How to Make Fried Chicken Better Than Anything You Can Order at the Drive-Thru

If you've never learned how to make fried chicken, this is the place to make it happen. Follow our step-by-step guide for the best way to make fried chicken that's perfectly crispy and juicy. You'll be serving up homemade fried chicken for comforting Sunday dinners in no time.

Learning how to make fried chicken at home is one of the most comforting, delicious ways to satisfy everyone at the family dinner table. Every crisp-tender bite is worth taking the time to master making perfect fried chicken. To demonstrate the steps of frying chicken, we're using our buttermilk-brined fried chicken recipe (but the tips apply to most fried chicken recipes). If starting with a whole chicken, cut it into its meatiest parts (drumsticks, thighs, and/or breasts). And if you're trying to cut back on the oil, read on to find tips on how to make fried chicken in an air fryer or how to create crispy oven-fried chicken.

buttermilk brining chicken
Blaine Moats

Step 1: Coat the Chicken with Liquid

For tender, richly flavored chicken, use buttermilk for your coating. (You can also use regular milk or eggs, if that's what you have on hand.) In a resealable plastic bag placed in a bowl, combine buttermilk, coarse salt, and sugar. Cut chicken breasts in half crosswise. Add chicken pieces to the buttermilk mixture; seal bag. Chill 2 to 4 hours. Drain and discard buttermilk mixture from chicken; pat chicken dry with paper towels.

Test Kitchen Tip: To save time, you can omit brining the chicken and continue to step 2.

dredge chicken leg in flour mixture
Blaine Moats

Step 2: Dip Chicken in Flour Mixture

In a large bowl combine flour, salt, and ground black pepper. Place ¾ cup buttermilk in a shallow dish. Coat the drained chicken with the flour mixture. Dip chicken in the buttermilk. Coat again with the flour mixture.

deep-frying chicken pieces
Blaine Moats

Step 3: Fry the Chicken

In a Dutch oven ($55, Bed Bath & Beyond), heavy pan, or a deep-fat fryer, heat 1½ inches of oil to 350ºF. Using tongs ($12, Target), carefully add a few pieces of chicken to oil. (Oil temperature will drop; maintain it at 350ºF). Fry chicken for 12 to 15 minutes or until coating is golden and chicken is no longer pink. Drain chicken on paper towels.

Test Kitchen Tip: Keep cooked fried chicken warm in a 300ºF oven while frying the remaining chicken.

checking fried chicken temperature
Blaine Moats

Fried Chicken Temperature

All poultry is safe to eat at 165ºF, but our Test Kitchen finds different cuts taste better at different temperatures. Test doneness by inserting a thermometer ($12, Bed Bath & Beyond) into the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone.

  • Bone-in thigh and drumstick: at least 175ºF
  • Boneless thigh: 175ºF
  • Bone-in breast: 170ºF
  • Boneless breast/tenders: 165ºF

How to Make Oven-Fried Chicken

Yes, making fried chicken in the oven works, too. Our oven-fried chicken recipe starts with buttermilk but ends with a crunchy surprise: corn flakes! The cereal makes the perfect vehicle to achieve a crunchy exterior without the oil bath.

"Fried" Chicken Thighs
Victor Protasio

How to Make Fried Chicken in an Air Fryer

Deep-fried chicken isn't a top food option for anyone trying to maintain a heart-healthy diet. Luckily you can use your trusty air fryer to achieve just-as-crispy fried chicken. We still like giving the chicken a buttermilk bath to get it nice and juicy but opt for a lightened-up coating of whole-wheat breadcrumbs. For an even easier crunchy snack, try these air-fried chicken tenders.

Don't stop at making buttermilk fried chicken. For the next round, try our spicy fried chicken or pecan fried chicken variations (it's listed right after the recipe instructions). Once you've mastered the fried chicken technique, go for another delicious fried chicken recipe.

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