Classic Fried Chicken 4.000

Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Aug 8, 2018

When you want to make fried chicken that is crispy, flavorful and relatively fuss-free, this is the recipe for you. It is largely based on one from chef Gillian Clark that was published in The Post in 2009. We have mostly tweaked the frying step to ensure even browning and reduce the risk of burning.

Cutting up a whole chicken is the best way to get all the parts you need for frying. It gives you a mix of white and dark meat, because almost any crowd will have people who prefer one or the other. But you can buy whatever parts you like.

The amount of oil you need will vary based on the size of your pot or pan. You want the oil to come up about two-thirds of the way against each chicken piece. In a Dutch oven and 10-inch cast-iron skillet, we needed about 3 cups of oil, while a 14-inch cast-iron skillet required closer to 4 cups.

You'll need an instant-read thermometer for monitoring the oil temperature and the chicken.

Click here to see step-by-step photos for this recipe.

Make Ahead: The chicken needs to soak in the buttermilk mixture for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. This chicken reheats well: Place it on a lightly greased rimmed baking sheet (or one lined with aluminum foil), then into a 400-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Watch closely to keep the chicken from burning.

4 - 8

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-8 servings

  • 1 quart buttermilk (can use low-fat)
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 cup hot pepper sauce, preferably Tabasco
  • One 3- to 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces (wings reserved for another use; breasts cut in half crosswise)
  • Vegetable or canola oil, for frying (generally 3 to 4 cups)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper


Stir together the buttermilk, garlic and hot pepper sauce in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces, making sure they are all submerged. Refrigerate/marinate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Heat the oil in a deep pot or deep, large skillet over medium heat until it reaches about 300 degrees. (You generally want the oil in the 275- to 300-degree range while you fry, so check it with a thermometer often.)

Sift together the flour, salt and pepper on a wide plate or pie dish. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet.

Pull the pieces of chicken out of the buttermilk one at a time and coat in the seasoned flour. Shake off any excess, but try not to be overzealous because you most likely want a nice, thick crust. Place the chicken pieces on the rack as you work; let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes. (This will help the coating stay in place as the chicken fries.) Discard the excess buttermilk and seasoned flour mixtures.

Working in batches as needed, carefully add the chicken pieces to the pan, skin sides down; the oil around them should bubble vigorously. Fry for a total of 20 to 25 minutes, using tongs to turn the pieces over about every 5 minutes and rotating them around the pan to keep the pieces from sticking to the bottom and out of hot spots.

The chicken is done when evenly browned and crisped; an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat (and away from the bone) should register at least 165 degrees. Use tongs to transfer it to a clean wire rack to drain and cool for a bit before serving.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from Clark's "Out of the Frying Pan" (St. Martin's Press, 2007).

Tested by Becky Krystal.

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