Fried chicken is one of my favorite foods, hands down. I grew up mostly eating quick, skillet-fried chicken, but we would always have a bottle of hot sauce on the table to turn up the flavor.
Here, classic buttermilk fried chicken gets a spicy twist, infusing it with spice instead of treating it as an afterthought. Chicken parts get marinated in a spicy buttermilk mixture, dredged in seasoned flour with a kick, and then fried in a skillet until crisp and golden brown on the outside, and juicy on the inside.
What Are the Best Cuts of Chicken for Frying?
For starters, you'll want to use skin-on, bone-in cuts of chicken. In reality, any type of chicken would work, but the skin is my personal favorite part of fried chicken, and the bone helps keep the meat from drying out.
In terms of which pieces to use, I'm partial to chicken thighs, but any cut of chicken works well. Keep in mind that white meat (chicken breasts) will tend to have a shorter cooking time than dark meat.
How Can You Adjust the Spiciness?
When it comes to fried chicken, the two main components are the meat itself and the crispy crust. As far as the spice level for the chicken meat, it all comes down to the type of hot sauce used for the marinade.
- Milder hot sauces, such as Louisiana or Frank's, will only lend a subtle heat to the meat, whereas a spicier bottle like Tabasco Habañero Pepper Sauce will give the meat a nice kick. The heat from the hot sauce will be tempered by the buttermilk in the marinade, so I recommend a hotter sauce than you might think, if you want a spicy end result.
- The other way to adjust the spice level is with the amount of cayenne and black pepper in the seasoned flour dredge.
Tip for the Best Fried Chicken
- It’s all in the marinade: Any time spent marinating is better than none, even if it's just 30 minutes, but eight hours is the sweet spot for getting juicy, flavorful chicken from the buttermilk marinade. You can let it marinate up to 24 hours, but any longer, and it will negatively impact the texture of the chicken.
- Let the chicken rest after dredging: One of the secrets to expertly fried chicken is letting it rest 20 to 30 minutes after dredging—it helps the coating stick to the meat. It also gives the chicken time to come up to room temperature after marinating in the fridge, which helps it cook more evenly. (Pro Tip: You should let any meat sit for a few minutes after taking it out of the refrigerator to help it cook more evenly.)
What's the Best Pan for Frying Chicken?
When it comes to the type of pan, I like to use cast iron skillets, but stainless steel and anodized aluminum pans also work well. You want a skillet with a thick bottom that can handle the heat.
How Much and What Kind of Oil Do You Use to Fry Chicken?
We're pan frying here, not deep frying. You only need to fill your skillet with about half an inch of any neutral, high-heat oil, such as vegetable, canola, or peanut.
I like to fry chicken at a slightly lower temperature than most—at 325 ̊F. This gives the chicken enough time to cook all the way through without burning the crust. Without a thermometer, you can tell the oil is the right temperature when a bit of flour dropped in the oil gently sizzles away within a few seconds.
How to Tell When Chicken Is Cooked Through?
Aside from cutting open each piece to look, the easiest way to tell when the chicken is cooked is with an instant-read thermometer: the thickest part of the meat should register 165°F.
Afterwards, transfer each piece to a wire rack set over a baking sheet, or a platter layered with paper towels, to drain the excess oil.
What Do You Serve With Fried Chicken?
The possibilities are endless! I think extra hot sauce for the true heat seekers is always a must. Some of my other favorites include fluffy buttermilk biscuits, creamy, tangy coleslaw, and macaroni and cheese.
Love Chicken? Love Fried Foods? Here Are More Recipes to Try!
- Barbecued Chicken on the Grill
- Buttermilk Fried Chicken
- Grilled Chicken with South Carolina BBQ Sauce
- Bourbon Maple Glazed Chicken Wings
- Sweet Tea Fried Chicken
Spicy Fried Chicken
- For the chicken:
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1/2 cup hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken parts
- For the batter:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- For frying:
- Canola, vegetable, or peanut oil
Marinate chicken in buttermilk mixture:
Mix the buttermilk, hot sauce, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder in a large bowl. Put the chicken pieces in the buttermilk mixture and coat completely.
Marinate at least 8 hours and up to 24 in the refrigerator.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator. In a large paper or plastic (sturdy) bag, mix flour with black pepper, cayenne, salt, and garlic powder.
A couple pieces at a time, add the chicken to the seasoned flour and shake until thoroughly coated. Shake off any excess flour and let the dredged chicken pieces sit on a platter at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
Heat oil in thick-bottomed pan:
Meanwhile, heat 1/2 inch of oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet on medium heat (cast iron, stainless steel, or anodized aluminum—something that can take the heat). Heat until a pinch of flour gently sizzles when dropped in the hot oil (but not so hot that the pan is smoking), about 325°F. Remember when working with hot oil, always have a pan lid close by, just in case of grease fire.
Fry the chicken:
Working in batches, add the chicken pieces to the hot oil in the pan and fry until golden brown all over, about 8 to 10 minutes per side, flipping the chicken as needed with tongs. When done, the meat should register 165°F in the thickest part using a digital thermometer.
Remove to a rack to drain excess oil:
Use tongs to remove chicken from pan. Place on a rack over a cookie sheet or a platter layered with paper towels for the excess oil to drain. Serve warm.