The Best Southern Fried Chicken

Here in the Panhandle Milling test kitchen, we love baking—we don't just love it; we're obsessed with it! However, not everything made with flour is a baking project. Take fried chicken, the most classic of all Southern foods.

You need to know a few things to make perfect fried chicken that’s tender, juicy, and flavorful. Here are the basics.

Brine or Marinade  

We tried several brine solutions to give our chicken extra flavor. Some cooks soak their chicken in buttermilk, cola, or a premade salad dressing marinade. Our secret brine ingredient is pickle juice. The flavor will not overwhelm your chicken with pickle flavor, primarily if you use kosher pickle juice.   


Dredging chicken in a highly seasoned flour coating is the easiest method for getting the thin, crisp crust associated with delicious fried chicken. Our favorite way to do this is to use a large bowl, sizeable heavy paper, or plastic bag with a few chicken pieces at a time. You should always dredge the chicken just a few minutes before frying. Leaving the chicken to rest in the coating too long will result in the chicken not getting as crispy as it could in the frying oil.  


Once coated with the flour mixture, the chicken must be shaken and gently placed in hot frying oil until golden brown and remarkably crunchy.   

Here are a few chef tips:   

  • Use metal tongs to turn the chicken in the oil a few times.   
  • Don’t crowd too much chicken in the pan.   
  • Use plenty of oil, but not so much that it splatters.   
  • Using a pan with high sides will help keep your kitchen clean.   

The Fat  

Granny used to fry chicken in shortening, lard, or a combination of shortening and vegetable oil. Healthy non-saturated oils like Avocado Oil mixed with vegetable or peanut oil are preferred. These oils have a higher smoking point (they can be heated to a higher temperature without burning). You can deep fry the chicken in a lot of oil or shallow fry it in a little less, but if you go the less oil route, the fat should rise to at least halfway up the pieces to ensure even frying.  

The Temperature  

Chicken should be fried at 350°F. Testing the temperature is the best way to ensure it turns out well. You will cook the chicken in a few batches, so bring the oil back to the total temperature before adding the new chicken. Use a meat thermometer to check the finished internal temperature of 165°F.  

Take a Rest  

Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving. Preferably, the chicken should rest on a wire rack to keep the crispy coating crisp. If desired, sprinkle with some salt for a little extra flavor.  

The Best Southern Fried Chicken  

1 1/2  lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs

2 cups pickle juice  

1 cup Panhandle Milling Organic all-purpose flour  

1 Tbsp. garlic salt  

2 tsp pepper  

2 tsp smoked paprika  

1 tsp poultry seasoning  

1 tsp ground thyme  

3 cups peanut oil, avocado oil, or a neutral oil like canola, more as needed  


  • Put 2 cups of pickle juice into a large bowl and add the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, turning a few times. Combine flour, garlic salt, pepper, paprika, seasoning, and thyme in a large paper bag to accommodate the flour and chicken pieces.   
  • Pour oil into a large, heavy-bottomed cast-iron skillet with high sides and a lid a few inches deep. Heat oil over medium-high heat to 350°F.   
  • Place the chicken pieces in the paper bag filled with the flour mixture and shake well to coat or toss them in the bowl with the flour mixture to achieve a similar result. Shake off excess flour and fry the chicken pieces in batches to not crowd the pan for about 10 minutes, covered by the lid.   
  • Remove the lid, turn over the chicken pieces, and cook for about 5 to 15 minutes more, uncovered, until they are cooked through and a deep golden brown.   
  • Color is as important as or more important than time: Watch your chicken and remove it when it’s golden brown and has an internal temperature of over 165°F. Then, remove the chicken to the rack to drain and rest, sprinkle with salt, and serve warm.