room for frying.
Let's go ahead and discuss the fat needed for a great fried chicken recipe. Traditional Southern fried chicken is cooked in 100% hog lard. Can you say "heart attack on a plate"? I don't use lard...anymore. The second best fat choice is a solid vegetable shortening like Crisco. If you don't want to use that, either, use peanut oil. It has a high flash point and gives the chicken a nice taste. My choice number four would be canola oil. It has a high flash point, too.
For crispy fried chicken, you’ll need to have the right cooking temperature. This can be a problem because different poultry parts are different sizes and have different thicknesses. All frying chickens aren’t the same size, either. I like to fry the breasts and thighs at around 350-360 degrees, but I use a slightly higher temperature for making fried chicken wings and legs – especially if the drumsticks are on the smaller side. If you’re frying a whole cut-up chicken, I suggest you fry the thicker pieces together and the smaller pieces in the same batch or batches. Don’t crowd the pieces, in either case, if you want crispy fried chicken.
Fried Chicken Batter
The type of fried chicken batter you use is important, too. What type is best? Really, there is no “best” fried chicken batter. What I might think is the tastiest might not be the one you consider the tastiest. The word “batter” itself might be confusing to many. Some cooks consider the word to mean a wet coating, while others take it to mean any sort of breading, whether wet or dry. Let’s take a look at some of the choices you have for a dry breading.
The most popular and typical type of coating for fried chicken recipes is flour – either all-purpose flour or self-rising flour. With some cooks, they don’t pay much attention to which type they use. Based on my experience, however, I prefer to use the self-rising version. To me, it seems to give a slightly better texture and color to the chicken. Instead of flour, you might want to try using a commercial fish or seafood coating, pancake mix, biscuit mix, dry bread crumbs, or cracker meal. Some southern cooks also add some cornmeal to their flour mixture for coating chicken.
I’m not usually a fan of wet fried chicken batter, but I have tasted a couple of exceptions. In most cases, I’ve found that a wet batter often slides off the chicken, or either it’s too thick. Sometimes it’s too greasy, too. even so, there’s a restaurant up the interstate from us that has awesome fried chicken that’s coated with a wet batter. I’ll admit that I haven’t perfected their secret…yet. If you want to try a batter coating, you’ll need to include wet ingredients like milk, buttermilk, beer, and/or eggs.
No matter whether you use a wet or dry coating, you’ll probably want to add some herbs and/or spices. My favorites for fried chicken include salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, paprika, parsley, ground sage, celery salt, mustard powder, cumin, chili powder, mace, thyme, oregano, basil, or marjoram. Lawry’s garlic salt with parsley is a great choice, too. You might also consider using ranch dressing mix, Italian dressing mix, Old Bay seasoning, Creole seasoning, Cajun seasoning, or Soul Food seasoning in your coating. Personally, I often use hot sauce to add some pizzazz, but it’s usually part of my “dip” I use for the poultry parts.
Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe
Buttermilk fried chicken is awesome, even if you don’t like buttermilk. I won’t drink buttermilk, but I love the flavor it gives foods like pancakes, biscuits, hushpuppies, and coatings for chicken, fish, shrimp, and oysters.
How does my fried chicken recipe sound?
- 1 cut-up fryer, about 3 pounds
- 2 cups buttermilk
- seasoned salt
- black pepper
- 2 cups self-rising flour
- oil or shortening
- Wash chicken parts well in cool running water. Pat dry with paper towels and place in buttermilk. Place container with buttermilk and chicken in the fridge for several hours.
- Remove chicken parts from buttermilk and sprinkle generously with season salt and pepper. Place flour in a large ziploc or paper bag. Shake chicken to coat evenly. Allow chicken to sit for 10-15 minutes at room temperature.
- Heat oil or shortening over medium-high heat. The oil or shortening should be about 1 ½ inches deep in the skillet when melted. When the oil reaches around 360 degrees, it's ready for the chicken. Actually, I rarely check the temperature any more. I sprinkle a drop or two of water in the oil. If it sizzles immediately, I know it's ready for frying.
- If you want extra-crusty chicken, give the chicken pieces another trip to the flour bag. Place each piece in the pan, shaking off any excess flour as you do so. Place the pieces skin side up.
- Don't crowd the chicken! Each piece should have its own space. After four or five minutes, turn the chicken over. Cook for about 8-10 more minutes.
- Turn the chicken again and continue to cook for about 8-10 minutes longer. The chicken should be golden brown on both sides. Drain the fried chicken pieces on several layers of absorbent paper towels or on racks.
- To jazz the cooked chicken up a bit, flavor the pieces with Cajun seasoning, red pepper, Crystal, Tabasco sauce, or Louisiana hot sauce. If you've read some of my other recipes, you know I'm a big fan of spicy foods!
- Below is a video of a similar recipe.
Fried Chicken Wings – Soul Food Style
This fried chicken recipe is especially tasty. Like many examples of Soul Food, it has some heat, but I don’t find the heat to be overpowering. These fried chicken wings are great for party appetizers, and the grandkids enjoy them for after-school snacks. They like to dip the wings in sweet-and-sour sauce. Go figure. By the way, you can find the Soul Food blend of herbs and spices in just about any supermarket.
Whole chicken wings or wing pieces
Soul Food seasoning
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup hot sauce
Directions: Rinse chicken and blot dry. Place wings in a dish and sprinkle generously with Soul Food seasoning blend. Cover wings loosely and leave in the fridge for an hour or so.
Dredge wings in flour and fry in several inches of peanut oil at 365-370 degrees. Turn to brown both sides. Drain and serve with your favorite dipping sauce or dressing.
Southern Fried Chicken
This is the traditional southern fried chicken that my mom used to make. We had it at least once a week, usually with mashed potatoes or rice, gravy, green beans or butter beans, and Mom’s amazing homemade biscuits. Whenever my birthday rolled around, I was always allowed to make the menu for my special dinner. Actually, we called the evening meal “supper.” For my birthday supper, I always chose fried chicken, biscuits, and chocolate cake. I didn’t care about the vegetable side dishes. I hated cabbage as a kid, but I would have eaten my way through an entire head of the stuff to get to Mom’s fried chicken and biscuits!
1 cut-up fryer
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups self-rising flour
Cast iron skillet
Directions: Rinse chicken parts in cool water and shake to remove excess moisture. Don’t dry the chicken – you want it to be damp.
Sprinkle chicken parts with seasonings, gently rubbing them into the flesh and skin.
Pour flour into a deep bowl or bag. Dredge the seasoned chicken parts in the flour. Shake to remove excess flour. Place dredged poultry on a plate or tray. Allow to sit at room temperature until flour looks “pasty.”
Melt Crisco into the skillet. You’ll need the grease to be about one inch deep. Heat the fat to 360 degrees.
Sprinkle chicken with more flour and shake. Add parts to hot fat and cook for about 10 minutes. Turn chicken over and cover pan. Continue cooking for about 10 more minutes. Drain on paper or racks. For the full southern experience, serve your fried chicken with rice and gravy, sliced tomatoes, fried okra, turnip greens, and biscuits or cornbread. Have plenty of sweet iced tea on hand, too!