How to Make Fried Chicken, Step-by-Step

Follow our easy guide for fried chicken that's perfectly crispy and juicy.

Making 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 perfect fried chicken. To demonstrate how to make fried chicken step-by-step, 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 breasts). And if you're trying to cut back on the oil, read on to find tips on making fried chicken in an air fryer or creating crispy oven-fried chicken.

Step 1: Coat the Chicken with Liquid

buttermilk brining chicken
Blaine Moats

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.

Step 2: Dip Chicken in Flour Mixture

dredge chicken leg in flour mixture
Blaine Moats

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.

Step 3: Fry the Chicken

deep-frying chicken pieces
Blaine Moats

In a Dutch oven, heavy pan, or a deep-fat fryer, heat 1½ inches of oil to 350ºF. Using tongs ($13, 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.

Fried Chicken Temperature

checking fried chicken temperature
Blaine Moats

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 ($13, 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: cornflakes! The cereal makes the perfect vehicle to achieve a crunchy exterior without the oil bath.

How to Make Fried Chicken in an Air Fryer

"Fried" Chicken Thighs
Victor Protasio

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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