Batter-Fried Chicken

This batter-fried chicken calls for the pieces to be quickly brined and then dipped in a seasoned batter for a crisp Southern-style crust. Simple as can be. This is the real deal. Includes secrets for that crunchy crust.

Pieces of batter-fried chicken piled on a white platter.

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 exquisitely well thanks to some clever tricks and tips. Wait’ll you taste it. Renee Schettler

What's the secret to crispy fried chicken?

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

The batter also calls for baking powder to create a crust that’s ethereally airy without a trace of doughiness or gloppiness.

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, perhaps most critically, the batter-dunked chicken is then deep-fried in several inches of oil (a regular pot works just fine; no need to have a fancy deep-fryer) to ensure that the carefully constructed batter doesn’t scorch on the bottom as is often the case when you attempt to shallow-fry it in a skillet.

Batter-Fried Chicken

  • Quick Glance
  • (63)
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Serves 4 to 6
4.8/5 - 63 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook cookbook

Want it? Click it.

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

Ingredients

  • For the fried chicken brine
  • For the fried chicken batter

Directions

Make the fried chicken brine

In a large bowl, whisk or stir together the water, salt, and sugar until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

Make the fried chicken batter

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

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.

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 and the exact temperature of your oil. 

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. Originally published October 17, 2013.

Print RecipeBuy the The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers' Reviews

This recipe is an out-of-the-park home run. This is what fried chicken is supposed to taste like. The perfect combination of crisp, crunchy skin with a hint of spice, and moist, tender, juicy meat. It's good hot out of the fryer (my personal preference), room temperature, or cold for a picnic.

The spices are easily customizable to taste. Some like it hotter and spicier, so you can add some more cayenne. Some secrets to success are first—bring it up to temperature. Resist the temptation to just plop a batter soaked piece of chicken in the oil if it's not up to the proper temperature. Next—be sure to hold the batter coated pieces of chicken up over the bowl of batter until the excess batter stops dripping before you add it to the oil. Last, but not least—it's absolutely critical that you not fry too many pieces all at once. The temperature will dip too low and you won't get that toastiness and that sought after crispy crunchiness that fried chicken is famous for.

I jumped to test this recipe because I am a big fan of fried chicken and I’m missing my mother’s, since I haven’t been able to visit her recently. I typically don’t make fried chicken at home but the steps of the recipe seemed clear. The results were amazing! The salt level was perfect and the crunch factor was so enjoyable. When I heard the crackle of my son trying a piece, I knew the chicken would be delicious. All of the chicken was perfectly browned. I sent my Mom a picture and she approved as well.

Putting together the brine was easy. The chicken brined for 60 minutes in the refrigerator. I ended up using legs and thighs that were already portioned. I used volume measurements to make the batter. It was pretty loose, definitely a lot thinner than pancake batter, maybe closer to a thick salad dressing. My batter was in the fridge for an hour and there was very little change in the texture after sitting. I'd still describe it as a thin batter and I didn't need to add any water. It coated the chicken easily but still dripped off easily.

The note to check the heat of the oil was super helpful. I fried my chicken in three batches because I probably had between 4 to 5 pounds of chicken. For the first two batches of drumsticks, the heat was maintained between 300-325°F easily with a little tinkering. Overall the timing was accurate. For the drumsticks the cook time was 14 minutes. The thighs took a bit longer and I removed them at 17 minutes.

In my opinion, this is a great fried chicken recipe, straightforward steps and the results are perfect for picnic season. I can’t wait to eat the leftover chicken cold, that is my guilty pleasure for some odd reason.

HUNGRY FOR MORE?

#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Comments

    1. donell, if you’ve dipped the chicken in the batter, then you should definitely dispose of any leftover batter. If you reserved a portion of it that didn’t come into contact with the raw chicken, you could store it in the fridge in an airtight container for a couple of days. You’d likely need to thin it with some water before using.

  1. 5 stars
    I can not fry chicken to save my life and I try really really hard! But this time I tried the batter recipe for fried chicken. OHH my Goodness! I was proud! A Wonderful easy recipe my chicken was – Pretty- looking for the first time- and you know what else I heard for the first time?, ” That was MOIST delicious chicken you made.” OHH Yeah! I made it!
    SO Thank You for publishing such a Gem of a Recipe- Kudos!

    1. That is music to our ears, Ms. Clemons! Thank you for making our day with this comment. We’re delighted that it was such as winner for you.

  2. 4 stars
    Gosh, I tried this recipe, but too watery so add a bit of flour. It was really good. My son who is so picky loves them. I will use this recipe from now on. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Iris, we’ve never tried this recipe in an air fryer, so we can’t recommend it. Most air fryer chicken recipe rely on a dry coating so I’d be concerned that the wet batter wouldn’t crisp up well in an air fryer.

  3. What did I do wrong??? Chicken came out with no skin really on it. Maybe some here and there. Most of the skin ended up being at the bottom of pot used to fry…. only 1 piece of 14 had skin an it and was crunchy

    1. Wow, Briana, it really did all fall off! There are a couple of things you can do to help your skin and batter stick. You want to make sure that you really dry the chicken after the brine, before coating it in the batter. Ideally, you also want to use a thermometer to make sure you keep your oil at the right temperature and don’t crowd the frying pot with too many pieces of chicken at once. The other tip that I’ve used in the past that seems to help is to let the battered chicken chill for 30 minutes or so before frying. I hope that helps!

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish