Southern Style Buttermilk Fried Chicken is a classic
and should be on every picnic menu!
There are as many recipes for fried chicken as there are cooks. After many tries, this is my favorite version! While there are a few steps involved, each step is easy.
This chicken becomes extra tender when it’s been brined and then takes a bath in buttermilk before being fried. Brine and buttermilk are the magic ingredients!
Buttermilk contains lactic acid, a mild acid that gently breaks down protein and makes the chicken more tender. Brine adds needed moisture to the meat and also helps break down proteins for extra tender chicken.Jump to Recipe
Tips for making perfect buttermilk fried chicken:
Here are a few tips and tricks to making your Southern-style buttermilk fried chicken perfect:
- Types of chicken: Everyone has their favorite pieces but in our experience thighs and legs, with skin on, work the best. You can use breasts, but use bone-in.
- Brining is an extra step but worth it. Any type of brine will always have salt, liquid, and sugar in varying amounts. Brining adds moisture to the chicken.
- Don’t brine this recipe for more than 3 hours. A general rule of thumb is to leave your meat in its brine for roughly one hour per pound.
- Placing the chicken in buttermilk after brining gives the chicken a chance to absorb the tangy flavor which really comes through when finished.
- Make sure the oil is hot enough when you start frying otherwise your chicken will absorb the oil and become greasy, instead of crispy.
- Use an oil that can withstand high heat, such as peanut, canola, vegetable, or safflower oil.
- Don’t overcrowd the chicken when you put it in the pan. You want it to fry, not steam.
- Since you will be making the chicken in two batches, you may want to keep the first batch warm in the oven while frying the second batch.
How to make homemade Southern Style Buttermilk Fried Chicken:
- Prepare the brine by combining the water, salt, sugar, and peppercorns together in a large pot. Cut lemon in half, squeeze juice into the water and add the lemons to the pot. Heat to dissolve the sugar and then let the brine cool to room temperature.
- Add the chicken pieces, cover, and refrigerate for 3 hours. Then drain the chicken from the brine
THE BUTTERMILK SOAK:
- In a large deep bowl combine buttermilk, egg, and seasoning
- Add brined chicken to the buttermilk, cover and refrigerate for 60-90 minutes
MAKE THE FLOUR MIXTURE:
- In a paper bag or resealable plastic bag add flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Shake to combine.
- Shake excess buttermilk from chicken pieces and put about 5 pieces at a time into the bag and shake to coat. You will work in batches.
COOKING THE CHICKEN:
- In a large cast-iron skillet (or regular skillet) add oil to about 1/2″ deep and heat to medium-high, about 375°F.
- Line a sheet pan with paper towels
- Shake off excess flour from chicken, add to hot oil and cook chicken in single layers only. Be sure pieces are not touching.
- Fry about 10 minutes on each side until golden brown, and the internal temperature is 165°F
- Remove each piece and put on paper towels to briefly drain and then cool on a wire rack
- Repeat with the second batch. If needed, keep the first batch in the oven on low heat to keep it warm
Suggestions for Wine Pairings:
This dish will pair well with a crisp acidic Riesling or an effervescent sparkling wine or champagne. The crisp acidity in both works well with the richness of the chicken. Look for any available vintages of the following:
Your weekday wine:
- Hermann Wiemer, Dry Riesling, New York
- Roederer Estate Brut Sparkling Wine, California
Your weekend wine:
- Fess Parker Rodney’s Dry Riesling, California
- Trimbach Riesling, Alsace, France
- Medici Ermete Concerto Reggiano, Lambrusco, Italy
A special occasion wine:
- Schaefer Willi Riesling Auslese Graacher Himmelreich, Germany
- Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut Champagne, France
Great Side Dish Pairing Ideas:
- Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Dill Aioli
- Asian Coleslaw with Peanut Dressing
- Strawberry Spinach Salad
- Grilled Corn on the Cob with Sweet Chili Sauce
Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken Recipe
- 2 quarts water
- ¾ cup Kosher salt
- ½ cup Turbinado sugar
- 2 tsp peppercorns, whole
- 1 lemon, halved
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
- 2 cups All-purpose flour
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 3-4 lbs chicken, legs and thighs
- 2 cups vegetable oil
Make the Brine
- Cut the lemon in half
- In a large pot squeeze the lemon juice and put both lemon halves in the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and mix well. Heat on medium-high heat until all of the sugar and salt is dissolved.
- Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, add the chicken pieces, cover and let brine in the refrigerator for 3 hours. Drain well.
The Buttermilk Bath
- Mix all ingredients in a large deep bowl. Add chicken pieces, mix well to coat and let marinate for 60-90 minutes in the refrigerator.
Heat cast-iron skillet or large frying pan
- Add about ½" of oil and heat to medium-high, about 375°F.
- Have a plate ready with paper towels to drain cooked pieces.
The Flour Mixture:
- Mix all ingredients in a large ziplock or paper bag.
- Shake excess buttermilk off chicken pieces before adding to the bag. Add chicken in 2 batches, about 5 pieces at a time. Shake the bag vigorously until well coated.
Frying the chicken:
- Shake off excess flour and add about 5 chicken pieces to hot oil. Make sure the pieces are not touching. Fry for about 10 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. The internal temperature should be 165°F.
- Remove each piece and put on paper towels to briefly drain and then cool on a wire rack. Repeat with the second batch. If needed, put the first batch in oven on low to keep warm while you make the second batch.
- Serve on a large platter.