Spread Your Wings
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20 Chef Secrets for Crisp, Juicy Fried Chicken

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Spread Your Wings
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Spread Your Wings

There's nothing like good fried chicken — that crispy exterior and a juicy, tender interior is the holy grail of textural marriages. But, unless you're a Southern grandma (and maybe even then), fried chicken can seem tricky, troublesome, and not worth the effort to make at home. Believe us, though, it's worth it and not that hard! We scoured the internet to find the secrets of our favorite chefs to make perfect fried chicken at home. Read on for 20 expert tips that will make everyone want to adopt you as their new Southern grandma.

Related: 50 Cheap and Easy Chicken Recipes

Break Down Your Own Bird
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Break Down Your Own Bird

Not only is it cheaper, says celebrity chef Alton Brown in his cult classic show Good Eats, but the chicken also will stay fresh for longer. It may sound intimidating, but is really quite simple with proper instructions.

Instructions: Cook's Country

Keep Sizing Consistent
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Keep Sizing Consistent

To make sure that everything cooks evenly, you want to make sure you're working with pieces that are around the same size. If you're using chicken breasts, cut them in half or even thirds to even everything out.

Recipe: Nola.com

Don't Start with Cold Chicken
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Don't Start with Cold Chicken

Unless you like soggy skin or unevenly cooked chicken, don't pull it out from the refrigerator immediately before cooking. Instead, let the meat sit out at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before frying.

Recipe: Bon Appetit

Brine, brine, brine!
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Brine, brine, brine!

All the best fried chicken recipes will tell you to brine your chicken first. Whatever else you add to said brine, chef and author J. Kenji López-Alt recommends using vodka in the brine for an extra crispy crust.

Recipe: Serious Eats

Brine with Buttermilk
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Brine with Buttermilk

Almost all the classic recipes for fried chicken call for a buttermilk brine. As the cooking site Yummy PH explains, "Because buttermilk is only slightly acidic, it is capable of tenderizing chicken without toughening up the meat like stronger marinating acids do (lemon and vinegar, among others)." Furthermore, for tender, flavorful chicken, "the enzymes present in buttermilk also help in breaking down the protein."

Recipe: Food & Wine

Don't Have Buttermilk? Try Pickle Juice
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Don't Have Buttermilk? Try Pickle Juice

Chef and author Carla Hall is famous for her fried chicken recipe that uses a pickle juice brine and habaneros. Don't have habaneros? Feel free to substitute any other hot pepper.

Recipe: Epicurious

Try the Nashville Dry Brine
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Try the Nashville Dry Brine

The Nashville Dry Brine may sound like a dance move, but actually it just means rubbing the chicken with salt and a blend of spices and letting it sit. This seasons the chicken without adding excess moisture — a classic technique for Nashville-style fried chicken.

Recipe: Food 52

Dry Off Your Chicken
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Dry Off Your Chicken

Regardless of how or if you brine, it's important to make sure your chicken isn't sopping wet when you start. Dry it beforehand with a paper towel to get a perfectly even coating of flour.

Use the Right Amount of Seasoned Flour
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Use the Right Amount of Seasoned Flour

Sure, the flour is great for that crispy coating, but you also want it to taste good! Make sure to add salt and pepper to start, and then any other seasonings that you love. Maybe a bit of garlic powder and smoked paprika? Why not some cayenne? It's your fried chicken, so use your favorites. Then, make sure to give your chicken a light, even coating without caking it on.

Don't Be Afraid to Mix It Up!
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Don't Be Afraid to Mix It Up!

Brooklyn restaurateur Dale Talde uses rice flour for his famous fried chicken. Or, try cornstarch instead of flour for crispy, flaky batter like L.A. Chef Ludo Lefebvre of Ludobird. The goal is a crispy, delicious coating, and there are many roads to that destination.

Bake it Low and Slow Beforehand
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Bake it Low and Slow Beforehand

Worried about getting the meat super tender while still being properly cooked? Try chef Tyler Florence's trick of baking the chicken first for just about the juiciest meat you've ever tasted.

Recipe: Food & Wine

Fry It Twice
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Fry It Twice

New York restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson fries his chicken twice — once on low heat and then on high. The low heat ensures tender meat, and the high heat gets it crispy. So, while it is technically an extra step, it may just be worth it.

Recipe: Food & Wine

Get That Oil Hot
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Get That Oil Hot

It's important to get your oil hot enough — make sure that you have a thermometer before you start. Use a neutral oil like canola or peanut oil, and make sure it's around 335 degrees Fahrenheit before you begin.

Instructions: Today

Try Some Duck Fat
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Try Some Duck Fat

While it's important to use oil with a high smoke point, don't be afraid of branching out from canola or peanut oil, especially if you've made fried chicken once or twice before. Lefebvre likes to use duck fat for his famous fried chicken, which if we're being honest sounds pretty delicious.

Recipe: Food & Wine

Use a Cast-Iron Skillet
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Use a Cast-Iron Skillet

Unless you're planning on making fried chicken every night, there's no need to splurge for an expensive, messy fryer. Just use a cast-iron skillet with high sides — it's perfect for conducting heat and even if you don't have one already, it's not expensive and lasts forever.

Related: 27 Kitchen Essentials That Are Built to Last

Turn That Heat Down
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Turn That Heat Down

As soon as you've plopped the chicken into the pan, turn the heat down to medium-low so the coating crisps without burning. You may not want to fry it twice, a la Marcus Samuelsson, but it is important to get that shock of high heat for crispiness and then lower temperatures to cook the meat without losing too much moisture.

Instructions: Rachael Ray

Cover the Pot
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Cover the Pot

Make sure to cover your pot for evenly cooked chicken that's crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. Before you start cooking, be sure you have a lid handy so you're not racing the fryer.

Cook in Batches
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Cook in Batches

Cook in small batches, so you're not crowding the pan and so everything can cook evenly. And, while you're batching anyway, Lefebvre recommends frying light and dark meat separately as the dark meat tends to require a little more time to cook.

Recipe: Food & Wine

Cool on a Wire Rack
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Cool on a Wire Rack

Some favor paper towels for cooling just-fried chicken, but that can trap steam and lead to a soggy exterior. Instead, to keep everything crisp, let the chicken rest on a cooling rack immediately after frying.

Let the Oven Do the Work
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Let the Oven Do the Work

Chef Michael Ruhlman likes to finish legs, thighs, and wings in a 250-degree oven to make sure "they're super tender and to further crisp them." And, if company is coming, it means you can fry before they get there, then crisp everything up in the oven for a few minutes once they've arrived. Voila — piping hot, perfectly fried chicken!

Recipe: Food52