Perfect Fried Chicken

Fried chicken.

The most sinful food on the planet. The king of everything fried. Synonymous with phrases like “heart-clogging” and “heart attack on a plate.” Yikes.

Obviously it doesn’t have the greatest reputation on the block, but it’s my firm belief that as long as you’re not indulging in completely gluttonous behavior and consuming fried chicken weekly, I don’t see any reason why it can’t be something you can enjoy every once in a while.

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As a kid, I was no stranger to roasted veggies, salads and other healthy meal options, but like me, (and perhaps where I got it from), my Mom was – and is – a big believer in moderation and so once or twice a year, the family would head 30 minutes north to a Kansas City institution for the most perfect, delicious, crispy, salty fried chicken on the planet. Upon arrival there was always at least an hour, sometimes two-hour wait, which believe me, was 100% worth it, not only for the food, but because the owner had an adjacent miniature golf course we could play at to pass the time quicker.

Once we were finally seated, the family-style feast began almost immediately. Soup or salad to start, followed by a good old-fashioned fried chicken meal with all the necessary (and bottomless) sides – buttery mashed potatoes, thick cream gravy, spicy green beans and the most decadent, messy cinnamon rolls. As you can imagine, you pretty much had to be rolled out of the restaurant after the meal was over, but man, it was sooo worth it.

To this day, it’s still something we do a couple of times a year, one occasion being my Grandmother’s birthday dinner – yes, we take my 96-year old grandmother out for fried chicken on her birthday. Although with multiple locations now, the wait is nearly non-existent, a bittersweet change, since the wait was always part of fun and experience.

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I’ve been wanting to make my own version of the famous pan-fried chicken for years, but I shied away from the long process and mess, plus when I’m craving fried chicken now, it’s no longer a 30-minute drive, but a short, 10-minutes from my doorstep to their new location – almost too close for comfort. I finally threw caution to the wind and decided to charge on, despite the likelihood of it turning out disastrously – both the chicken and my freshly cleaned kitchen.

So! Let’s begin. I started out by marinating the chicken pieces in buttermilk, salt and sirracha for 24 hours. The buttermilk helps to tenderize the chicken while also helping to keep the meat super moist while cooking. The salt and sirracha are there purely to enhance the flavor of the meat, and rest assured, the chicken will not taste salty or spicy in the least.

About three hours before I want the fried chicken to be completed, I take the chicken out of the marinade, dry it completely – and I mean, there should not be one lick of moisture anywhere on that chicken – and pop the chicken pieces in the fridge to dry out. After a few hours, the chicken comes out of the fridge and sits at room temperature for 30 minutes or so until the chicken comes up to temperature. These two steps are super important because the drier the meat is, the more likely the coating is to stick, and trust me there is nothing worse than frying a piece of chicken, having it look absolutely beautiful and then watching in horror as the breading just falls right off of it. Not good.

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The chicken is then coated in seasoned flour, then dunked in a buttermilk mixture, back into the seasoned flour and then directly into the hot oil. Instead of deep-frying, I actually mimic what the restaurant does and pan-fry the chicken in an inch and half or so of oil (canola or peanut), to me it’s just easier to monitor the progress of the chicken, plus it uses up a heck of a lot less oil.

A couple notes. Once the breading process begins, you really want to move things along quickly and obviously the chicken is best when inhaled almost directly from the hot oil –although I would recommend waiting at least a few minutes so you don’t burn yourself.

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Perfect Fried Chicken
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6 pieces fried chicken
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 3 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 3 teaspoons sirracha, divided
  • 6 chicken pieces (1 large breast split in half, two thighs and two drumsticks)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
Seasoned flour
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 4 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons paprika
  • ¼ teaspoons black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  1. Add chicken to a large ziplock bag. Add in All but 1 cup of the buttermilk, salt and two teaspoons sirracha. Seal back and massage buttermilk into chicken. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
  2. Three and half hours before you fry your chicken, remove from marinade. Dry off COMPLETELY. Place on a baking sheet and pop back into the fridge, let dry out for three hours. Once the chicken has dried out, remove from fridge and let sit at room temperature while your oil comes to temperature.
  3. Fill a large cast-iron skillet ⅔ full of oil. Bring the temperature up to 360 degrees.
  4. Add remaining buttermilk, sirracha and baking soda to a medium-sized bowl, stir to combine. In a shallow dish, combine flour, garlic powder, salt, paprika, black pepper and cayenne.
  5. Dip chicken into the flour, making sure to pat off all excess. Dip into the buttermilk, let excess drip off. Finally, dip back into the flour, making sure the whole chicken piece is coated, but patting off any excess flour. Place gently into the hot oil. (You will probably have to work in batches.) Cook on until each side is golden brown, about 6-7 minutes per side. Use a thermometer to check the temperature, it should be 165 degrees closest to the bone.
  6. Drain on a paper towel and then immediately move to a cookie cooling sheet.
  7. Serve immediately.
Perfect Fried Chicken
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