Crispy, Crunchy Fried Chicken Knows No Borders

February  1, 2018

I grew up in Houston, Texas, home to some of the best fried chicken in the world. It’s crackly and slick and the skin falls off with a flourish of steam that reveals a tender inside. Quality fried chicken is ubiquitous in this corner of the South, but one establishment rises above the rest: Since 1969, Frenchy’s has been doling out the tastiest fried birds in the city. Don’t believe me? Just ask Beyoncé.

Fried chicken, as convention dictates in the American South, is always dredged in buttermilk and flour—it’s this crucial combination that gives that signature browned crunch. But while I, and many others, may be staunch traditionalists, there’s technically more than one way to make fried chicken. In fact, there’s a whole slew of methods. So many that you could practically travel the world in fried chicken dishes alone, so grab your passport and let’s get going.

North America

Here are two go-tos for Southern-style fried chicken. There’s plenty of buttermilk and plenty of oil. Michael Ruhlman’s recipe recommends brining the chicken first in a tart and tangy rosemary-lemon brine. This gives the meat some flavor and succulence before being tossed into the fryer.

For the oil averse (or those who just can’t be bothered to fry on a weeknight), get cracking on this inventive “fried” chicken technique. It calls for an oven instead. Crank it up to 400° F and give those dredged bites a good crisp.

Nashville’s signature fried chicken rendition is sharp and spicy. For this recipe, it’s all about the hot maple sauce—sweet syrup with a cayenne kick. Serve it all atop a pillowy waffle for the ultimate breakfast, brunch, lunch, or any-kind-of-time meal.


This Indian-inspired take on fried chicken comes to us from Asha Gomez, the master when it comes to mashing up Southern and South Asian recipes. Her chicken batter is laden with chiles and contains a special secret ingredient: mint!

Michelle Peters-Jones of The Tiffin Box had this to say about her recipe: "Chicken 65 might have an unusual name, but it’s actually the name of one of the most popular bar snacks in Southern India. Unlike other well-known Indian chicken dishes—like tandoori style and chicken lollipops—this crunchy, fiery, and completely addictive chicken is traditionally made from spicy, marinated chicken pieces that are deep fried, then quickly sautéed again in a spicy yogurt and curry leaf sauce."


This Thai recipe is derived from the famed fried chicken served at Soi Polo, a Bangkok institution. They serve their bird with a crispy skin and top it with even crispier garlic flakes. The recipe is fairly simple and doesn’t require any dredge, just two whole heads (!) of garlic instead. Serve this with a side of sweet and spicy Thai chile sauce.


For a fried chicken approach that is a little less involved—and takes half the time—try this one. This Chinese method calls for coating the chicken bits in cornstarch before tossing them into hot oil. Fried chicken for the weeknight warrior.


Ah, the ever-beloved Korean fried chicken. This take goes light on the dredge (just flour) but heavy on the glaze. Smear a sticky, sweet, spicy ginger-soy glaze across these bad boys and dig in.

Scared of splatter? Fear no more, the Frywall is here! Make sure to use one of these and avoid any unfair, and unnecessary, cooking splatter.

What’s your preferred fried chicken? Do you have a favorite? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.

1 Comment

AntoniaJames February 1, 2018
My mother's best fried chicken, which if I'm not mistaken she called "Maryland fried chicken," was quite similar to the Judy Hesser version. As noted in that recipe, it's great cold. In fact, it's gospel truth that good fried chicken is actually *better* cold - not when just taken from the fridge, but when taken from a well-insulated picnic basket on a hot summer day. When air-chilled drumsticks are featured in the weekly promotions at our local Whole Foods Market, I bring home a few dozen and give them the "Maryland fried" treatment, after their "Georgia buttermilk brine" (a tip from an old family friend from Macon).

Oh, one other thing . . . . my mother always used shortening for frying -- more practical for the enormous batches needed for our hungry family of 8 and for extended family OBX gatherings. There's nothing that says, "Welcome" like an enormous plateful of cold fried chicken with an equally enormous plateful of warm sliced ripe tomatoes and picked-this-morning sweet corn. ;o)