Growing up, my fried chicken experience was mostly limited to the occasional trip to KFC. It wasn't until later that I realized just how crazy people get for the dish, arguing fiercely over the best recipes. At Serious Eats we're equal-opportunity fried chicken lovers, and every version and all we really want is two things: juicy meat and a crispy coating. Beyond that you get into contested territory. Do you want a thick crust or a thin one? How heavily seasoned should the coating be? What about the oil?
I'm not here to pick sides, and fortunately I think we have enough recipes to keep everyone happy. Craggy Southern-style fried chicken, boneless Japanese karaage, the ultimate fried chicken sandwiches, chicken and waffles with a Mexican twist, and more—find it all in this collection of 16 of our favorite fried chicken recipes.
The Food Lab's Southern Fried Chicken
If your ideal fried chicken comes from the Colonel then this is the recipe for you. We brine the chicken in seasoned buttermilk to make it extra tender and dredge it in a mixture of flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and spices before frying. The secret to an extra-crispy crust is to pour a few tablespoons of the buttermilk mixture into the flour—the clumps mean more surface area and more surface area means more crunch.
The Best Korean Fried Chicken
If any place can give the fried chicken of the American South a run for its money, it's Korea. As opposed to the thick, craggy crust typical of Southern fried chicken, the coating on Korean fried chicken is thin and ultra-crisp. We thin out the cornstarch, flour, and baking powder with vodka, which inhibits gluten development and keeps the crust light.
Extra-Crispy Fried Chicken With Caramelized Honey and Spice
This recipe is kind of a riff on the fried chicken you get at Popeye's...but better. The key to the batter is fine "00" Italian flour, and the flavor comes from a buttermilk brine, a dusting of a super savory spice dust made up of fiery dried chilies, star anise, cardamom, sweet cinnamon, earthy cumin, and mouth-tingling Sichuan peppercorns. If that's not enough to entice you, how do you feel about a final drizzle of caramelized honey butter on top?
Lemon-Marinated Tuscan-Jewish Fried Chicken
The Jewish community of Tuscany probably isn't the first group you associate with fried chicken, but this recipe might change that. The chicken is marinated briefly with lemon juice and spices and coated with eggs and flour before being fried. Olive oil is traditional for the frying, but vegetable oil is cheaper and will let the chicken's flavor come through more clearly.
Unlike most fried chicken, karaage is made with boneless chicken (we go with thighs here, but breasts will work). The meat is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, and ginger, dredged in corn starch and flour, fried until crispy, and served with lemon and scallions.
Japanese-Style Fried Chicken Thighs (Gluten-Free Karaage)
Fried chicken isn't typically friendly to those with gluten intolerances, but this recipe comes to the rescue by omitting the flour in favor of a double dredging in potato starch. We flavor the chicken with traditional Japanese ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, and sesame oil, but we also add buttermilk to ensure the meat is perfectly tender.
Maryland Fried Chicken With White Gravy
There are a couple defining characteristics of Maryland fried chicken. The first is the dredging, which is nothing more than seasoned flour. Second is the cooking method—shallow-frying the chicken and covering it for part of the time lets the meat cook quickly without the need for tons of oil. Finally, after the chicken is done you pour the fat out of the pan and whip up a rich cream gravy to accompany the meat.
Chicken-Fried Chicken With Cream Gravy
Chicken-fried chicken might sound redundant, but frying up pounded butterflied chicken breasts and serving them with cream gravy did first emerge as a variation on chicken-fried steak. We prepare the meat pretty much the same way as we do for Southern fried chicken and make the gravy with garlic, onions, milk, cream, and plenty of black pepper.
Ramen-Crusted Fried Chicken
If you're willing to break with tradition, flour and cornstarch aren't the only things you can use to coat fried chicken. Here we go with instant ramen noodles, which we incorporate two ways. Grinding half the noodles up into a powder ensures full coverage, while leaving the rest in bigger pieces gives the chicken tons of crunch.
Oven-Fried, Corn Flake-Crusted Chicken
For this fried chicken variation we brine the bird in salt, sugar, and water and coat it in seasoned cornmeal, buttermilk, and corn flakes. Rather than frying the chicken we bake it in a hot oven—don't worry, it still gets crispy.
Homemade Chick-Fil-A Sandwiches
Chick-Fil-A sandwiches are an exercise in simplicity: juicy, crispy chicken breast, squishy bun, two dill pickle chips, and nothing else. The bun and pickles are easy, but replicating Chick-Fil-A's poultry is a little harder. We brine the chicken for a full six hours to make it almost unreasonably tender, then dredge and fry.
5-Ingredient Fried Chicken Sandwiches
Homemade Chick-Fil-A is the king of the fried chicken sandwiches, but it takes a bit of work. This recipe is almost as good and far easier. It's made with just five ingredients (besides salt, pepper, and oil): chicken, buttermilk, self-rising flour, buns, and a jar of pickles. The jar of pickles does double duty—we use the pickles themselves as garnish and brine the chicken in the juice.
Easy Breaded Fried Chicken Cutlets
Even our 5-ingredient fried chicken is a project—you've got to brine the meat and deal with a pot full of oil. These cutlets, on the other hand, are easy enough for a weeknight dinner. Because they're so thin you can cook them quickly in a minimal amount of fat. While cooking oil works fine, clarified butter will give the chicken a wonderfully nutty flavor.
Chicken Piccata (Fried Chicken Cutlets With Lemon-Butter Pan Sauce)
As much as we love the rich, nutty flavor it imparts, I recognize that frying in clarified butter is neither the most economical nor the most convenient method in the world, so here we go a different route and fry chicken cutlets in oil. But to get a similar flavor, we incorporate butter in the form of a lemony pan sauce made with white wine, capers, and parsley.
Japanese katsu is more or less identical to Western-style fried chicken cutlets. We make our version by pounding chicken breasts 1/4 inch thick, then breading them in flour, beaten eggs, and panko before frying in 1/3 inch of oil. Don't skip serving the chicken with thick, savory-sweet katsu sauce—it's just not katsu without it.
Fully Loaded Mexican Fried Chicken With Green Chili-Corn Waffles
These savory, Mexican-inspired chicken and waffles are a far cry from the traditional version of the dish. The waffles are made with masa harina, cornmeal, and roasted poblanos and the chicken is soaked in a hot-sauce spiked marinade and crusted with more masa. For good measure we layer guacamole and ancho-and-honey-glazed bacon between the chicken and waffles and finish it all off with salsa roja and crema.