Southern Fried Chicken

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Heather says:

fearless-fridaysFried chicken doesn’t sound fearless, does it? You must remember, Home Eccers, that I live in a part of the country where grown men will fight over whose Meemaw had the best recipe for any number of meals. For that reason, I have been shy about posting some of my favorite recipes, but no more. After all, that is why I started Fearless Friday. I will now boldly post recipes, knowing some will read them and say, “That’s not how my grandma did it.” Well, if you didn’t take time to learn from your grandmother, I’m sorry, my version will have to do until you can pester the -ahem-  right version out of someone who did listen to Grandma.

Have you been brave in the kitchen? Please feel free to share your Fearless Friday feats or failures either by linking your blog post or telling us your story in the comments. Don’t be shy about failures. They encourage others more than you may realize. We live in a funny world where sometimes our most intimate relationships form online. This is fine when we’re supportive, but there is a danger in the fact that it’s too easy to hide the imperfections, photoshop away the flaws, and only present the best, all the while our own insecurities grow as we see others seeming to move perfectly through difficult and frustrating circumstances. That’s enough of that; apparently I have a few things on my mind. Let’s get started!

Fried Chicken Dinner

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

  • 3 – 5lbs leg quarters
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 recipe frying dredge
  • 1 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 3 cups peanut oil* (exact amount may vary depending on the size of your pan)

*Peanut oil is my favorite, but feel free to use vegetable or whatever floats your boat.

chicken pieces I’m going to warn you, 5lbs is a lot of drumsticks and thighs. But if you go to the trouble of  frying chicken, you might as well fry up a little extra to enjoy later on in the week. I don’t know why, but I believe one of  life’s greatest pleasures is a picnic of leftover fried chicken.

First, separate the thighs from the drumsticks. To do this, grasp the the thigh in one hand, the drumstick in the other and bend the leg in the wrong direction. The knee joint will separate. Then use a sharp knife, to cut through the leg through the space you just created. While you have the knife out, trim any excess fat off the thigh.

5 lbs of chicken fills two 9×13 pans in a single layer.

seasoned chickenSprinkle 1 tsp of salt  (1/2 tsp per pan) over the chicken. Then give each pan a few good turns of fresh ground pepper. Add about 1/2 cup of buttermilk to each pan and place the pans in the refrigerator.

Buttermilk bathIt doesn’t matter exactly how long the chicken marinates, but it should get at least an hour in the fridge. If it’s going to be in the fridge for a long time, grab some tongs and turn the pieces at some point. I have no proof this actually changes anything, but it feels right.

About 90 minutes before you plan on cooking dinner, take the pans of chicken from the refrigerator and allow it to rest at room temperature.

There are two secrets to great fried chicken: marinate it in buttermilk and NEVER fry cold chicken.

While your chicken is acclimating, mix up the frying dredge. There are as many variations of frying dredge as there are combinations of cereals, crackers, instant potatoes, etc. This one is an excellent, basic mix. Feel free to use anything from corn flakes to Cheez-Its, it’s your chicken. Just know this one works well, if you need a place to start.

Frying Dredge Recipe

  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose or plain flour
  • 3 – 4 tsps salt
  • 3 tsps fresh ground pepper (if you don’t have fresh ground use significantly more black pepper, unless you hate pepper, then don’t)

frying dredgeWhisk together or place in a bag and shake together. It doesn’t matter, just make sure it’s well combined.

In a 12″ skillet that has a lid, heat 3 cups of peanut oil to 325F. If you don’t have a thermometer (and I broke mine recently) this is typically on the lower range medium heat. For those with numbers, 4ish.  Lower the heat if your first batch of chicken is too dark. It may take a little experimenting. Oil takes a while to heat, be patient. If you try to fry before the oil is hot your chicken will be very greasy. Bleh.

Turn the oven to 200F to hold the chicken until it’s time to serve the meal. Line a serving platter or a couple plates with several paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

Grab a piece of chicken from the buttermilk, give it a shake to get rid of any excess moisture, then toss it in the dredge. Roll it around so it is evenly coated with the flour mixture, then pick up the piece of the chicken and shake off any clumps. We don’t want a lot of extra flour in the frying oil.

frying chicken1Carefully place your chicken, skin side down if it’s a thigh, in the skillet. Repeat with 2 – 3 more pieces, but do not overcrowd the pan. Did you pay attention to that? Put too many pieces in and you’ll lower the temperature of your oil and have greasy chicken. Bleh. Don’t do that.

Now a timer just may be your best friend. Cover the chicken and fry for six minutes.

Safety Tip: Water and oil = spatter. Remove the lid carefully, do not drip condensation into the oil.

frying chicken 2Turn the pieces over. Cover. Fry for six more minutes. Fry for an additional 2 – 3 minutes on each side (covered). Remove from the pan, allowing  the excess oil to drip, then place the chicken in the oven on the paper towels.

Fried chickenRepeat until you run out of chicken.

A word of caution. Beware of stray baby jaguars while carrying plates of chicken. . .

baby jaguarThis little guy nearly undid a LOT of work.

Enjoy!

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26 thoughts on “Southern Fried Chicken”

  1. Oh yummy! If it wasn't pouring rain and too late to start playing around with dinner, I would be running to the store for the stuff to make it. What if you don't use peanut oil in your house? Is canola oil ok?

    Reply
  2. For my Fearless Friday, I will tell about the Gumbo I made last week. I made chicken, shrimp & sausage gumbo from scratch, it was really easy, my family went nuts over it. I myself did not indulge as I'm as picky as a 5 year old, I digress, it was fun and easy.
    I had no andouille (sp?) so I used kielbasa instead, just dice it up and throw it in the pot. I cheated and bought already shelled & deveinded shirimp to make it easy on me. The only part that made me nervous was making the brick roux. I've made plenty of rouxes in my time, just never took them quite that dark, but that is what you need for the flavor. I had traded some homemade bread for some fresh okra at the farmer's market and that is what spurred me to make this dish. I chopped up the sticky okra and threw it in with some homemade chicken stock and let that and the roux become one. Added the chicken to cook, then the sausage and the shrimp last. Seasoned and let it simmer to thicken up. I may have added a bit too much stock because it was not as thick as I thought it should be, but no one complained. I made a pot of rice and that was dinner. Fun, and fearless!

    Reply
  3. You can also use one of those grease-catching screens that lets steam escape but catches splatters. It looks like a big round tennis racket made of the same material as your window screens. You just lay it on top of any size skillet or deep-fryer. They're not very expensive.

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  4. Oh yeah, for my fearless Friday…I made tamale pie for the first time a couple of days ago and a batch of chicken and dumplings all by myself last night…it came out so yummy.

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  5. That sounds almost like my mom's fried chicken! Except, we only use flour with salt, pepper, and garlic. For some reason, everything has salt, pepper, and garlic in it, whether it's baked, fried, or grilled. 🙂 Maybe it's a Texas thing?

    Reply
  6. This sounds like how my grandmother made it. Except she marinaded in buttermilk and garlic. My mother kept the marinade method, but makes 'oven fried' instead. I tried making it once and it did not go over well with the hubby. I should try without garlic, plus if I fry it I am sure he will enjoy it more.

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  7. now where did my other post go? LOL sorry if this shows up twice—-I do use the buttermilk-it adds a wonderful taste—haven't ever used cornmeal except in baking chicken tenders (long story-didn't turn out LOL)—love fried chicken but don't make it as much as i used to-(personal preference) I usually do the boneless/skinless breasts (quicker-easier for me when getting supper done)—yes don't try and fry the chicken when it's cold…..
    julie
    meridian,ms

    Reply
  8. been wanting some fried chicken–(just personal preference) I usually do boneless/skinless breasts–quicker/easier for me—the buttermilk adds a wonderful taste to it though—

    julie
    meridian,ms

    Reply
  9. curious about covering while the chicken is frying. wouldn't steam condensing on the lid fall back into the oil and cause problems, especially when you lift the lid off? I'm sure we've all experienced (and been burned by) the popping when water gets into oil.

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  10. IIRC, AB gave a whole bunch of suggestions to help keep the kitchen clean in that fried chicken episode.
    The recipe sounds great, Heather!

    Reply
  11. I don't think I've ever had chicken dredged in cornmeal . . . hmmm. (I'm such a Yankee!)

    I did use Alton Brown's recipe a couple of times, and honestly, it was great. I don't fry chicken as often as maybe I could – frying makes SUCH a mess!

    Reply
    • The cornmeal adds just a little texture. I don't fry very often, either. However, with the way the kids powered down the meal on Monday, I'll probably do it in the next few months as a big treat. Using a lid during most of the frying time drastically reduces the grease mess.

      Reply
  12. I must admit frying chicken (and anything else for that matter) always makes me nervous, mostly because of the quantities of burning hot oil involved. It always conjures visions of castle defenders pouring flaming oil and pitch over the walls onto attackers.

    That doesn't mean I haven't done it before, and I'm sure the recipients wished I did it more often. My preferred frying implement is a nice deep cast iron frying pan or dutch oven. Holds and distributes heat very well

    I'll have to remember the thing about not frying cold chicken though. That will probably make things a lot easier on me. Not surprisingly, there's a Good Eats episode all about frying (fried chicken exerpt: http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/pan-fried-chick… Fry Hard 2. I don't recall AB mentioning the tip about letting the chicken come to room temp though.

    Reply
    • I have to be careful with that tip, and I am a little nervous putting it out there.. I am by no means suggesting that you let it sit out all day and then not cook it to a safe temperature. I'm hoping that the readers understand I'm not suggesting they use unsafe cooking practices, but that they realize that coming to temperature is part of the cooking process and it is ok, as long as it is fully cooked in a timely manner.

      Reply
  13. This is how I do chicken nuggets/fingers! Buttermilk marinade (I add lots of paprika), dredge, fry. I've been a little scared of bone in chicken. I'll be trying this soon! Thanks!

    Reply
  14. mmmm. Sounds good. For some reason frying chicken has always scared me. Probably because I'm one of those Durn Northerners. I worry that the outside will be done and the inside will be raw. . .

    Reply
    • That's why it's critical to not try to fry cold chicken. If the bone is at 40F it takes a long time to bring it up to a safe temperature. Once I got that through MY thick skull, frying chicken has become a breeze.

      Reply

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