Southern Fried Chicken

When I read that this fried chicken (by Scott Peacock and Edna Lewis) was the best ever, I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. I mean read the ingredients–it sounds too simple…almost plain. But being curious, I tried it anyway. I am so glad I did because this is in fact the best ever. And as with most simple but amazing dishes, the secret is in the technique.

Southern Fried Chicken

It’s hard to describe how awesome this chicken was. The batter had a great crunch an took on a surprisingly rich, porky, meaty flavor while the chicken inside was stunningly tender and juicy. No extra spices are needed for the batter and no dipping sauces for eating–this is just perfect the way it is and what every southern fried chicken should aspire to be.

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • ~2 quarts cold water
  • 1 3-5 lb chicken
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 1 lb lard
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup country ham pieces
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Brine the broken down chicken

The first step is to break down the chicken into 6 or 8 pieces–whatever you prefer (clipped wings, breasts, thighs, drumsticks). Brine the chicken parts in the mixed salt water for roughly 8-12 hours. This does magical things that guarantee you moist chicken.

Once time is up, dump the salt water, briefly rinse the chicken, and marinate it in buttermilk for another 8-12 hours. This will further tenderize the chicken and add a surprising amount of flavor.

Drain of the buttermilk marinade

When done marinating, drain the chicken of buttermilk. Don’t bother patting it dry–just let it drip.

Now, get the oil going. In a sturdy frying pan (cast iron if you have it), melt the lard and butter over low medium heat. Once fully melted, add the coarsely chopped pieces of ham. Yes, that us a frying pan pictured and not a deep fryer.

Let the ham gently cook for 30-45 minutes and periodically skim the scum off the surface. Remove the browned ham and raise the heat to medium/medium-high.

Dredge and pan fry

In a bowl, prepare the batter for the chicken. This is really simple: just mix the batter ingredients well. Dredge the chicken parts in batter, coating all over and shaking off the excess.

Work in batches of roughly 3 pieces at a time (over-crowding will drop the oil temperature and yield an oily, soggy crust) and add the dredged pieces of chicken to the hot oil. After 8-10 minutes, flip them over, and 8-10 after that, remove from the oil and let drain (either on a rack or paper towels). Repeat until all pieces are fried and keep the cooked chicken in a warm place (e.g. 200°F oven) so they don’t all get too cold on you..or have them cold. You’ll be happy either way (sort of like pizza or Chinese takeout).

Southern Fried Chicken

Hushpuppy batter

Since I already had all this delicious oil going for frying the chicken, it only seemed appropriate that I have a fried side to go with it. So during all of the frying, I made a hushpuppy batter, mixing all the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, and then bringing them together.


Then, I took teaspoonish sized scoops of dough, rolled them in my hand, and put them in the oil (again, small batches…like 4 at a time), rolling fairly regularly. They’re done within about 3 minutes. I’ve linked to the recipe I started from (I added more in the way of spices), but I’ll be honest, I’ve had better hushpuppies in my life as these were a bit on the dry side.

With everything drained and done frying, grab a cold beer, some napkins, and enjoy!

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25 Responses to “Southern Fried Chicken”

  1. Bellini Valli Says:

    Sometimes the simplest of things are there for us to discover. Sounds perfect!!

  2. noble pig Says:

    Ummm, where’s the picnic…I’ll be right there!

  3. pam Says:

    The ham is such a good idea! I’ve never fried chicken (afraid of the mess), but if I do, I’m trying it this way!

  4. nina Says:

    The flavoring of the oil with the ham pieces is so amazing. I also like the idea of tenderizing the meat for so long!!!

  5. mikky Says:

    this is a really simple, yet perfect meal… thanks for sharing… my kids will be thrilled with this… :)

  6. Hélène Says:

    I’m telling you I never eat Fried Chicken but you convinced me to try this recipe. Looks so good.

  7. the caked crusader Says:

    I am salivating. I’m sure this would post well, if you want to send me a batch to try!

  8. Ben Says:

    It is so good because of all that lard and butter! LOL It does sound really good, but it will have to wait until my diet is over :(

  9. grace Says:

    that’s some seriously crunchy chicken, mike. glorious. and really, aren’t hushpuppies one of the best things ever?

  10. dp Says:

    WOW! These definitely look like they are worth the effort!

  11. lisa (dandysugar) Says:

    Mmm! Good ol fried chicken!! This looks so good and crisp. Th ham must add so much more flavor too!

  12. Destroy Rock And Roll Says:

    Wow this is something I haven’t had for a while and it sounds really yummy. Might have to make some real soon. Thanks!

  13. [eatingclub] vancouver || js Says:

    Oh my, oh my, oh my. Be still, my heart. I’m in love with your chicken.

  14. Sam Says:

    Oh wow that looks good, adding ham was a stroke of genius!

  15. Deseree Says:

    I am always on the hunt for some good fried chicken. Your description on Tastespotting brought me here, I was skeptical when you said best fried chicken ever, but wow, the addition of ham makes me a believer!

  16. Bunny Says:

    I love this fried chicken recipe, I’m bookmarking this to make. There’s nothing like good fried chicken!

  17. Peter Says:

    Umm-ummm-Good What’s the saying in the South? So dang good, make me wanna slap grandma?

  18. RecipeGirl Says:

    I have to say that I’ve never, ever tried to make fried chicken. “Baked” fried chicken is more of an option for me right now, but this does look very delicious!

  19. Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy Says:

    That is some gorgeous chicken, Mike! Definitely requires some advance planning. I never seem to be successful with frying chicken. It always ends up burned on the outside and raw on the inside. Think I need a gas stove. I usually fry it halfway, then stick it in the oven for the rest of the time. Okay, but not great.

  20. Carrie Says:

    My goodness, 1 lb. lard!? That must one amazingly tasty meal. I will go in search of some – haven’t used it in years, not even sure where to find it. Then, I will whip this one up along with some black-eyed-peas for a good, low-cal meal.

  21. Farina Says:

    I am still on the look out for a good fried chicken recipe. Hubby and I both love KFC’s crunchy fried chicken and I have been trying to get the same result.

    Will try your method of double marinating and see how it turns out.

  22. we are never full Says:

    oh damn, i’ve so been craving fried chicken recently. this looks good. double marinating, huh? will remember that. but frying perfectly, i’m convinced is an art form!

  23. Pulled Beef Brisket over Sweet Potato Waffles with a Chile Tamarind BBQ Sauce from Mike's Table Says:

    […] North Carolina!), I have to find other ways to quell my cravings. This is such a dish. My thinking? Fried chicken and waffles are a beautiful combo…same goes for meat and potatoes… so why not serve […]

  24. Leah Hooks Says:

    A great site thank you so much !!! This looks and sounds delicious !!!

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