Oh, kids, every once in a while, a recipe stops me in my tracks. One that beguiles me and makes me thankful for what I do for a living. Makes me glad I gave up being an advertising copywriter and past-life regressionist (yes, 100% true) and picked up a whisk.

This batter-fried chicken is that recipe. Crispy skin, just the right kick of heat, and juicy tender chicken. Fried is The One’s favorite way of eating chicken, as evidenced by his obsession with Kentucky Fried Chicken. He thought it was right up with the Colonel’s best—minus the 11 herbs and spices. Well, minus eight herbs and spices since this recipe calls for black pepper, paprika, and salt.

The big test was the next day when he ate it straight from the fridge. “Dee-licious!” he declared. And with that, another dish went into rotation. (Sorry, Colonel.)

David Leite's handwritten signature of 'David.'
david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

My testers describe this crispy chicken as “an out-of-the-park home run” and will return to the recipe again and again, thanks to its “perfect combination of crisp, crunchy skin with a hint of spice and moist, tender, juicy meat.” Yes, it’s that good.

What You’ll Need to Make This

Ingredients for batter-fried chicken--chicken pieces, spices, sugar and salt, flour and cornstarch, baking powder, and oil.
  • Kosher salt–The crystal size of kosher salt varies significantly from brand to brand, so I really gotta insist you weigh the salt–36 grams–when making the brine.
  • Chicken–Use any combination of chicken pieces. If you’re using breast pieces, cut them in half crosswise so that they cook evenly, and separate chicken legs into thighs and drumsticks.
  • Flour–This recipe calls for a flour and cornstarch mixture to create an extra-crispy coating. If you need to keep the recipe gluten-free, use all-purpose gluten-free flour.
  • Freshly ground black pepper—Use 3 to 5 tablespoons, depending on your heat tolerance…but know that the full amount packs a big wallop!

How to Make This Recipe

A person whisking a brine solution; pieces of chicken submerged in brine.
  1. Whisk the water, salt, and sugar in a large bowl until dissolved.
  2. Add the chicken, cover, and chill for 60 minutes.
Flour and spices being whisked in a bowl; a person whisking water into chicken batter.
  1. Whisk the batter’s dry ingredients in a separate large bowl.
  2. Pour in the water and whisk until combined. Refrigerate until the chicken’s ready to cook.
A pot of hot oil on a burner; pieces of chicken in a wet batter.
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot. Drain and pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels.
  2. Place half the chicken pieces in the batter and turn to coat. Remove them from the batter, letting the excess drip off.
A piece of chicken being added to bubbling oil; cooked crispy fried chicken pieces cooling on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
  1. Slip the chicken into the hot oil and fry until crispy and golden.
  2. Transfer the cooked chicken to a wire rack set on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken.
Pieces of batter-fried chicken piled on a white platter.

Common Questions

What’s the secret to the crispest fried chicken?

The batter contains equal parts cornstarch and flour to ensure a shatteringly crisp crust. The recipe also calls for baking powder to create an airy crust 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. Cook’s Country replaced the milk in the batter with 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.” 

Perhaps most critically, the batter-dunked chicken is then deep-fried in several inches of oil to ensure the carefully blended batter doesn’t scorch on the bottom, as is often the case when shallow-frying in a skillet.

What are the best oils for deep-frying chicken?

You want a neutral-flavored oil that has a high smoking point. Cook’s Country calls for peanut or vegetable oil. (My choice? Peanut oil.) Canola and sunflower oil will work, too. Oils with a low smoke point, such as unrefined avocado oil and extra-virgin olive oil, will burn as the fat breaks down, giving your chicken an acrid taste.

Can I fry this chicken in a skillet?

Nah, I wouldn’t recommend it. Shallowing frying in a skillet can cause the bottom of the batter to burn. By deep-frying the chicken, you get an even golden-brown color and no burnt taste.

Why did my batter fall off?

If your chicken isn’t completely dry before coating it in the batter, the excess moisture can cause the batter to fall off during cooking. Take the time to thoroughly pat each piece of chicken dry before dipping it in the batter.

What to Serve with This Recipe

Crispy fried chicken calls for classic side dishes, like baked macaroni and cheese, creamy coleslaw, buttered corn, and Southern buttermilk biscuits.

Helpful Tips

  • If your fried chicken batter is too thick after resting in the fridge, whisk in water, a tablespoon at a time, until it has the consistency of pancake batter.
  • Don’t crowd the chicken in the pot, as this can cause it to stick together in a clump. You may need to cook it in more than two batches.
  • Let the oil return to 350°F between batches. If you fry chicken in cool oil, you’ll end up with a soggy coating.
  • This recipe is suitable for dairy-free diets. To make it gluten-free, use gluten-free all-purpose flour for the batter.

Storage and Reheating

Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. To reheat, place them on a wire rack on a baking sheet and warm in a 400°F oven until heated through.

Don’t save leftover batter that has come into contact with the raw chicken. Toss it.

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

More Exceptional Fried Chicken Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

DELICIOUS! Just made this easy fried chicken with some Cheddar cornbread, mashed potatoes, and salad for my picky-eating fiancé and myself What a treat of a meal! I will definitely be adding this recipe to my collection.

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

Batter-Fried Chicken

4.76 / 166 votes
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.
David Leite
CourseMains
CuisineSouthern
Servings4 to 6 servings
Calories1266 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes

Equipment

  • Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer

Ingredients 

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 chicken 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) vegetable or peanut oil, for frying

Instructions 

Make the chicken brine

  • In a large bowl, whisk the water, salt, and sugar until the sugar and salt dissolve.
    A person whisking a brine solution.
  • Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 60 minutes.
    Chicken pieces submerged in brine.

Make the fried chicken batter

  • While the chicken is brining, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
    A person whisking a bowl of flour and spices to create batter for fried chicken.
  • Pour in the water and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate the batter while the chicken is brining.
    A person whisking a bowl of wet chicken batter.

Fry the 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.
    A large pot of oil heating on a burner.
  • Discard the brine 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 the excess to drip back into the bowl, and carefully slip it into the oil.
    Pieces of chicken in a bowl of wet batter.
  • Fry the chicken and keep your attention on the oil temperature, adjusting the heat as needed to keep the oil between 300°F and 325°F (149°C and 163°C).
    A piece of chicken being added to a pot of bubbling oil.
  • Cook the 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 temperature of your oil.
    A piece of crispy fried chicken being lifted from a pot of bubbling oil.

Drain the chicken

  • Place the fried chicken on the wire rack to drain. Bring the oil back to 350°F (176°C) and repeat with the remaining pieced.
    Pieces of crispy fried chicken cooling on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.
  • Serve the fried chicken hot, warm, at room temperature, even cold if there are any leftovers.

Notes

  1. To thin the batter–If your fried chicken batter is too thick after resting in the fridge, whisk in water, a tablespoon at a time, until it has the consistency of pancake batter.
  2. Don’t crowd the chicken–Don’t crowd the chicken in the pot, as this can cause it to stick together in a clump. You may need to cook it in more than two batches.
  3. Use hot oil–Let the oil return to 350°F between batches. If you fry chicken in cool oil, you’ll end up with a soggy coating.
  4. Dietary–This recipe is suitable for dairy-free diets. To make it gluten-free, use gluten-free all-purpose flour for the batter.
The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook

Adapted From

The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 1266 kcalCarbohydrates: 55 gProtein: 61 gFat: 88 gSaturated Fat: 20 gMonounsaturated Fat: 29 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 231 mgSodium: 808 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 1 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2012 Cook’s Country. Photos © 2024 David Leite. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This battered fried chicken is an out-of-the-park home run. This is what fried chicken should 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 batter-fried chicken 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 fry chicken at home, and stick to breaded oven fried chicken thighs, but the steps of the recipe seemed clear.

The results were terrific! 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. I used volume measurements to make the batter. It was pretty loose, much 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 didn’t need to add any water.

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 held steady between 300-325°F easily with a bit of tinkering. Overall, the timing was accurate. For the drumsticks, the cooking time was 14 minutes. The thighs took a bit longer, and I removed them at 17 minutes

This is a great fried chicken recipe with straightforward steps. 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.

I love fried chicken as a midnight snack, pulling it from the icebox and eating it cold. Although this batter-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.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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Recipe Rating




273 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Coating very crispy, meat juicy and delicious. Only problem batter goes into fryer basket and sticks. Had to scrape off after cooking. (I mean…the chicken was stuck to the basket) good fried chicken.

  2. 5 stars
    it’s my first time to make fried chicken from scratch, without readymade batter or breading. followed every step, and it was a success. my kids loved it, my husband loved it. i love it! thanks so much for this great recipe. would make another batch very soon.

    1. Magnificent, maria lea b! It’s messages like this that are exactly why we do what we do! We so appreciate you taking the time to let us know what a success this is! Seems like our work here is done…