Crispy, Juicy Fried Chicken (Better Than KFC!)

updated Jun 26, 2024
summer

Thanks to KFC's leaked secret spice blend and our own tried-and-true tips, this crispy chicken is even better than what you'll find at the fast food favorite.

Serves4 to 6

Prep45 minutes

Cook45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Whether you’re a first-time fryer or a seasoned chef, this step-by-step guide for making the very best fried chicken at home will create the most honest-to-goodness, crispy, juicy, finger-licking delicious chicken — a fried chicken with a glistening coating so full of crunchy ripples, herbs, and spices that it is hard to stop eating it once you start.

The chicken and breading is loaded with spices — garlic, onion, pepper, and even smoky paprika — that will make your first bite (and every bite after) a real stunner. As you dig in, the crust cracks audibly and reveals juicy chicken that is as flavorful as that irresistible crust.

The very best part of eating this chicken is that you made it yourself. You didn’t swing by the local drive-thru, you didn’t fork over 20 bucks at some trendy chicken joint. No — you, my friend, are the creator of this delicious dinner!

Quick Overview

What’s the Best Oil Temperature for Frying Chicken?

You’ll fry the chicken in oil heated to 350°F. Cook each piece of chicken until golden-brown with an internal temperature of 165°F, 12 to 15 minutes.

Why You’ll Love It

  • Everyone loves fried chicken! This dish of humble origins is so well-loved by everyone, making it at home is absolutely worth it.
  • This recipe and technique is a culmination of all the tips I’ve learned over the past 10 years. Including advice from Alton Brown (IRL, no less) partnered with knowledge gleaned from Kitchn’s own editors.
  • Once you’ve got the technique down, you’ll want to make it often. Frying chicken is definitely a big cooking project, which is to say you’ll need a couple of hours to accomplish it. But once you’ve got the technique down, you can fry more than one batch at a time for family picnics or just to have leftovers the following day.

Key Ingredients for Fried Chicken

  • Bone-in chicken: Preferably drumsticks and thighs.
  • Seasoning mixture: Make a flavorful seasoning mixture with smoked paprika, white pepper, garlic powder, ground ginger, celery salt, black pepper, ground mustard, dried thyme, dried basil, and dried oregano.
  • Buttermilk: Dip the chicken in a tangy buttermilk mixture before dredging in the flour mixture.
  • Egg whites: The egg whites are combined with buttermilk to help the flour coating stick to the chicken.
  • All-purpose flour: For dredging.
  • Cornstarch: A bit of cornstarch in the flour mixture makes the crust crispier.
  • Vodka: Vodka or any other neutral spirit evaporates quickly in the frying oil, which sets the coating and creates flaky layers.

Tips for Preparing Fried Chicken

  1. Buy bone-in chicken pieces. Let’s be real here — everybody wants a drumstick or thigh. Avoid arguments over the two you’ll get from buying a whole chicken and breaking it down and simply buy the pieces you like best. Personally, I go straight for a 50/50 split of drumsticks and thighs.
  2. Dry brine the chicken for juiciness. Dry brine (meaning salt) the chicken itself first. You can do this overnight in the fridge or for just 30 minutes before coating and frying the chicken at room temperature. This salting step is critical for moist, flavorful chicken, as it gives the chicken direct contact with the salt. This helps to tenderize it, but also infuses it with flavor.
  3. Make a strong seasoning mixture. In 2016, KFC’s secret spiced blend was reportedly leaked to the public via the Chicago Tribune. KFC uses a lot of spices and a large amount of them. I tried the recipe as written and found it too salty and too strong, so the seasoning mix you’ll find below reflects a lighter touch. Mix the seasoning blend together while the chicken is sitting salted, then put half on the chicken and the other half in the flour coating. Remember that the fat from frying is going to mellow some of the spice flavor and that some of the spices will be left behind in the coating process, so don’t be afraid at the large volume of spice here.
  4. Use egg whites, alcohol, and cornstarch for a crispy coating. These seemingly unrelated ingredients come together to make a super-crispy coating on the chicken full of ripples, nooks, and flakes — all the good things we love on fried chicken. Here is what each one does in the batter.
  • Egg white adds structure in the form of protein. It also helps the flour coating stick to the chicken like culinary glue. Use whole eggs and you’ll have a softer crust because of the yolks’ fat content.
  • Alcohol evaporates quickly in the frying oil. This sets the coating and creates flaky layers. You often see this ingredient used in pie crust recipes too.
  • Cornstarch in the flour makes the crust crispier. Cornstarch weakens the all-purpose flour’s protein just enough to make the coating tender.

Tips for Frying Chicken

I get it — frying at home is kind of intimidating. There are all the perils that come along with hot oil: displacement can that result in overflow, the splattering, and then the What the heck do I do with this used oil now? question. And then there’s the mess, right? So let’s address each of those concerns head on.

  • Set up a proper fry station. At the center of your fry station should be your Dutch oven, half full of oil (save the oil bottle!) and fitted with a deep-fry thermometer. One side should have your pan of prepped and ready-to-fry chicken, while the other side should have a cooling rack set on a baking sheet for draining and cooling the finished chicken. You may also want a plate, small baking sheet, or sheet of foil for resting oily tongs or equipment on while frying.
  • Use two thermometers. Use a deep-fry or candy thermometer for the oil and a instant-read thermometer to monitor the chicken’s internal temperature. You’ll notice that the oil drops in temperature as chicken pieces are added to the pot. You’ll need to monitor the temperature by adjusting the heat as you fry. The probe thermometer will guarantee that you have juicy chicken that is properly cooked. You can’t just rely on the chicken’s golden-brown coating to determine doneness, as the spice mixture will brown pretty quickly before the chicken is cooked. The chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165°F in the thickest part of each piece; make sure the thermometer is not touching bone when taking the temperature for the most accurate reading.
  • Use a Dutch oven. The cast iron skillet is an icon of Southern fried foods, but its shallow depth makes a mess (and is a fire hazard if you aren’t careful) when frying. Instead, use a Dutch oven for frying. The Dutch oven’s high sides will reduce the amount of oil that splatters out of the pan, but you can also reduce splashing by using long tongs to lower your chicken into the hot oil. Use another pair of tongs to remove the chicken from the oil, holding the finished chicken over the hot oil for 10 to 15 seconds so excess oil can drip back into the Dutch oven and not all over your stovetop.
  • Don’t even mess with the hot oil post-frying. Another benefit of the Dutch oven for frying is that after you’ve enjoyed your chicken you can cover the oil with the pot’s lid and let it cool on the back of the stove. I usually do not even deal with the fry oil until the next day. Set a reminder on your phone to move the oil and clean the pot the next day.

What to Do With Used Fry Oil

After your frying oil is cooled to room temperature, set the empty oil bottle (or a large, clean glass jar) in your sink, attach a funnel, and then fit a small strainer inside the funnel. Pour the oil through the strainer back into the bottle.

Once strained, the oil can be saved at cool room temperature or in the refrigerator for one more use. Alternatively, you can seal the bottle and throw the whole thing away, or find a local recycling center that takes cooking oil.

Credit: Lauren Volo

How to Cool Fried Chicken

  • Move your finished fried chicken to a cooling rack set over a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Setting the chicken directly on paper towels (or brown paper) might wick away some excess grease, but it can also create a steamy spot where that crust we worked so hard for gets soggy.
  • Cool the chicken for at least 10 minutes before serving. Proper cooling sets the crust and ensures that the chicken will have done all its carryover cooking. I like to cool any leftover chicken completely and then store in a paper towel-lined airtight container in the fridge. The paper towel absorbs condensation and keeps that chicken crisp for midnight snacking.

What to Serve with Fried Chicken

Crispy, Juicy Fried Chicken Recipe (Better than KFC)

Thanks to KFC's leaked secret spice blend and our own tried-and-true tips, this crispy chicken is even better than what you'll find at the fast food favorite.

Prep time 45 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 8 pieces

    bone-in chicken, preferably drumsticks and thighs

  • 1 tablespoons

    plus 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 1 tablespoon

    plus 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground white pepper

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    garlic powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    ground ginger

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    celery salt

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    ground mustard

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried basil

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 1 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon

    cornstarch

  • 1 cup

    buttermilk

  • 2

    large egg whites

  • 2 tablespoons

    vodka or other neutral spirit

  • 2 quarts

    peanut or vegetable oil, for deep frying

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Large and medium bowls

  • 2

    wire racks

  • 2

    rimmed baking sheets

  • Tongs, preferably long

  • Whisk

  • Candy or deep-fry thermometer

  • Instant-read thermometer

  • Paper towels

  • Large Dutch oven

Instructions

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  1. Salt the chicken. Place 8 bone-in chicken pieces on a baking sheet and sprinkle all over with 1 tablespoon of the salt. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or cover loosely and refrigerate overnight.

  2. Make the seasoning blend. Place 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 1 tablespoon ground white pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground mustard, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried basil, and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano in a large bowl and stir to combine.

  3. Season the chicken. Coat the chicken all over with half of the seasoning mixture (about 3 tablespoons).

  4. Set up a dredging station. Add 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt to the remaining spice mixture in the bowl and whisk to combine. Place 1 cup buttermilk, 2 large egg whites, and 2 tablespoons vodka in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Fit a wire rack over a second rimmed baking sheet.

  5. Dredge the chicken. Working with 1 piece of chicken at a time, dip in the buttermilk mixture to completely coat, then place in the flour mixture (don't worry about letting any excess buttermilk drain off the chicken first). Shake the flour bowl as needed to completely coat the chicken, then use your fingers to press the flour coating onto the chicken.

  6. Set the coating. Place the coated chicken on the rack. Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes while you set up for frying and heat the oil for the coating to set up.

  7. Set up for frying. Meanwhile, place 2 quarts vegetable or peanut oil in a large Dutch oven and heat on medium-high heat until 350°F. Meanwhile, wash and dry the empty baking sheet the chicken was seasoned on. Line this baking sheet with paper towels and fit with a second wire rack; this will be your cooling station.

  8. Fry the chicken. Place 3 pieces of the chicken in the oil and fry, using tongs to flip or rotate the pieces every 3 to 4 minutes and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain 325°F, until golden-brown with an internal temperature of 165°F (check by inserting a probe thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken without touching bone), 12 to 15 minutes total.

  9. Cool the chicken. Transfer the chicken to the rack on the second baking sheet. Make sure the oil comes back up to 350°F before frying the remaining chicken in 2 more batches. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The seasoning blend can be made and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. The chicken can be salted and refrigerated for up to 1 day.

Storage: Leftover chicken can be refrigerated in an airtight container on paper towels for up to 4 days.