Southern Fried Chicken

Photo by Mark Boughton/Styling by Teresa Blackburn
  • Yield: 8 servings
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 70 mins

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.


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

Nutritional Info *per serving

  • Calories 510
  • Fat 28g
  • Sodium 160mg
  • Carbohydrate 6g
  • Fiber 0g
  • Protein 54g