Buttermilk Fried Chicken

In search of a juicy buttermilk fried chicken recipe to wow your friends or family? This recipe is just the ticket!

A plate stacked with buttermilk fried chicken.
Alison Bickel

Recently at dinner my father instructed me, "tell your website readers that your dad says this is a good one." Done, dad. This chicken is good—perfectly tender, well flavored, crunchy—just what one wants in fried chicken.

Buttermilk Chicken Marinade - The Secret to Great Fried Chicken!

The secret? Buttermilk!

Buttermilk is lightly acidic. Soaking the chicken overnight in buttermilk helps tenderize it, and the chicken stays tender when you fry it.

Side view of fried chicken breast stacked on a platter.
Alison Bickel

The Best Pan for Frying Chicken

Many recipes call for frying chicken in a cast iron frying pan. Sometimes, we use one of our trusty cast iron pans, and sometimes, a hard anodized aluminum pan.

Cast iron tends to be quite heavy. It retains heat so well that if you have a problem and have to lower the heat rapidly, you won't be able to do it.

Anodized aluminum can also take the heat without warping, but will be more responsive for heating and cooling. (We've started a kitchen fire with peanut oil in a cast iron skillet—not fun! If it ever happens to you, remove the pan from the heat element, and cover it quickly with a lid.)

The Best Way to Check Oil Temperature

Here's a tip on checking oil temperatures. You might have a perfectly justifiable fear of hot oil. So, to measure it without getting too close to it, use an infrared thermometer, like this one. Just point the thermometer at the hot surface of the oil, pull the trigger, and you'll get a fairly accurate readout of the oil temp.

Side view of buttermilk fried chicken on a cooling rack.
Alison Bickel

Watch How to Make This Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe

1:19

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

What Are the Best Cuts of Chicken for Buttermilk Fried Chicken?

Bone-in pieces with skin still on make the crispiest fried chicken. You can get a whole chicken and cut it into 8 to 10 pieces. Or get a variety of cuts -- thighs, drumsticks, wings, or breasts. If you're using chicken breasts, we recommend cutting them in half so they cook at the same rate as the other pieces.

How Long Should I Marinate the Chicken Before Cooking?

To allow the buttermilk to tenderize and flavor the chicken, we recommend marinating overnight -- at least 8 hours, but not more than 24 hours.

Tips for Helping Breading Stick to the Chicken

First off, use skin-on chicken. Breading sticks better to skin. Also, to help keep the coating on the chicken when cooking, let the pieces rest after you dredge them in the flour. The resting time allows the coating to adhere to the chicken. Be sure to coat completely to get the best-tasting chicken.

Best Oils for Frying Chicken

You'll want to use an oil with a high smoke point (425°F or above) for the best results. We recommend peanut oil, canola oil, corn oil, or even regular vegetable oil for frying.

Also, check out our tips on which oils to cook with for the best results!

How Long Do You Fry Chicken?

Depending on the size of the cut and the temperature of the oil, you want to fry chicken pieces about 10 to 12 minutes on each side. Smaller pieces, like chicken wings, will cook faster, while thighs and breasts will take a little longer.

Avoid burning by keeping the oil at a constant temperature. You will likely need to raise and lower the heat frequently as the chicken cooks. A candy or frying thermometer is useful for monitoring the oil temperature.

How Do You Know When the Chicken Is Done?

If you're worried that your chicken isn't cooked all the way through, insert an instant-read thermometer into the chicken. The internal temperature should read at least 162°F. It'll get a little hotter after you have removed it from the oil to get to that perfect 165° to 170°F.

No thermometer? No problem! Just outside should be golden brown and the inside meat should be white (for breasts) or light brown, not pink (for dark meat).

To Get the Crispiest Fried Chicken

Moisture and steam are the enemy when it comes to the crispiest coating. The salt in the flour mixture helps draw out the moisture, but you can also add a couple of teaspoons of baking powder to the flour mix. The baking powder causes more air bubbles when frying, making the coating crispier.

Also, be sure to cool the cooked chicken on a rack, not directly on paper towels. Not only does this help drain the excess oil, but allows air to flow around the chicken. Putting the fried chicken directly on paper towels makes the pieces soggy, because the heat causes steam to be trapped.

Even More Fried Chicken Recipes and Amazing Side Dishes

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Marinating Time 8 hrs
Total Time 9 hrs
Servings 4 servings

Ingredients

  • For the marinade:
  • 2 cups buttermilk (can also use plain yogurt thinned with a little milk)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, tarragon), chopped, or a teaspoon each of the dried herbs.
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 pounds chicken parts (thighs, drumsticks, wings, breasts), bone-in, skin-on
  • For frying the chicken:
  • 2 cups cooking oil (such as canola or peanut oil)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Marinate chicken in buttermilk mixture

    Combine the buttermilk, sliced onion, herbs, paprika, and cayenne in a large bowl. Place the chicken pieces in the buttermilk mixture and coat completely. Cover and marinate overnight (at least 8 hours).

    Chicken in buttermilk mixture to make fried chicken breast.
    Alison Bickel
  2. Drain chicken

    Place chicken pieces in a colander and drain the excess buttermilk mixture.

    Straining chicken in a colander to make a buttermilk recipe.
    Alison Bickel
  3. Coat chicken pieces with flour

    In a large sturdy paper or plastic bag, mix flour with garlic salt, onion salt, cayenne, salt and pepper. Place chicken pieces into bag with flour mixture and shake until thoroughly coated.

    Shaking chicken in a flour mixture to make chicken fried chicken.
    Alison Bickel
  4. Heat oil in thick-bottomed pan

    Heat 2 cups of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (cast iron, stainless steel, or anodized aluminum—something that can take the heat) on medium high heat until a pinch of flour starts to sizzle when dropped in the hot oil (but not so hot that the pan is smoking), about 350°F. Remember when working with hot oil, always have a pan lid close by.

    Dutch oven with oil to show how to make fried chicken.
    Alison Bickel
  5. Fry the chicken

    Working in batches, add the chicken pieces to the hot oil in the pan and fry on one side for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown, and then use metal tongs to turn the pieces over and fry for another 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Cook about 5 pieces at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan. Repeat until all the pieces are cooked.

    Be careful to keep the oil hot enough to cook the chicken thoroughly, but not so high that it burns the batter, about 300° to 325°F.

    A dutch oven with oil and chicken to show how to fried chicken.
    Alison Bickel
    A dutch oven with oil and chicken to show how to fried chicken.
    Alison Bickel
  6. Place chicken on rack to drain excess oil

    Use tongs to remove chicken from pan. Place on a rack over a cookie sheet or broiling pan for the excess oil to drain. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Let cool about 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

    The buttermilk fried chicken cooling on a rack.
    Alison Bickel