Mom’s Southern Fried Chicken is a recipe that is very dear to me. I’m tickled pink to share this recipe with you because it’s been one of our family favorites for generations and I know it will become a favorite in your home, as well. Fried chicken seems to have gotten a little complicated over the years with techniques like brining, buttermilk, and spice variety blends, but here’s the real secret to amazing southern fried chicken…simple is BEST!
My mom’s technique for mouth-watering southern fried chicken is the way she was taught by her mother, and the way my granny was taught by her mother, and so on. It’s the easiest way to ensure an extra crispy crust while producing juicy tender perfectly seasoned meat. In the case of fried food, it’s all about that crunch!
Sunday dinners at our house often meant my mother’s knock-out fried chicken. I must admit that I took those youthful years for granted and never thought to ask Mom her frying secrets until recently. I had tried many variations over the years hoping for some semblance of what I remembered from my mother’s dinner table, only to be disappointed. So, on my last visit I took my mom to the grocery store, we bought a chicken, and she patiently taught me how to make one of the most delicious meals any southerner could hope to eat.
Favorite Southern Dishes
What kind of chicken is used for frying?
To fry chicken, you need a chicken with the skin-on for that juicy crispy crust. Otherwise, you’re just eating chicken fingers. I use a whole fryer chicken that has been pre-cut. Depending on where you live, it can be difficult to find pre-cut chicken. If you can’t find them in your area, simply ask the butcher behind your grocer’s meat counter to cut up a chicken for you. Note: Whenever I have used a butcher, they put the chicken ‘backbone” in the package with the other pieces of meat. You don’t want to fry this piece as it contains very little meat. I throw this away, however; some people save it to make their own broth.
What type of oil is best for frying?
When choosing an oil for frying, you want to review two considerations; flavor and smoke point.
- The flavor is one of the most important things to consider when frying. Some oils, like olive oil, have a very strong taste that will overwhelm the seasonings and breading used on the chicken. Let’s face it…fried chicken ain’t health food, so I go all in with a vegetable or canola oil for their neutral flavors. Peanut oil is another good option, but do NOT use it if you have a peanut allergy.
- The smoke point is the point in which the oil heats to a high temperature, begins to smoke, and then becomes foul. At this point, anything you try to cook in the oil will give you a rotten tasting flavor. What you need is an oil that has a high smoke point, so you can cook at a high heat without an affect to flavor. Grapeseed oil is an example of a low smoke point oil that is best used in salads, and not for frying. Vegetable, canola, peanut, and coconut oil all pass the smoke point test.
What seasonings should I use?
For my Mom’s Southern Fried Chicken, it couldn’t be more simple. She uses only salt and pepper, but trust me…that is all you need! While I don’t have the recipe for KFC’s secret seasoning mix, I have had fried chicken mixed in garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, and the like. The added seasonings did bring a little zest to the chicken, but if you want to fry up that bird the way they did in the good ol’ days, salt and pepper is all you need.
How to make Mom’s Southern Fried Chicken
One of the reasons this meal was in our family’s dinner rotation so often is that the ingredients are staples that were readily available. All we had to buy was the chicken, and not even that if we were at my granny’s house, as she raised poultry birds! But we won’t get into that sorted detail on this posting. 😉
- Large Mixing Bowl – used to mix flour and seasonings
- Dutch Oven – or preferred pan for frying
- Cooling Rack – for draining chicken from excess grease
I know this is a long post for a seemingly easy recipe, but bare with me. It’s all informational. Mom’s Southern Fried Chicken really is easy to make. So, grab your chicken parts and let’s get to fryin’!
- In a large bowl, add the flour and salt and pepper. For 2 cups four, I use roughly 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Using a whisk, combine ingredients until they are evenly distributed. I use an extra-large bowl for this so when I add the chicken and give it a toss, the flour stays in the bowl and not all over the counter. Place the bowl next to the sink.
- Unwrap the chicken, but keep the pieces on the styrofoam padding. Place in a clean sink next to the bowl of flour.
- Rinse off the chicken, one piece at a time, and WITHOUT shaking off the excess water. The water is what sticks the flour to the chicken, so you want to go straight from the faucet to the flour. Now, roll that piece of chicken in the flour until it is completely covered. Water + flour = crispy crust!
- Fill a large heavy-duty Dutch oven or pot with about 1 1/2 to 2-inches cooking oil. This may not seem like enough oil, but as it boils the oil will rise. Set on medium-high heat. The oil needs to heat to a light “bubbling” before putting in the floured chicken. If the oil is not hot enough, the flour will separate from the chicken before it has time to fry. Your goal is to get the oil hot enough that when you add the chicken pieces, they immediately begin a rapid fry and the flour is quickly cooked onto the chicken.
- Using tongs, carefully place chicken pieces in the oil. Cook meat in batches to not overcrowd the pot. After about 1 minute (after you see the flour has cooked onto the skin) turn heat down to medium so you don’t over the skin, while under-cooking the inside.
- Place a lid “vented” on top of the pot. This helps circulate the heat within the pot for more consistent frying, and it will keep the grease splatter to a minimum.
- The chicken will take about 20 to 30 minutes, per batch, to fully cook. Begin with the breast pieces as they will take the longest to cook and they can usually keep going while the other smaller pieces are being fried. The outside should be deep golden brown in color. Important: When cooking chicken, always cook until the juices run clear. If you have any question, cut into a piece and make sure it is fully cooked.
- Place cooked chicken on a cooling rack over paper towels to catch excess grease. If you don’t have a draining rack, you can place the chicken directly on the paper towels.
- One of the great things about Mom’s Southern Fried Chicken is it’s versatility. I like to serve it hot right out of the pot, but many people enjoy it cold right out of the fridge. There is no wrong way to serve this amazing dish!
Mom’s Southern Fried Chicken
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and pepper. Set bowl next to the kitchen sink.
- Remove wrapping from packaged chicken, but leave styrofoam padding. Place chicken in the sink next to the flour. Rinse chicken pieces, and place them directly into the flour WITHOUT shaking off excess water. You want the pieces to be wet enough for the flour to stick. Roll pieces around in the flour to make sure they are entirely covered.
- Pour about 1 1/2 to 2-inches cooking oil into a large heavy-duty Dutch oven or pot. Heat on medium-high until oil is lightly "bubbling".
- Using tongs, carefully place chicken into the bubbling oil in batches, beginning with the breast pieces. They will take the longest to cook. Once flour is fried onto the skins (after about a minute), turn heat down to medium and continue frying until chicken is cooked through (about 20 to 30 minutes) and is golden brown in color. Juices should be clear.
- Place chicken on a rack with paper towels to absorb excess grease.