Southern Fried Chicken made the simple, old-fashioned way it used to be made. Just sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, dredge in flour, and fry! So easy!

Southern style fried chicken on a white platter. 

Featured Comment

5 starsHands down the easiest and BEST!!! KFC ain’t got nothin on me with this foolproof recipe, and yes, exactly like my grandma used to make, Thank you SO very much!!! — Tammy

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Granny’s fried chicken is the BEST

As a fourth-generation Southern cook, I’ve learned a few things about how to cook good old-fashioned comfort food—and fried chicken is high on that list.

It should be common knowledge that my Granny made the best fried chicken ever. Certainly, it was legendary in our family, probably because she made it at least once a week for fifty years! This recipe is exactly the way that she made it.

Add some homemade biscuits, mashed potatoes, butter beans, and homemade peach cobbler and you’ll have a feast that will make everyone happy. That’s a perfect Southern meal!

If you want to change it up, try this delicious Green Bean Artichoke Casserole or this reader favorite Squash Casserole.

Southern-style fried chicken ingredients

  • Buttermilk – optional for marinating
  • Chicken – I like to get a whole organic chicken because they are usually smaller
  • Flour – all-purpose works well
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Crisco or peanut oil – you need oil with a high smoke point

What is the best oil for cast iron fried chicken?

Of course, the best Southern fried chicken is made with lard, but most of us don’t have a tub of lard sitting around. So, in lieu of that, use solid Crisco shortening (my preferred oil), vegetable oil, or peanut oil.

Tools for this Southern fried chicken recipe

You don’t need anything special for this recipe, just a regular cast iron skillet. I do like to use a deeper skillet like this one, but it’s not necessary.

You do want to make sure you have a lid that will cover your skillet.

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How to make Southern fried chicken

For this recipe, you can use already cut-up chicken pieces, or you can cut your own. I like to cut my own because the ones that are already cut in the store are way too big.

Cook’s Tip: Young or organic chickens are usually smaller and a better size for frying. They are the size real chickens used to be before the chicken industry got ahold of them and mutated them into chicken monsters.

Step 1. Prepare chicken.

Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Salt and pepper all the chicken. Next, season your flour with a little salt and pepper, and then dredge the chicken pieces. Place them on a rack on a baking sheet to rest 15-20 minutes before cooking.

If using buttermilk marinade, place chicken pieces in a large bowl and cover with buttermilk. Set in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Remove chicken pieces from buttermilk and place on a rack in a baking sheet to drain slightly, then proceed with flouring instructions.

Step 2. Prepare oil and skillet.

Add oil to the skillet to reach about 1/3 up the side. The oil should cover the chicken about halfway up but not completely.

Use a thermometer and heat the oil to 360-365°F. (Now, you know my Granny never used a thermometer, and I usually don’t either, but if you’re just starting out, it will be helpful for you to know when to put the chicken in the skillet.)

Cook’s Tip: If you’re cooking a good bit of fried chicken, you can heat your oven to 170°F and place the cooked chicken on a rack on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.

Step 3. Fry chicken.

Just before dropping the chicken into the skillet, dredge it through the flour one more time and lightly shake off the excess. Then, place a few chicken pieces in the hot grease, skin side down, cover the skillet, and let the chicken cook.

You need to stay close by and keep an eye on your chicken. After a few minutes, nudge the chicken with your tongs, and if it releases easily, turn it to the other side. At this point, I cover it again, leaving the edge open to vent, and let it cook a bit longer, then turn the chicken and cover it again.

You want to get a nice, deep golden brown and check with the thermometer to make sure your chicken is fully cooked at 165°.

Each time you remove chicken pieces from the skillet, be sure you give the oil a minute to heat back up before putting new pieces in.

How to store cast iron fried chicken

Store your leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

How to reheat Southern-style fried chicken

Most of the time, we eat leftover fried chicken at room temperature or even cold straight from the fridge.

If you want it hot, though, you can heat it in the microwave or in a warm oven.

Fried chicken recipe FAQs

How is Southern fried chicken different?

Southern fried chicken is made with simple seasonings, usually just salt and pepper, or maybe throw in a little Cajun seasoning if that’s your thing.

But while the chicken may marinate in buttermilk, Southern fried chicken is typically not egg-battered—at least not in my family!

How to fry chicken in a cast iron skillet without burning it?

Make sure the oil is hot, around 360°F, and then maintain a temperature between 300°-325°F as you add additional pieces, and don’t crowd the pan. Allow the chicken to cook on one side until it releases, and then turn it every 3-4 minutes.

The biggest key is that you have to be hands-on so you know when it’s time to turn. You can’t go watch television while the chicken cooks.

How to keep the breading from falling off fried chicken?

Your chicken should be completely dry before you do anything else with it. However, if you’ve brined the chicken in buttermilk, this acts as a binder, so just dredge in flour and then allow the chicken to rest for 15-20 minutes.

Also, make sure the entire piece of chicken is well-coated, and shake off any excess flour.

Southern fried chicken pieces on a white platter.

How to serve Granny’s fried chicken

When we have Southern fried chicken, it’s usually a to-do, so we’ll have all the fixings. You’ve got to have a good starch, and the best is simple mashed potatoes with brown gravy. Add a good green vegetable, like butter beans or green beans, and maybe throw in some creamed corn.

And, of course, you’ve got to have cornbread or biscuits. Then, serve up the best Southern dessert: old-fashioned pound cake or Southern caramel cake.

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4.83 from 17 votes

Southern Style Fried Chicken

Tender golden fried chicken, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. A favorite of kids and grownups!
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
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Ingredients 

  • Buttermilk (optional)
  • 1 small chicken, cut into pieces
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 cups Crisco or peanut oil, may need more

Instructions 

Marinating in buttermilk:

  • Place chicken pieces in a large, shallow bowl and cover with buttermilk. Set in refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

Frying chicken:

  • If you've marinated the chicken in buttermilk, remove the chicken pieces from the buttermilk and place on a rack in a baking pan to drain slightly. Season with salt and pepper and rest 15-20 minutes.
    If you did not marinate the chicken, then pat the pieces dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Place on a rack in a baking pan and allow the chicken to rest 15-20 minutes at room temperature.
  • Line a large platter with paper towels or brown paper bags or place a rack in a baking pan and set oven to warm (about 170°F.)
  • Add salt and pepper to the flour in a large bowl, stir, then dredge the chicken pieces through the flour, shake off excess flour, and set chicken aside.
  • Heat shortening or oil in a large, deep skillet on medium-high until it sizzles when a drop of water is added. This would be 360-365°F.
  • Just before adding chicken, dredge each piece through the flour again, shaking slightly to remove excess, then place each piece one at a time skin side down in the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the skillet.
  • Cover the skillet and cook, turning about every three minutes (if chicken releases easily) until chicken is lightly brown on all sides.
  • Then cover the skillet, leaving one side open slightly to vent, and turn heat down to medium. Cook, turning occasionally, until chicken is deep, golden brown and temperature is 165°F. Dark meat may take a little longer. (The chicken will probably take 15-20 minutes to cook fully.)
  • Place chicken pieces on the lined platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil until ready to eat, or place on the rack and keep in warm oven until ready to serve.

Nutrition

Serving: 6servings, Calories: 907kcal, Carbohydrates: 48g, Protein: 10g, Fat: 76g, Saturated Fat: 13g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 24g, Monounsaturated Fat: 35g, Trans Fat: 0.02g, Cholesterol: 14mg, Sodium: 790mg, Potassium: 112mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 0.2g, Vitamin A: 31IU, Vitamin C: 0.3mg, Calcium: 15mg, Iron: 3mg
Course: Chicken
Cuisine: American
Calories: 907
Keyword: fried chicken, southern fried chicken
Love this recipe?Mention @southernfoodandfun or tag #southernfoodandfun!

This post is part of my favorite Southern Foods at Home collection.

Update Notes: This post was originally published April 1, 2011, and on February 10, 2024, was updated with the following: step-by-step photos, video, updated recipe, and/or new tips.

Lucy standing behind a counter with a cheese board and glass of wine.

About the author

Hi, I’m Lucy! I’m a home cook, writer, food and wine fanatic, and recipe developer. I’ve created and tested hundreds of recipes so that I can bring you the best tried and true favorites.

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4.83 from 17 votes (15 ratings without comment)

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8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hands down the easiest and BEST!!! KFC ain’t got nothin on me with this foolproof recipe, and yes, exactly like my grandma used to make, Thank you SO very much!!!

  2. 5 stars
    After 40 years of frying chicken …I have stumbled on the failproof technique. Flour the chicken…place in 350 degree oil…..COVER for 6 minutes….UNCOVER….cook for 9 minutes….TURN…..COVER for 6 minutes….UNCOVER…cook for 9 minutes. Flip one more time….then cook for 3 minutes. Remove. I always thought covering would make batter fall off…but NO….it is the secret to getting it to getting it done completely. Hope this helps.

  3. Actually, no. The best and most delicious fried chicken is made with a wet batter. My mother made hers with a batter of flour and water and fried it in lard. It was pure heaven. Everyone said it was the best fried chicken they had ever eaten, and it absolutely was.

    1. @Deb Majors, That was kind of a rude comment. Maybe you should start your own blog. Btw, Lucy’s method is exactly the same both my grandmothers’.

    2. @Terry,

      Agreed Terry. Why is she on here if she has the perfect recipe? This is also exactly how my Mama made it.

  4. Having eaten A LOT of fried chicken in our lifetimes, both Jerry and I “get hungry” for some crispy southern style fried chicken. That desired hungered showed its face last week. As I began the process, first skinning the chicken and then soaking in water with sea salt for 30 minutes my mind goes back to the hundreds of times this delicious food was served or made in my own kitchen. The mess you make dredging the meat, the iron skillet (or my new 10″ Chicken Frying Pan from Cook’s Essentials off QVC—greatest skillet)….the oil and then the dropping in of the first piece! The sizzle let’s me know the temperature is just right to make the best fried chicken we have eaten!!! I usually come away with ice on a new grease burn but always feel it was worth it! Like you, we have many, many memories of “the best fried chicken I have we both have that longing of rembrance of meals past! Thanks for sharing Granny’s directions! Just like my Granny’s and all of the other women who have fried up this bird! BTW…I can show you how to cut up your fryer!