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My Fried Chicken Experiment: Crispy but Bland

I've checked many of the old threads and didn't find my specific problem addressed.

I made fried chicken for the first time last night. I marinated in buttermilk overnight, took it out of the fridge an hour before so it wasn't cold. I used flour, baking powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and white pepper and cayenne pepper.

I let the buttermilk drip off, dredged and left out while the oil came up to 350 (I did use a thermometer). Oil temp never went below 275, and I boosted the flame to bring it back up quickly.

The verdict was the chicken meat was flavorful and good texture. The breasts were actually tastier than the thighs, which I found surprising.

The skin, though was almost too crispy and not at all flavorful. To me, a good skin is at least half of the joy of fried chicken.

Since this was my first time frying anything (I've sauteed, roasted, braised, baked, grilled, poached), and it was an experient, I'll try it again but I'm not sure what to change.

Any tips from experienced chicken fryers?

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  1. Mix some of your seasoning together and sprinkle it on the chicken as soon as it comes out of the oil.

    1. Did you season the flour or the chicken? I have quit seasoning the flour, and use the seasoning in the marinade or directly on the skin if I don't use a marinade. Then, I flour....

      1. I can't say I'm an experienced chicken fryer but for cooking chicken in general, I always dry brine. Try sprinkling your chicken pieces liberally in salt and leave in the fridge overnight. This always produces deeply flavorful chicken for me.

        1. season the chicken itself

          1. I marinade my chicken in seasonings only overnight. Then I dip in a seasoned flour mix, then deep fry. We like spicy and overloaded in flavour, so I don't stint on the seasonings at all. Mine are plenty flavourful.

            1. How much salt did your flour mixture call for? For me, it often just boils down to not enough when I have the same issue. Here is a straight-forward recipe for an oven fried chicken that has hefty seasoning in the flour mixture ingredients but no buttermilk soak. I think it would work for a deep fried recipe as well.

              1/3 cup vegetable oil
              1/3 cup butter
              1 cup all-purpose flour
              1 teaspoon salt
              2 teaspoons black pepper
              2 teaspoons paprika
              1 teaspoon garlic salt
              1 teaspoon dried marjoram
              10 chicken pieces
              Place oil and butter in a shallow cooking pan and place in 375ºF oven to melt butter, set aside.
              In a large paper sack, combine dry ingredients.
              Roll the chicken pieces, 3 at a time, in butter and oil then drop into a sack and shake to cover.
              Place on a plate until all pieces are coated.
              Leave any excess butter and oil in pan.
              Place chicken in the pan skin side down (or its just as good if you remove all the skin first).
              Bake at 375ºF for 45 minutes.
              Turn chicken pieces over and bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until crust begins to bubble.

              1. You need to 'aggressively' season the flour, I'd also season the butter milk.

                1. Try this. I thought it has great flavor both for the chicken and the coating.
                  Michael Ruhlman's Rosemary-Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mscoffee1

                    I ran across this recipe while browsing their site. I've never fried chicken before - I never fry anything - but it sounds so delicious that I am going to get a thermometer and give it a try. I came here & did a search to see whether anyone here had tried it - so I'm really glad you posted this. Might do it when we get our new gas grill, because it has a burner & I then wouldn't get the kitchen greasy. I'll report back (but it may be a while yet).

                    1. I always follow the epicurious recipe for deviled fried chicken. It has never disappointed. Very flavorful with an excellent crispy crust.

                      1. If you were happy with the flavor and moisture of the meat, it sounds like you simply underseasoned the skin. Just be more aggressive with the ratio of seasonings to flour. More onion powder, more garlic powder, more salt and pepper.

                        1. This recipe for Thomas Keller's ad hoc fried chicken produces hands down the absolute best fried chicken Ive ever had in my life. Its foolproof if you follow the directions to the letter. Take time to find the smallest chickens you can. 2.5 pounders are perfect!


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: twyst

                            What twyst said. There's a lot of business in that brine, but it produces perfect chicken.

                          2. Thank you everyone!

                            Seasoning the skin more heavily is the next step.

                            1. What purpose does the buttermilk serve in these recipes?

                              For those with dietery issues is there a substitute for buttermilk?


                              3 Replies
                              1. re: mdb0610

                                Buttermilk is acidic. Basically you are marinating it in buttermilk. You don't have to use it at all. I've tried many different recipes for FC. I would say that buttermilk hasn't made a noticeable difference compared to other techniques. My current favorite method is to do a dry marinade for several hours then to use a thin batter in the korean fried chicken (the other KFC) style. Its basically equal parts flour and starch with an equivalent amount of water which is then aggressively seasoned. Double fry the chicken. Makes for a great crust. No buttermilk was harmed in the making of the fried chicken.

                                1. re: Bkeats

                                  Though buttermilk does have a subtle tenderizing effect, you use it mainly for its flavor. If done correctly, buttermilk fried chicken needs very little seasoning besides salt, since the flavor of the buttermilk permeates the chicken.The problem is that the way to best do this is somewhat counterintuitive. Most buttermilk FC recipes I've seen don't take advantage of the buttermilk, and would actually be better suited to using another liquid in the crust. Buttermilk crusts brown/burn very easily compared to other kinds of crusts, which can overwhelm and kill the flavor. They also can get kind of tough and overly crispy.

                                  You need to make 2 adjustments.

                                  If you want better flavor and texture from a buttermilk recipe, use a very thin crust. No double dredging. No batters. No dipping very wet chicken into the flour. Make sure that the chicken is well shaken after its marinade in buttermilk and not very wet when it goes into the flour. Give it a little shake again after dredging in flour to get rid of any excess. Using a very light coating of seasoned flour lets the buttermilk flavor shine, prevents over-crisping, and lets the skin itself crisp up.

                                  Second - don't turn up the heat when the oil temperature drops. It will come up on its own eventually. Turning up the heat leads to either an overbrowned crust, undercooked chicken, or both. Letting the heat come up on its own allows the chicken to cook through, the skin to render and become crispier, and the buttermilk flavor to make it to the final product. If the skin is under-browned and not crispy as the chicken nears doneness, then turn the heat up. Otherwise, let it do its thing and do not attempt to maintain the temp at 350 the whole way through cooking.

                                  For people who prefer fried chicken with thick crusts, other liquids make better results IMO.

                                2. re: mdb0610

                                  The only real reason to use buttermilk vs. milk is that buttermilk is thick and holds more flour, ergo a more substantial crust. Also it sounds "country" and conjures up appropriate rural imagery, which goes with fried chicken.

                                3. Has anyone tried using kosher chicken? I've found that kosher chicken is a great foundation. Then season the raw chicken with plenty of black pepper and your favorite spices. Make sure your flour is well seasoned. Taste your flour before you begin coating the chicken to insure its sufficiently seasoned to your personal palate.

                                  I've compared brining vs buttermilk bath and found that the chicken meat tends to get gummy with buttermilk baths, so I've given up on that technique.

                                  I'd suggest frying in peanut oil which is very fragrant and worth the investment.

                                  Fry in a very deep pot to prevent the chicken from touching the bottom of the pan and burning. Fried chicken should be golden, not pock marked with burns. Always use a large enough pan, preferably with a lid. I like to use a heavy pan like cast iron, enameled cast iron or a sandwiched metal pan. Don't overcrowd the pan.

                                  1. Go heavier on the seasoning, especially the cayanne.

                                    1. add what you might consider to be "too much" salt into your flour. then lightly salt your chicken again, the minute you pull it out of the oil.
                                      use caution adding too many herbs or spices to the chicken flour before cooking, as some of these may burn during cooking.

                                      1. Hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong since you didn't mention how much of what you used to make your dredge. For a basic dredge, start with 3 cups of flour, 2 tsp of kosher salt and black pepper. I like to add onion and garlic powder, some white pepper, some paprika, and a lil cayenne to my dredge. About 2 tbs of the onion and garlic powder, and maybe a tsp of the others, depending on your taste.

                                        Another interesting crust you might try is batter of equal portion of flour and cornstarch and water, along with any herbs/spices you desire.

                                        I fry my chicken in a low pressure fryer (Wearever Chicken Bucket) and I get amazing results with or without brining. Moist on the inside, crispy on the outside.

                                        1. Since trying this recipe a year ago, I have never used any other for fried chicken:


                                          It's very similar to the way I've always fried chicken (as taught by my momma), with the addition of a dry rub. I've never brined or soaked in buttermilk.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Abby0105

                                            "I've never brined or soaked in buttermilk."

                                            But your recipe DOES call for buttermilk.

                                            1. re: mdb0610

                                              True - I dredge in buttermilk, but I don't soak it. Sorry for my lack of clarity. I was trying to draw a distinction between this and other recipes that call for soaking the chicken in buttermilk overnight.

                                              1. re: mdb0610

                                                I've tried both brining and buttermilk soaks and I found the chicken to have a gummy texture after the buttermilk soak so I discontinued using the buttermilk bath method.

                                            2. I use Louisiana Hot Sauce instead of buttermilk, sometimes with a squirt of lemon juice for good measure.

                                              Then I sprinkle with black pepper and cayenne before dredging in my heavily seasoned flour (I start with about two cups of flour in my preferred pan, then pepper until the flour is mostly obscured by pepper, then salt the same way, then cayenne a little less aggressively, then garlic powder and some sage).

                                              Also, I can fix your crust issue - switch to lard or shortening instead of vegetable oil. For some reason veg. oil makes for a crispier crust.