Recipes » Main Dish Recipes » Real Simple Southern Fried Chicken

Real Simple Southern Fried Chicken

My simplest and most authentic recipe for Real Simple Southern Fried Chicken. Quick and easy for a family dinner or special occasion.
4.9 from 53 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, okay if you really 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.

👉 PRO TIP: If you want to sneak in some other seasonings, this is the time to do that. It’s totally 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.

👉 PRO 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.

👉 PRO 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.

👉 PRO TIP: Experts will tell you that the 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 to 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

My simplest and most authentic recipe for Real Simple Southern Fried Chicken. Quick and easy for a family dinner or special occasion.
4.85 from 53 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

  • 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.
  • Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for a day or two. You can reheat them in a 250 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

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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65 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Lana I usually “jump to the recipe” but your intro made me want to read more and more, and I am so glad I did.

    I’m making your fried chicken recipe in the morning for my wife and me to take to our 75 acres of woods and enjoy the day. She’s a southern girl so when I lay out a spread of Lana’s fried chicken, baked beans and corn bread… she’s going to be smiling her beautiful smile.

    Great recipe Lana, very well done. Thank you.

  2. 5 stars
    This is how I’ve done it for 50 years also. All those other recipes give me nothing but globs of breading and a little piece of meat in the middle.

      1. Lana, I’m almost 80 years old and I have been cooking for my family since I was 9 years old. Farm kids grew up early in those days. The only thing I do/did differently–use all purpose flour and to check temp of the oil (back then we used lard) we dropped a pinch of flour into the grease. If it sizzled, it was hot enough.

      2. Lard makes the very best fried chicken and the best biscuits, too. And I also drop a pinch of flour in the oil sometimes to see if it’s hot enough :-)

  3. Hi. I just happened to find this recipe when looking at an email that included your cornbread recipe. I had tried and tried different recipes for fried chicken. Either the batter was too thin or so thick it was soggy on the inside. I can’t wait to try this simple recipe. I will let you know how it turns out.

  4. Best tasting fried chicken I’ve ever made!! I had a craving for fried chicken, but ran out of eggs. My Google search for frying chicken without eggs led me to this recipe. I added some Paprika and Lawry’s Seasoning and followed the recipe as directed, and my goodness, the chicken came out nice and crispy but juicy and tasty on the inside!!! Chicken was so good, I didn’t have room for the sides. My picky daughter enjoyed it as well. No more stressing or being nervous about making fried chicken. Thank you! I’ll be checking out your other recipes!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Marjorie! This is the way all the cooks in my family have made fried chicken for generations so, of course, I think it’s the best. I’m happy when others agree :-)

  5. Glad I found this. A lot of the recipes mentioned buttermilk and eggs and I did not remember Mom and Gram using those when they made fried chicken. This is how they made it and the chicken turned out crispy and juicy. Thank You

    1. You’re welcome, Terrie! Yes, this is the really old-fashioned, quick and easy style. No marinating, no buttermilk, no eggs… just chicken, flour, salt, and pepper. Turns out great every time!

  6. Oh bless you! I’ve always been hesitant to fry bone-in chicken and all the recipes I came across on the internet made me feel like it was way out of my league. Your simple recipe was just what I needed. I even felt comfortable enough to get a little fancy and add some herbs to the salt and pepper rub. Chicken came out perfect. Thank you!

    1. Sheila – your comment makes me so happy. Frying chicken doesn’t have to be complicated. This is the way my mama made it and her mama and her grandmother. Just so simple!

  7. 5 stars
    When I came across your recipe I was skeptical because I was under the impression that I needed all that extra seasonings, buttermilk etc. I went with it though and cooked it just how you specified. My lawd, this fried chicken was perfect! Who knew you don’t need all that other fuss to make the best fried chicken!? My family had me make it again the next day, lol!!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that you and your family loved my simple fried chicken recipe! This is the exact way my mother and grandmother always made it – no messing about, just get on with it!

  8. 5 stars
    Super simple and fast. I only made 2 pieces just for me. So it didn’t take the whole 45 minutes! It was good. Who knew you didn’t need to do all the extra extra to get great chicken

  9. 5 stars
    Lana you are right. 3 of us agree! Used my new huge cast iron. Will be making this again. I can honestly say we,all loved it. Thank you.

  10. 5 stars
    This turned out great, and it was insanely easy. I fried thighs in two batches of four in a 12-in cast iron pan. I watched the oil temperature pretty carefully and the first batch needed only a couple of minutes covered, and the second batch was done after 10 minutes on each side. I was looking for a temperature of 165.

    Everyone raved, and they especially liked your thought that Southern women wouldn’t have made fried chicken every day if it took as much effort as the modern recipes require.

    For us, fried chicken is a once-in-a-blue-moon treat, but whenever I make it, it’ll certainly be from this recipe.

  11. 5 stars
    Just what I was looking for—like my Daddy made it! When my kids were growing up, I made fried chicken once a year—outdoors on my patio and in an electric skillet to eliminate the smell in the house! Even though I owned a catering biz and cafe/bakery, fried chicken was not my best skill. So I would call daddy and he talked me through it. But he’s been gone since 1997, so I haven’t made it in a long time. This was very good but mine cooked too fast, I think. I checked oil temp with my thermapen and tried to keep it under 360 but I think this chicken was a tad overdone with about 6-7 minutes per side and same amount with lid on. I was lucky to have a small 3 lb chicken that I cut myself because I wanted a wishbone (I didn’t a great job, lol), and I used my cast iron skillet. It’s still delicious though. I don’t like fried chicken with egg and buttermilk and all that mess. Just salt and pepper and flour is what I grew up in in Tennessee. I’m on a mission to perfect this! Thanks for the recipe!

  12. 4 stars
    This is how my mother made fried chicken but as we had a large family she would put the chicken on a baking rack and do the last 10-15 minutes in the oven. Still crispy but requires only one skillet of oil and you finish faster.

  13. This seems so much like my mom used to make, and it was soooo good. She would buy a whole chicken, hold it over a sink with burning newspaper in it to singe off the ‘pin feathers’. (This was a long time ago!) Then she would cut it up just like you describe, dry and flour it, seasoned with just salt and pepper. Oh, man…..that was soooo good! Thanks so much.

  14. Add a little cayenne pepper to that flour and I’m in heaven….it won’t make the chicken spicy but it does bump up the flavor just as it does in cheese sauces.

  15. Well, Lana, my northern mama used to make (southern) fried chicken *until* my father had a ruptured ulcer, and that was way back when I was just a babe. She stopped making all fried or spicy foods, and moved towards canned soup based meals more and more through her busy years…. (I’ve had a lot to overcome in my cooking life…..). I’ve read about frying chicken, but I’ve never wanted to go through ‘all the trouble’ of it. But now!? – With your lovely description of easy fried chicken, you’ve done it again! It’s time for my to teach my daughter something else I’ve never mastered! =] But this time, I’m all for the joy of it (not the laugh of the pastry crust falling apart again — probably… haven’t quite got there yet……).