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Real Simple Southern Fried Chicken

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Real Simple Fried Chicken - My simplest and most authentic southern recipe for real southern fried chicken. Quick and easy for a family dinner or special occasion.
4.8 from 46 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Finished fried chicken on a white serving platter.

Making Real Simple Fried Chicken doesn’t have to be complicated. Learn how to make simple, authentic fried chicken with my quick and easy recipe. Perfect for a family dinner or special occasion!

When I get into the frame of mind to go back to my culinary roots, I always go to recipes that are representative of what I call southern farmhouse cooking. I’ve been cooking southern food since I was big enough to reach the stove, so it’s where I feel most comfortable. And what’s more southern than fried chicken?

Finished fried chicken on a white serving platter.

It’s a standard. It’s a staple. And, most of all it’s quick and easy. Yes, I said “quick and easy.” Making my Real Simple Fried Chicken is not a production.

🍗 Fried Chicken Should Be Quick and Easy


Making a good, simple southern fried chicken recipe does not require overnight marinades or special equipment or any kind of fancy preparation whatsoever. If it did, do you think millions of southern women would have cooked it for lunch every day for years and years?

I can tell you without hesitation that they would not have. For our southern grandmothers, it was something they could whip up in a few minutes.

I’ve seen the recipes and the demonstrations where chefs put the chicken in milk or buttermilk or yogurt and let it stand overnight in the refrigerator. Then they coat it in all kinds of seasonings and shake it all up together in a paper bag.

Well, that’s fine if you want to do that, but what you typically get from it is a big mass of fried flour with a little bit of chicken in the middle of it.

🐔 The Best Chicken for the Recipe


The very best southern fried chicken recipe is made with a chicken that weighs about 3 pounds. That’s pretty hard to find in today’s supermarkets especially when chickens have been bred for more breast meat thereby causing them to weigh more.

Try to at least find the lightest weight bird in the case. If you have the skill to do so, buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself. You’ll save lots of money. I, unfortunately, do not have that particular skill. Wish I did. I’ve tried. I’ve tried a lot.

A chicken properly cut up for frying should result in two breasts, two wings, two thighs, and two legs. Long ago, there would also be a wishbone. The wishbone is the prime piece between the top of the breasts.

Unfortunately, butchers no longer cut the wishbone leaving that portion in with the breasts. If you find a butcher today who knows what the wishbone is and can actually cut a chicken with a wishbone, you have found a gem!

⭐ Here’s how I (and millions of southern women before me) make really simple fried chicken.

🥘 The Ingredients


Ingredients needed for the recipe: chicken, flour, peanut oil, salt and pepper.

My fried chicken recipe uses very simple ingredients. Chicken, salt and pepper, flour, and oil. That’s all you need.

This is a very easy southern fried chicken recipe without eggs, without buttermilk, or any of that other stuff. This is the way all the home cooks I knew when I was growing up made fried chicken. It’s quick and it’s easy.

🔪 The Process


  1. Dry the chicken with paper towels.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Dredge in flour.
  4. Heat the oil.
  5. Fry the chicken.
Photo collage showing the first four steps of the process for making simple fried chicken.

STEP 1: Thoroughly dry all the chicken pieces and place them in a single layer in a pan or large bowl.

STEP 2: Liberally salt and pepper the chicken pieces on both sides. Be very generous with the pepper. The taste of black pepper is very important to authentic southern fried chicken.

TIP: If you want to sneak in some other seasonings, this is the time to do that. It’s completely not necessary, but sometimes we like to change things up, don’t we? I’ll occasionally sprinkle on some Lawry’s seasoning salt, some Jane’s Crazy Mixed-Up Salt, or add some cayenne pepper. Whatever floats your boat. But if you’re a purist, you’ll stick with just salt and pepper.

STEP 3. Sprinkle all the flour over the chicken in the pan and toss the chicken to coat it well with flour.

TIP: We’re talking about “dredging” here, not lightly flouring. That’s why you pour the flour over and toss the chicken in it rather than doing the shake-it-up in the bag thing. You want a good coating of flour.

STEP 4: Meanwhile, heat the peanut oil over medium high heat in a large cast iron skillet. You’ll want enough oil to reach a depth of about 1/2 inch.

TIP: What we’re doing in this recipe is pan frying, not deep frying. You need enough oil to come about halfway up the pieces of chicken, but not so much that it will spill over when you place the chicken in the pan.

Judging the amount of oil is one of those things you learn through time and experience. Start with about an inch depth of oil in your pan and it should work out fine.

Photo collage showing steps 5 through 8 for cooking the chicken.

 STEP 5: Place the chicken pieces, skin side down in the hot oil. Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the skin is pale golden brown.

STEP 6: Turn the chicken over and cook for 10 minutes on the second side.

STEP 7: Turn the chicken pieces once more, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook approximately 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

STEP 8: Remove the hot chicken to a paper towel-lined plate or to a rack set inside a baking sheet and allow it to drain for about 5 minutes.

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🍳 Use the Right Pan and Oil


Using a well-seasoned iron skillet makes a huge difference in the taste of your chicken. There’s just something about a great iron skillet that you can’t get from any other piece of kitchen equipment. The one I use for chicken is a 12-inch skillet that’s about 75 years old.

Also, I recommend frying chicken in peanut oil because it will withstand higher temperatures for a longer time without burning than other oils.

TIP: Experts will tell you that your oil should be 375 degrees before frying and to try to maintain that temperature during the cooking. I learned to cook before everyone had kitchen thermometers, so I judge it my own way. My little trick to test whether the oil is hot enough to cook — Put the end of a wooden spoon in the skillet. If the oil bubbles around the handle, it’s hot enough.

If you try this method once, I’ll bet you won’t go back to all that complicated marinating and shaking. It’ll be the crispiest, most flavorful chicken you’ve cooked in a long time or my name isn’t Nana.

I’m not making any kind of promises about what the clean up is like, however ;-) .

Fried chicken leg on a white dinner plate with green beans, okra, potatoes, and biscuits.

🍽 Serving Suggestions


Serve your fried chicken with something equally delicious and southern like potato salad, fried okra, sausage and rice casserole, broccoli casserole, green beans, or butter beans. Or, if you’re familiar with Chicken and Waffles, you can use my Whole Wheat Waffles recipe to create your own. And don’t forget the cornbread and sweet tea!

🔀 Recipe Variations


  • If you like your chicken on the spicier side, try adding a teaspoon of cayenne pepper into the flour or sprinkle the chicken lightly with hot sauce before dredging in the flour.
  • Use Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Salt (or another seasoning salt) in place of the plain salt in the recipe.
  • Lightly sprinkle the chicken pieces with a little garlic powder before placing them in the flour.
  • You can use this method to cook whole cut-up chicken, boneless chicken breasts, chicken strips, or any pieces you like. I sometimes just cook all wings because they’re my favorite.

😯 Why Isn’t My Fried Chicken Crispy?


The most likely reason that your fried chicken isn’t crispy is that your oil temperature isn’t high enough while frying. When you place the chicken into the hot oil you want to hear an audible “whoosh” and see the oil bubbling vigorously. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the chicken just kind of lies there and the flour doesn’t crisp up as it should. Admittedly, this takes some practice but I learned and so can you.

🍚 Storing and Reheating Leftovers


If you have any leftovers, you can keep them in the refrigerator for a day or two. You can reheat them in a 250 degree oven for about 15 minutes or, even better, just let it come to room temperature and enjoy it without any heating at all.

Fried chicken leg on a white dinner plate with green beans, okra, potatoes, and biscuits.

🧾 More Southern Recipes


Have you tried this recipe? I’d really appreciate you giving it a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card or in the comments section.
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📖 Recipe

Finished fried chicken on a white serving platter.

Real Simple Fried Chicken

Real Simple Fried Chicken – My simplest and most authentic southern recipe for real southern fried chicken. Quick and easy for a family dinner or special occasion.
4.83 from 46 votes
Print It Rate It Save
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 526kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 1 frying chicken cut up
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 ½ cups self-rising flour
  • Peanut oil

Instructions

  • Place the chicken pieces in a single layer in a shallow pan.
  • Liberally salt and pepper the chicken on both sides.
  • Sprinkle flour over the chicken in the pan. Toss the chicken until well coated with flour.
  • Meanwhile, heat the peanut oil in a large iron skillet.
  • Place the chicken pieces skin side down in the hot oil.
  • Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the skin is pale golden brown.
  • Turn the chicken over and cook for 10 minutes on the second side.
  • Turn chicken pieces once more and reduce the heat to medium low.
  • Cover and cook for approximately 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  • Remove cooked chicken to a paper towel lined plate or a rack set in a baking pan and allow it to drain for about 5 minutes.

Notes

Notes:
  • You can use additional seasonings if you like (i.e., cayenne, hot pepper sauces, seasoned salt), but for the most authentic taste, stick with just salt and pepper.
  • I recommend using peanut oil because it will withstand higher temperatures for a longer time without burning than other oils.
Storing Leftovers: If you have any leftovers, you can keep them in the refrigerator for a day or two. You can reheat them in a 250 degree oven for about 15 minutes or, even better, just let it come to room temperature and enjoy it without any heating at all.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1 | Calories: 526kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 37g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 143mg | Sodium: 134mg | Potassium: 376mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 267IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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— This post was originally published on May 26, 2009. Updated March 2021 with new photos.

Finished fried chicken piled up on a serving plate.

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63 Comments

  1. This recipe and method is just like grandma taught momma and momma taught me. Momma always wanted to start with a whole chicken also and said that it is the bones and skin that flavor the oil and of course we used to use lard. Then pour off most of the oil, add a little more flour and milk. Got to have that chicken gravy.

  2. This is exactly the way Mama cooked Fried Chicken and the way I cook it. No hard crust and you get the taste of the chicken. Delicious

  3. It was my father-in-law who taught me how to fry chicken when I was newly married. He used the very same method and you’re right… it’s the easiest way to make it. Only one other step. We always placed the cooked pieces on a cookie sheet with a rack in the oven. The grease drained off in the oven. If you were cooking a large batch it kept everything warm as well as draining the excess grease off. The end result is still juicy and tender.

    I have found a way to eliminate the messy cleanup, but it’s a bit pricey. I recently bought an Induction Top stove. You can put tea towels or paper towels all over the top of the stove and since there is no direct heat, they don’t burn. When you’re done cooking, toss the paper towels and the stove is shiny clean. Works every time.

  4. This is so similar to my tried and true recipe Lana and it’s so good I’ve never messed with a bunch of ‘new fangled’ ways to cook it either! The only other step I take is to fry it for a minute or two on each side at the end to insure the skin is really crispy. Which is important to me. Why? Seriously give me a big pile of fried chicken skin and you can have the meat. Ask my siblings; I used to steal it from their plate!

    1. I’m with you Barb! I can take or leave the meat, just give me that good, crispy skin! Even better if it’s just a bit beyond golden brown :-)

  5. So I had a huge problem when trying! all the flour fell off! how do I prevent this in the future? I use boneless skinless chicken breasts.

  6. What temperature are you cooking at? And by that I dont mean 350 or ect. Lol I mean at first are you heating up the oil on high or med? Because I know some people that keep it on med the whole time but others turn it on high first thing till the oil is hot enough and then turn it down to med to keep a steady temperature and then go to low at the end. I just wanted to know how your doing it? Love the clear intructions, and it looks awesome!!

    1. I usually start it at a medium-high setting. Not too high because the cast iron holds the heat so well that you don’t need the highest setting. I adjust it as I cook to keep a fairly steady temperature. When the first pieces go in it always needs a little bump up because the cool food lowers the oil’s temperature. Honestly – I just do it by eye and sound. I’ve been cooking fried chicken so long I can actually hear when it’s done. Not joking.

  7. Omg I am just learning to cook and found this recipe.all I can say it wow!!!the chicken came out just how I like it.seasoned well and niCe and crispy. Thank you so much!!!

  8. I’ve got the cast iron pan ::check::, I think I can butcher a chicken ::check::, I’ve got peanut oil ::check::, and I love simple and wholesome recipes ::check::

    I do believe I shall make this recipe. And combine it with waffles. And I shall have chicken and waffles at last! Thanks for sharing…

  9. Thank you so much for this recipe and instructions! I was orphaned as an early teen and was never taught certain basics like fried chicken, and as I got older I surfed the internet for fried chicken recipes and techniques to learn how, but my fried chicken was always burnt before the center was cooked, or too soggy, or hard as a rock. I could never make good fried chicken and so gave up until today, when I thought I’d give it one more try after reading your method, and I’m so happy I did because it came out perfect! Thank you again!

  10. This turned out so deliciously. I love fried chicken but I’ve always felt compelled to soak the chicken in buttermilk or milk before frying. Now this allows me to make fried chicken whenever I want!

  11. Thank god someone finally published a REAL fried chicken recipe!

    This is how I learned how to fry chicken from my Grandmother however I dont use the skillet much anymore and actually use a deep fryer.

    The main reason is the grease that will accumulate on surfaces and cabinets so my wife prefers I fry everything outside. My cheap grill has no side burner so I can use that :(

    Otherwise my recipe is exactly the same.

  12. that’s a classic….with extra pepper it is super yum…..te self raising flour is a new addition for me, i make it with AP or cornmeal(whenever available).the frying tip is very nice.

  13. yum…No can resist the power of fried chicken. The skin looks nice and crispy. I’m lovin’ it. I’m craving for some right now.

  14. Good golly Miss Molly!!! This is Mama reincarnate. For heaven’s sake, don’t tell her. I had lunch with her and Polly today, and it was all in rare form.

    Okay, the real truth here — Mama’s fried chicken is hands down, the best in the whole world. None of that nasty goopy flour mess stuck to the chicken. Just a light crunchy crisp of a coating. And, you are right — the extra brown pieces are the ones that will be first off of the platter.

    Looking at your fried chicken, you are running a close second. Maybe gaining on Mama. Again, don’t tell her.

    Will you come and cook this for me? And Uncle John? He will be the first to tell you that I did not get the immaculate frying gene.

    Miss P

  15. This is the real country fried chicken that i remember and it’s great. uncomplicated and very tender and nice & crusty! another good classic! best, s