Making fried chicken at home? Here are some tips from the experts:

* Make sure the oil is hot enough; it should measure 300 degrees on a deep-fat or candy thermometer. A bit of flour or bread dropped in the oil should bubble immediately and begin to turn brown.

* Dark meat takes a little longer to cook than white. Troy Helton of Flavors Soul Food Restaurant in Falls Church says the cooking time for dark meat can be reduced by cooking individual drumsticks and thighs instead of whole leg quarters.

* There's an ongoing argument over whether or not to cover the skillet after turning the chicken. Some say the lid proponents use it only to keep their stoves from getting spattered. In truth: Suit yourself.

* Lard imparts a wonderful flavor, but most people don't use it either for health reasons or because it can be hard to find. Corn oil, peanut oil or Crisco are good alternatives. For a little extra flavor, author John Edge recommends adding a little bacon grease to any of these fats.

* A cast iron skillet makes fabulous fried chicken because it holds the heat and maintains an even temperature. If you don't have cast iron, use the heaviest 10-inch skillet you can find. Cassandra Vanhooser of Southern Living Magazine swears by an electric skillet because it's easy to monitor the temperature. It's also what her mama always used.

* Season well! Flavors owner Francine Helton recommends seasoning the chicken and adding seasoning to the flour.

-- Candy Sagon