Fried Chicken

One of the South’s greatest contributions to American cooking, fried chicken gained nationwide popularity in the early 20th century and has been a diner favorite ever since. Serve hot with mashed potatoes or at room temperature with potato salad.


  • 1 chicken, 3 1/2-4 lb, cut into 8 serving pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups vegetable shortening


Rinse the chicken pieces and blot dry with paper towels. In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, 1 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon each of the black pepper and paprika, and 1/8 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or as long as overnight, turning the pieces occasionally.

In a pie plate, combine the flour and the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon each black pepper and paprika, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne. Stir well with a fork.

Line a baking sheet with 3 layers of paper towels and place it near the stove. Put the shortening in a large cast-iron frying pan or heavy pot and melt over medium-high heat. The shortening should be about 1 1/2 inches deep. Heat until it registers 365 degrees on a deep-fat frying thermometer, or until a small cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in about 1 minute.

Using tongs, remove the chicken thighs from the marinade, draining well. Dredge them in the flour mixture, turning to coat evenly, and shake off the excess flour. Place the thighs, skin side down, in the center of the pan. Coat the remaining chicken pieces in the same way and add them to the pan in a single layer.

Do not move the chicken until the coating is set and looks firm 4-6 minutes. Check the underside by lifting with tongs; it should be deep golden brown. Turn over and fry on the second side until also deep golden brown, rotating the pieces as necessary. Remove from the pan when done, 17-20 minutes for breasts, and 20-25 minutes for the other pieces. To test, cut into the thickest part of a piece; the juices should run clear and the meat should be opaque throughout. Place on the towel-lined baking sheet to drain. If you want to serve hot, cover and keep warm until all the chicken is cooked.

TO SERVE: Arrange the chicken pieces on a platter or individual plates and serve hot, at room temperature or cold.

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