Southern Fried Chicken

Kitchen Tested
  • Yield 8 servings
  • Prep 20 mins
  • Cook 70 mins

Use authentic ingredients for an authentic taste.

Photo by Mark Boughton/Styling by Teresa Blackburn

Soaking the chicken in salt water—or brining—is a trick all good Southern cooks use. Many say it’s the key to the flavor and tenderness of their fried chicken. For a ham flavor, country ham is simmered with the fat. You can substitute 2 cups vegetable oil for the lard.


1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon, salt, divided
6 cups water
3 pounds chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 quart buttermilk
1 pound lard
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup country ham pieces, or 1 thick slice country ham cut into 1/2-inch strips
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  1. Combine 1/2 cup salt and water in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken; seal bag and marinate in refrigerator  8 hours. Drain. Combine chicken and buttermilk in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 to 12 hours. Drain on a wire rack.
  2. Combine lard, butter and ham in a heavy skillet. Cook over low heat, skimming as needed, until butter stops foaming and ham is browned, about 30 minutes. Remove ham with a slotted spoon. Increase heat to medium-high and heat fat to 335F.
  3. Combine flour, cornstarch, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper on a piece of wax paper.
  4. Dredge chicken pieces in flour mixture; tap well to remove excess.
  5. Working in batches, place chicken, skin side down, into heated fat. Do not crowd. Cook until chicken is golden brown and cooked, 10 to 12 minutes per side. Pierce with a fork; if juices run clear, chicken is done. Remove and drain thoroughly on a wire rack or crumpled paper towels.

Recipe adapted from Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock’s The Gift of Southern Cooking (Knopf, 2003).



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