This Simple Fried Chicken recipe is the unspoken, unwritten recipe I observed my grandmother using every time she fried chicken. I debated what to call it: Southern Fried Chicken, Skillet Fried Chicken, Cast-Iron Fried Chicken, Easy Fried Chicken, etc before finally deciding on Simple Fried Chicken because while it is all of the above, it’s just straightforward af.
I think was a teenager watching Food Network the first time I saw someone use buttermilk – or anything else – to wet chicken before it went into flour. That’s hard to believe I know because now I’m a full-on convert to Buttermilk Fried Chicken and rarely fry without it these days. Still tho, I very much appreciate the simple deliciousness of the fried chicken I grew up on – no eggs, no milk, no cornstarch: just seasoned flour to seasoned skin.
You’ll only need 5 ingredients for this Simple Fried Chicken Recipe and the cooking process is about as straightforward as any fried chicken recipe you’ll find. Refer to the video included above, or the ones on Instagram and TikTok, for a visual demonstration.
Simple Fried Chicken Ingredients
Feel free to jump to the full recipe, but here are useful notes about the ingredients you will need to make this Simple Fried Chicken recipe:
- Whole fryer chicken: You might find it listed as a broiler or a young chicken. It should be around 3-4 pounds. Using a larger chicken, like a roaster, will throw off the recipe so don’t. You can purchase your chicken whole or already broken down, just make sure the weight is in range. You won’t need the neckbone, backbone, or innards for this recipe, so do with them what you like.
- Self-rising flour: Yes, I said self-rising. The baking powder it contains makes for a crispy coating and crunchy, bubbly skin. If you only have all-purpose flour that’s alright: just whisk in 2 teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of fine salt before you whisk in the seasonings.
- Seasoned salt, ground black pepper: Y’all know I love my Lawry’s, on tons of things, not just fried chicken. Use your own favorite seasoned salt.
- Freshly ground black pepper: Store-bought ground black pepper will work here as well, I bet you never thought you’d see that coming from me!
- Butter Flavor Crisco vegetable shortening: Regular Crisco in the blue can works, too, but Butter Flavor adds an extra oomph that I love. If you’re going to substitute oil I recommend peanut or soybean oil, as it can be strained and reused.
- Paprika, optional: Add a tablespoon to your flour dredge for a deeper, more appealing color. It’s not enough paprika to impart flavor – don’t use smoked paprika – just color. It’s not necessary and I didn’t use it for the chicken pictured in this recipe post, but I did for the chicken in the videos I posted to Instagram.
How to Make Simple Fried Chicken
Full instructions are included in the recipe below, but here is a basic overview of what you’ll need to do, along with some important tidbits to help you make the most of this Simple Fried Chicken recipe:
- Season the chicken. Prepare your chicken pieces by trimming off any excess skin and making sure they’re clean. Feel the skin for pin feathers and filaments and remove those. Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet in a single layer and season with 2 tsp of seasoned salt, one teaspoon for each side. If you think you need more, feel free. Work the seasoning into the skin and meat with your hands, then cover the chicken and allow it to rest at room temperature while you set up everything else.
- Season the flour. In another large mixing bowl whisk the remaining seasoned salt and pepper (and paprika, if using) into the flour. Set that aside too.
- Set up your station. Grab a large plate to hold the floured chicken. Place a wire rack over a baking sheet – you’ll use this to drain the cooked chicken. If you’re not eating immediately, or if you’re expecting to fry in batches also take this time to preheat your oven to warm or to its lowest temperature.
- Dredge the chicken. Drop one piece of chicken at a time into the seasoned flour. Roll it around, get it coated completely, then use your hands to press the flour into the skin. Shake off the excess, then transfer the floured chicken piece to the plate to rest and repeat until all of the chicken is floured. Let the chicken rest while you prepare the shortening.
- Melt the shortening. Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add your shortening to the pan. It should come just under halfway up the side of the pan when it’s melted. When the shortening has melted increase the heat to medium and continue preheating until it reaches about 330°F on a thermometer. For larger amounts of oil I’d use a higher temp, but this chicken will be fried kinda low-and-slow. If you don’t have a thermometer there are a few other ways you can check if it’s ready to fry:
- Wooden Spoon – Stick the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil. A clean spoon, of course. If the oil bubbles along the edge of the wood, fry on. If it bubbles loudly and angrily, it’s too hot. No bubbles, not hot enough.
- Flour Dust – Sprinkle a pinch of flour over the surface of the oil. It should sizzle and start to deepen in color immediately. If it just floats and then dissolves, it’s not hot enough. If it turns brown within seconds the oil is too hot.
- Water Droplets – This is dangerous, but it was the method I used most often before I got comfortable recognizing the oil’s appearance in different cookware. Stick two fingertips under the faucet to wet them. Flick the water over the surface of the oil – from a safe distance if you can. If it sizzles and pops for a few seconds, go ahead and fry. If it ROARS angrily it’s too hot.
- Fry the chicken. Once the oil has reached the desired temperature add the chicken, starting with the legs and thighs in the center of the skillet, then the breast and wings along the edge. Do not crowd the pan – fry the chicken in two batches if needed. You’ll fry for about 12-18 minutes total on each side (smaller pieces will take less time) until golden browned and cooked through, turning occasionally the entire time – how often is up to you. If you don’t turn the chicken often the flour will darken as you see on the breasts in the photographs above because it’s resting against the bottom of the skillet, not floating in the oil. If you do turn them often, it’ll be like the other pieces in the picture. Continue on to the next section for a breakdown of this part of the process.
Frying the Best Simple Fried Chicken
After you fry chicken enough times the whole process will become second nature, but until that happens here’s all of the best advice I’ve got, expounded upon from my Spicy Buttermilk Fried Chicken post.
- Flour well. You want to ensure every millimeter of chicken is coated in the seasoned flour, and after it’s coated you’ll want to press the flour into the skin, to really make sure it adheres. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty you can flour your chicken in a paper bag, Ziploc bag, or breader bowl. After the chicken is floured you’ll want to shake off the excess and let the chicken rest while you preheat the oil. This will allow the moisture from the skin and the flour to become a bit sticky – if you transfer it immediately into the oil a large amount of the flour will r
- Fry in a heavy-bottomed skillet. For this recipe, it’s key. I recommend seasoned or enameled cast iron, which will hold the temperature better than lighter cookware, allowing the shortening to bring the chicken to the perfect texture inside and out. You’ll need one that’s at least 10″, but I like to use 12″. You’ll need a lid, and it doesn’t matter if it fits perfectly, because you won’t be covering the entire skillet. Now, you can always use a deep fryer if you have one – just follow the instructions and cook times in the manual.
- Pay close attention to the oil temperature. Are you having issues with your Simple Fried Chicken browning before the inside is cooked through? Or the exterior isn’t getting crispy? Or maybe the final result is greasy af? It’s your oil temperature – and not just in the beginning, but throughout the process. Your oil should be around 360℉ when you begin. The oil temperature will drop – only slightly because you’re using heavy cookware – as you add in raw chicken, and it’s up to you to maintain it, ideally around 320℉ or so. Note that this is lower than the 350°F you’d want to hover around if deep frying. Keeping the shallow amount of oil you need for pan-frying at that temperature would cook the outside of the chicken well before the inside was done. This is also why you’re pan-frying the chicken for much longer than you would deep fry it: lower temp equals longer time. As far as maintaining the oil temperature if you’re not that versed in frying, a frying or candy thermometer submerged in the oil as you cook is really the only way to know for sure until you have enough practice under your belt (and even then). For some reason, people can view using thermometers as a sign that someone can’t cook, but that’s incredibly silly to me.
- Make sure it’s done. If you’re not sure, neither am I. Yeah, the Simple Fried Chicken looks done, but that doesn’t mean anything. It floated to the top but that doesn’t mean anything either. Over the years I’ve been able to develop some weird sixth sense that lets me just know when my chicken is finished, but until that happens for you use a thermometer. Even after it happens, if you just want to be responsible – use a thermometer! You’re looking for at least 165℉ internally and make sure you’re reading the meat, not the bone. Alternatively, you can cut it open and check, or pray to whatever you believe in and take a bite (pls don‘t do that last one).
- Use your oven if you need to. Not only can you use your oven to keep the chicken warm at 200℉ while frying the rest but you can use it to finish cooking chicken that has browned to your liking but is not quite done inside. Just put the temp on 350℉ and tent the chicken with foil so the color doesn’t deepen, and pop it in for 10-20 minutes.
Soul Food Night with Simple Fried Chicken
I can’t think of many things that wouldn’t go well with this Simple Fried Chicken recipe, but of course, a Soul Food dinner is always a winner! I have more than a few recipes to fill your plates. Here are a few suggestions:
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OK, here are the Pinterest graphics: