Batter-Fried Chicken Recipe

This batter-fried chicken recipe is proof that it doesn’t take buttermilk or beer or an insufferably long overnight brine to make crispy Southern fried chicken that’s finger-lickin’ good. It’s actually magnificently simple.

Batter-Fried Chicken Recipe

With its crisp, nubbly crust and insanely tender meat, this batter fried chicken recipe is fried chicken perfection. Those of you who are geeks for cooking technique wizardry, pay attention. The clever folks at America’s Test Kitchen carefully devised this Southern fried chicken recipe as follows:

The batter contains equal parts cornstarch and flour to ensure a crisp crust;

The batter also contains baking powder for a crust that’s light without a trace of doughiness;

The batter relies on black pepper, paprika, and cayenne for a “simple but unambiguous flavor” (just be forewarned, the amount of black pepper is intentionally heavy-handed);

The batter contains no dairy. They replaced the milk in the batter with plain old water. The logic behind this? “When wet batter hits hot oil, the moisture in the batter vaporizes, leaving behind the solids that adhere to the chicken. With milk, the sugars in the milk solids browned too fast and produced a soft crust.”

And the battered chicken is then deep-fried to ensure that the carefully constructed batter doesn’t burn on the bottom as it would if you attempted to shallow-fry it in a skillet.

Brilliant, yes? Wait’ll you taste it. This recipe has been updated. Originally published October 17, 2013.Renee Schettler Rossi

Special Equipment: Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer

Batter-Fried Chicken Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Serves 4 to 6


  • For the fried chicken brine
  • 1 quart (4 cups) cold water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (halve each breast crosswise and separate leg quarters into thighs and drumsticks)
  • For the fried chicken batter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 to 5 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 3/4 cups cold water
  • 3 quarts (12 cups) peanut or vegetable oil, for frying


  • Make the fried chicken brine
  • 1. In a large bowl, whisk or stir together the water, salt, and sugar until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the chicken and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Make the fried chicken batter
  • 2. While the chicken is brining, in a large bowl, whisk or stir together the flour, cornstarch, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, baking powder, salt, and water until smooth. Cover and refrigerate the batter while the chicken is brining.
  • Make the fried chicken
  • 3. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or other deep-sided pot over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F (176°C). Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • 4. Pour the brine from the chicken down the sink and pat the chicken pieces completely dry with paper towels. Whisk the batter to recombine. (If the batter seems too thick, add some cold water, no more than 1 tablespoon at a time, until the batter becomes the consistency of pancake batter.) Place half the chicken pieces in the batter and turn to coat. Remove the chicken from the batter, allowing any excess to drip back into the bowl, and carefully place it in the oil. Fry the chicken and keep your attention on the oil temperature, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the oil between 300°F and 325°F (149°C and 163°C). Cook the fried chicken until deep golden brown and the white meat registers 160°F (71°C) or 175°F (79°C) for dark meat, 12 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Place the fried chicken on the wire rack to drain. Bring the oil back to 350°F (176°C) and repeat with the remaining chicken. Serve the fried chicken hot, warm, at room temperature, even cold if there are any leftovers (hah!).
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews
Testers Choice
Mike S.

Feb 25, 2017

I’m someone who loves fried chicken as a midnight snack, pulling it from the ice box and eating it cold. Although this fried chicken was alright straight from the fridge for a late-night snack, where it really shines is straight out of the fryer. The batter comes out super crunchy and crisp, the interior is juicy and moist, and there’s just the right amount of seasoning to give it a nice, memorable kick.

Testers Choice
Sofia Reino

Feb 25, 2017

Momofuku fried chicken, I DO love you, but I’ve found a new love! And I feel so very guilty for saying this. I must say that the chicken thighs I used ended up being in the brine overnight, as we had to run to the ER just as I was about to start cooking. So both the brined chicken and the batter were in the fridge for more than 10 hours, and I was worried the batter fried chicken would end up being too salty. When I removed the batter from the fridge, it was overly thick. I tried mixing it, but ended up adding 1 more tablespoon water to thin it a bit, and that did the trick. I used gluten-free all-purpose flour. When tasting the batter alone, I was a tad worried it was a bit too peppery for my 4-year-old. I heated the oil, dried the chicken, and started to fry it. The final result was an EXTREMELY moist and juicy Southern fried chicken with a gorgeous, golden crust that had a nice little kick to it but nothing too strong that a kid wouldn’t enjoy it. We all agreed that this is going to be our No. 1 choice for fried chicken. None of us could believe the taste and juiciness of each piece of chicken—even a couple that ended up a little too dark on the outside. Each thigh took about 11 minutes to cook. I was able to fry 4 at a time, so as we were eating the first batch, the second was being fried. Also, the 4 pounds would’ve been perfect for 6 people. We had some leftovers. I actually love cold fried chicken and this recipe also works well this way. After a few hours I decided to place one in a hot oven (under broil high), and not only did it warm up in 5 minutes but the crispness came back to life.

Testers Choice
Alexander Cowan

Feb 25, 2017

You know what this batter fried chicken reminded me of? Childhood. While my mother would make amazing fried chicken, some evenings it was easier for her to break out a box of frozen Banquet-brand fried chicken. Its thick, overly peppered crust wasn’t exactly a favorite but you wouldn’t hear any complaints from us. So yeah, this recipe—at least for me—reminded me of that chicken in a serious way. The batter came out way too thick after resting in the fridge for an hour. Even after beating it with a whisk for a bit, I ended up adding an additional 1/4 cup water to loosen it up a bit. The batter was still quite thick after the additional water was added and clung to the chicken easily. The cook times varied considerably from the recipe. My first batch took 23 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C), with the oil staying at a constant 330°F (166°C). I’d recommend checking your internal temperature after about 12 minutes in, then gauge the timing from there. Next time I’d change the seasonings in the batter for personal preference. I’d remove all but 2 teaspoons black pepper, as 5 teaspoons was way too much for me, and I’d add 1 more teaspoon salt for a total of 2 teaspoons. We also used some of the remaining batter to deep-fry some artichoke hearts we had from the garden. I’m looking forward to trying this one again.

  1. Aleksandr Stankevic says:

    Yummy, that looks so great! I’ll have to try to cook that myself!

  2. cjaw288lhr says:

    I love chicken! I could eat it 7 days a week. This has got to be one of the very best recipes I have ever come across!! Because I like a bit more black pepper, I added a teaspoon more to the batter, but other than that I followed the recipe exactly. The inside was moist and it was superb when cold. We decided that this is our go-to chicken recipe from now on. Actually, all of the David’s recipes are spot-on!!

    • David Leite says:

      cjaw288lhr, why thank you. I’m blushing. I have a wonderful team, from Renee who picks the recipes, to Beth who oversees the testing, to the testers who say yay or nay.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      So lovely to hear it, cjaw288lhr! Thanks so much for taking the time to drop us a note. Looking forward to hearing which recipe you try next…

  3. Carole J. says:

    This is THE best chicken recipe I have come across…it’s excellent hot and just as good cold. I like my chicken a little spicy so I doubled the black pepper. Don’t be intimidated by the recipe—it really is easy and I promise you, once you make it, you won’t want chicken any other way. Thanks, David!!

    • David Leite says:

      Carole, music to my ears, dear. Music! So glad you liked the recipe. It was a huge favorite with our testers, too.

  4. Wendy says:

    I made this batter fried chicken tonight and my family LOVED it! The battered skin was so deliciously crispy!! I went very light on the pepper because we’re not fans of lots of pepper. Can’t wait to make it again for get togethers over the summer. Some of the best fried chicken we’ve ever had! Thanks for the recipe!

  5. Nick says:

    This is awesome! The batter was GREAT, and my extra choice of seasonings still blended well. I’ve always been too cautious of getting the right temperature, but with a medium flame on my stovetop it all temped perfectly and was very juicy. Cant wait to show this off! Thank you!

  6. deborah_nicole says:

    I just pulled the first few pieces out of the skillet, they are amazing! i used 1 1/2 cups flour and just about 1/2 cup of cornstarch because that’s all the cornstarch i had. used 2 tablespoons tony chachere’s creole seasoning for all seasonings. I will never use a dry coating again. awesome awesome awesome!

  7. Diane says:

    Is using boneless chicken breast or thighs a possibility? From the reviews, my mouth is watering, but I am not a big fan of boned chicken parts. I am glad I stumbled upon this site:)

    • David Leite says:

      Hi, Diane. Sure, it’s a possibility, but so is the chance of drying out the meat. The bone keeps things moist in there. How about frying with the bone in and then cutting off the meat? At least it will be moist. If that’s not an option, try the boneless meat. But definitely keep the skin on. Without it, the chance of further drying out the meat increases.

      • laurie says:

        i actually used this recipe for my daughter’s birthday party — cut up 18 chicken breasts into bite sized pieces (it took me about 2 hours to deep fry them all); so boneless meat — but not a single bite left. not one person complained about it being dry, and i have guests texting me that they’ve been dreaming about my chicken poppers.

  8. Raytisha says:

    Thank you so much for this delicious recipe!!!! I just made it tonight and it was a total hit. I absolutely LOVED the crisp fried skin and flavors, way better than any fast food winglets’ I have had. I can’t wait to try this recipe on my extended family. I know it is going to be a big hit :)

  9. Sye Pritchett says:

    This was a really good batter, nice and crisp. I used Lawry’s seasoned salt and added some ground thyme to it. I will definitely be making this again. Thanks so much for the recipe.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      You’re so very welcome, Sye. Just doing what we do! But we really appreciate you taking the time to let us know how much you loved the recipe. We’ll be waiting to hear which recipe from the site you try next…

  10. david says:

    How long can you keep the batter in the fridge for considering it has baking powder in it? (Untouched by the raw chicken.)

    • David Leite says:

      david, Shuna Lydon, a pastry chef in NYC and blogger at Eggbeater, says that cake batter, which contains baking powder, can stay in the fridge up to four days. I’m not sure how that translates to fried chicken batter, but I do know we keep pancake batter in the fridge overnight to no ill effect. So I think you’re fine for a few days.

  11. david says:

    Hi David,

    Your recipe works great. I do have another question though, I’d put the chicken on a wire rack but the bottom side is still very oily, so I’d have to pat it down with a paper towel. How long do you normally leave it up on a wire rack before you serve it? Or would you know any reason why mine turns out oily?

    • David Leite says:

      david, you can never go wrong with a Cook’s Country recipe! Tell me: was your oil temperature correct? Did you add too many pieces at once? That can lower the oil temperature. Cooler oil temps make for oily fried foods. And there’s no problem with putting paper towel on the rack at first so it wicks up some of the oil and then removing it. I think the chicken can stay on the rack anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on whether you like hot or room temp fried chicken.

      But definitely, check the oil.

  12. Corine says:

    Okay so I just tried my own recipe. I was trying to copy what my mom used to do when I was a kid. Flour, MILK (omg big mistake) spices and chicken that I boiled. The batter turned brown fast, BUT it was all mushy!!! Then I saw the thing about not using milk but water (or beer)…kinda late. I tried saving them by throwing them in the oven but it was basically ruined, they turned tough :( Will water really make them not mushy? I crave homemade nuggets but tonight was a epic fail and a disappointment…

    • David Leite says:

      Corine, so sorry to hear your attempt at your mom’s recipe wasn’t up to your expectations. As the headnote says, milk creates a soft, very brown crust. I think you’ll have much great success using water, which evaporates and leaves no milk solids behind that can wreak havoc in your crust.

  13. Chii-pet says:

    Hey, this recipe is looking really good. I can’t wait to make it tonight! I do have a question, though, well, two actually. How long can the chicken stay in the brine before it’s ruined? And is it ok to make the batter right before I fry the chicken, without it being refrigerated?


  14. Cynthia U says:

    I was tired of the same old way having fried chicken I wanted to taste a different crunchy taste, found your recipe, and tried it. Very simple to make. I had all of the ingredients and the taste is mouthwatering. I love it.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      That’s terrific to hear, Cynthia U! Many kind thanks for taking the time to let us know. You made our morning.

  15. Craig says:

    This is my first recipe to post on. Just wanted to say we really enjoyed it and to thank you for sharing this recipe.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Craig, welcome! And you are so very welcome. Really appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment and look forward to hearing which recipe you try next!

  16. Marybeth Segars says:

    Made this, it was delish! Next time I think I’ll try peanut oil.

  17. keesha says:

    Can I add a cup of pepper sauce (hot sauce) to make a little spicy

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Actually, you can do whatever you want, although since we haven’t tested the recipe with that amount of hot sauce there’s no way I can guarantee the results. Not quite certain if 1 cup is the appropriate amount, as that depends on personal preference. But give it a try and let us know!

  18. Trudy says:

    Is it table salt or kosher salt for this recipe? If kosher salt, what brand?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Trudy, many thanks for your query. Definitely kosher salt. I just edited the recipe above to clarify this in the ingredient list. As you’re probably aware, if you used table salt, the end result would be much saltier because of the difference in size and density between table salt and kosher salt. In terms of brands, my colleague Beth Price just reminded me that most chefs use Diamond crystal kosher salt. Fingers crossed you like this batter-fried chicken as much as we do!

      • Trudy says:

        Thanks for the clarification! For those who can’t easily find Diamond and must use Morton kosher salt instead, I believe the correction ratio is: 1 tsp Diamond = 3/4 tsp Morton. I learned the difference the hard way and ended up with inedible (over salty) shrimp one time. Anyway, very grateful to have, finally, a great fried chicken recipe!!!

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Thank YOU for the equivalent information, Trudy. Very helpful information. And you’re very welcome for the fried chicken recipe. I feel the same way about the Momofuku Fried Chicken. A spectacular and reliable fried chicken recipe is, quite literally, life changing. I understand. Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you you fall for next!

  19. Kia says:

    I love this recipe, however, I have one question. For the batter can I use chicken broth in place of water? My thought it would add extra flavor.

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Kia, we only tested the recipe with water but I bet you could replace a bit with stock. I’ve also seen recipes where a crumbled stock cube was added as a flavor boost. Please let us know if you give it a try.

  20. Mrs.P says:

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I have allergy kids and we love fried chicken. This recipe turned out perfect. I now make it at least once a week.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      You’re so welcome, Mrs. P. Love to hear stories like this. It makes all our efforts very worthwhile. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know!

  21. Virginia Jimenez says:

    My first time making battered fried chicken. I chose this recipe because of its simplicity. The explanation at the beginning also helped. I did not need to change a thing. My batter didn’t get toó thick after being in the refrigerator. The outside of the chicken was nice and crispy. It didn’t get toó brown toó quickly. I will definitely be making this again.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Terrific, Virginia! So glad to hear this recipe worked as well for you as it did for us! Nothing beats fried chicken in my book. Hope you made enough so that you could hide a few pieces in the back of the fridge to enjoy cold the next day!

  22. Sandra K. says:

    First I must say I’ve never fried chicken. I cook almost every meal myself. I usually make everything from scratch. This recipe looked like it would fit in right with my family’s likes. I measured everything exactly. The batter came out a little thin. It tasted slightly spicy BUT since the recipe called for the consistency of pancake batter, I added a little flour. (The first few pieces were fried with thin batter, then I gradually thickened the batter and continued to fry additional pieces.) This did not change the taste or cook time. Overall this recipe was extremely easy. This brought back childhood memories for my husband. He said, “I haven’t had chicken like this since I was a kid, just like my mamaw used to make it.” I am very satisfied with this recipe. Anyone can make it. Successful on the first try, gotta love a recipe like that.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      That’s so spectacular to hear, Sandra K.! Love that this brought back old-time memories of fried chicken for your husband, just as it did for us when we first made it. I’m glad you trusted your instincts, too, and kept on going even though you were a little uncertain. Many kind thanks for taking the time to let us know. Already looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…

  23. Janet says:

    Have used this recipe for chicken wings many times and they come out perfect.
    Trying thighs today. I spice up my batter with a few more spices (just my preference). Made wings yesterday for a hen party and was worried about them staying crisp but no need to, they stayed crisp for hours. I did not cover with anything when I drove there and they were just as crisp as when they came out of the fryer. Thanx so much for a great recipe.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      You’re so very welcome, Janet. We so appreciate you taking the time to drop us a note and let us know how spectacularly crisp they remained. Terrific to hear you like these as much as we do. Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…!

  24. D'Anne Brockelbank says:

    Oh my goodness this was sooo good, will be my new favorite for sure, moist crunchy and just the right spices….

  25. Christina Ramirez says:

    I need to know asap if toasted bread crumbs can replace corn starch soon it is my kids dinner. Help!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Christina, we didn’t test it that way so I can’t say. But my instinct is no. It’s going to throw off the texture and I worry the batter won’t adhere and will crumble off too easily.

    • David Leite says:

      I’m with Renee on this one, Christina.

      • Christina Ramirez says:

        I’ll cook this recipe when I have corn starch. “Thank you for the help.”

        • David Leite says:

          Please let me know what you think when you do, Christina.

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          Yes, we’d love to hear what you think, Christina. And sorry I didn’t have better news for you but I really think you’d have been disappointed if you’d tried that substitution.

  26. bob says:

    I’ve been serching for a good alaround recipe that would work on chicken and fish, I had halibut in mind. Only thing I changed was the water instead I used beer. And added 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning. I’ve been experimenting with a 10 qt Magafesa low pressure fryer kind of like wearever chicken bucket only way better. the instructions are way off on times. After cutting up and brining ,coating the chicken I poured 2 1/2 inches of oil heated to 365 did the 2 breast first in the hot oil skin side down with long tongs slowly for 2 minutes until golden. Then quickly placed the lid on and tightened down the lid under the 2 side clamps and turned the heat up to high to boost the steam vent process. This speeds up the pressure to get the giggler working, you just want it to rotate slowly so once it starts turn down the heat to slow it up. Now for the times , as soon as the giggler started rotating start your time 8 minutes exactly. When times up with gloves release steam slowly by turning top knob counterclockwise slowly until all steam is realeased should take less than a minute, this is crucial that chicken is still cooking. Take off lid and remove lid , with long tong remove chicken and place on a wire draining rack and into a oven at 300 degrees. Next bring the oil back to 360 coat leg and thighs attached and wings use long tongs and place into oil for 2 minutes until golden and repeat the 8 minute process again to the letter. Warning Do not us a pressure cooker, to high of pressure. My unit is all 18/2 stainless steel with a locking pressure bar a cross the top an safety valves. Above all stay with your cooker and monitor the cooking process. This is the best recipe and the best chicken you’ll ever eat, thanks for sharing.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Thanks for your adaptations for a fryer, bob! And I LOVE that you used beer in place of water. I’m adding that to my list of things to try. Greatly appreciate it!

  27. JJ says:

    According to the directions, the first batch is fried between 300°F and 325°F, but for the second batch the oil is brought up to 350°F. Is this correct, or is it a typo? Thanks.

  28. hilda says:

    Any way of printing the recipe without getting 15 pages?

    • David Leite says:

      Hilda, absolutely. Make sure to set the printing options at the top of the print page to: “Recipe Only” and “without” images, comments, and Testers Choice. That should knock it down to 1 page.

  29. Sheilah Hitchcock says:

    The recipe sound wonderful however I haven’t tried yet. That leads me to my question about the batter. Can the chicken be battered ahead of time and refrigerated. I would like to assemble it a day ahead of time. I am happy I stumbled across your website and enjoyed reading it.

    Thank You, Sheilah

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Welcome, Sheilah! And thanks so much for the kind words! As for battering the chicken ahead of time, I would strongly caution against doing that. I am all for making things ahead of time when possible, but I really worry that two things may happen. I think that moisture from the chicken will be drawn out by the batter and that extra moisture may result in 1. the batter starting to fall off the chicken or not adhere as well as it ought to, and 2. the batter not crisping up properly when you fry it. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help but I just want you to have as ridiculously fantastic results as we did with this recipe!

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