Picnic Chicken!

How to Make a Fried Chicken Recipe Two Ways

Picnic Chicken!

A summer picnic that includes my favorite fried chicken recipe is a match made in culinary heaven. Fried in my heirloom cast-iron skillet on top of the stove, the chicken’s crust is so crisp it shatters when you bite into it.

You can also “fry” chicken in the oven. Seasoned Panko breadcrumbs produce an oven-fried chicken with a crisp, shaggy coating. (Panko breadcrumbs stay crisp sealed in the pantry.) It’s just as flavorful as traditional fried chicken and will have fewer calories.

Both the stove-top fried chicken recipe and the oven-fried chicken recipe are easy to make and taste as good cold as they do hot. I use the same herb and spice blend for both stove-top fried and oven-fried chicken. I also use peanut oil for its high heat tolerance.

Mom’s Stove-Top Fried Chicken Recipe

When my mom fried chicken for our large family, she had three cast-iron skillets going simultaneously. Her seasonings were simple: salt, pepper, flour and whatever oil she had on hand. I’ve taken her recipe and jazzed it up with herbs and spices. The chicken is yummy either way!

  • 1 frying chicken, cut up, or your choice of chicken pieces, 3 to 4 pounds total
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Herb & Spice Blend

Herb & Spice Blend

  • 1-1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme


Mix flour with seasonings. Pour into shallow dish or into a large plastic baggie. Place a few pieces of chicken at a time in flour mixture and coat thoroughly.

Coating in flour

Shake off excess and place on tray. Pour oil in about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way up in cast iron skillet or heavy pan. Heat oil to 350 degrees over medium heat. Place pieces gently in oil, skin side down for breasts and thighs. Don’t crowd pan or chicken will steam instead of fry properly. Fry until golden brown on one side, then turn and cook until golden brown on the other side. This takes about 10 minutes or so per side, depending on the size and kind. If chicken is browning too quickly, turn the heat down a bit.

Quick Tip – If you don’t have a thermometer, fry a couple pieces of small cubed bread in the oil. They will brown quickly when the temperature reaches 350 degrees.

Fried Chicken

The chicken will register 165-180 degrees when cooked through. The USDA recommends the minimum temperature to be 165 degrees. Place on rack with paper towels underneath to drain. Turn chicken over a few times while draining. This prevents any pockets of oil from softening the skin.

Whole Chicken or Parts?

I have learned how to cut a whole chicken, and that’s what I prefer doing. It’s not hard to do and allows you to have extra pieces, like back and neck, to save for stock. Make sure you get a whole fryer for fried chicken (not a stewing hen). Stewing hens are older birds, wonderful for long, slow cooking and making stock, but just too tough for using in your fried chicken recipe.

Skin Side Down First

The oil is cleanest and hottest with the first frying, so the skin side gets nice and brown fairly quick. In the culinary world, this technique is called “presentation side down first.”

Variation: Southern Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Soaking chicken in buttermilk anywhere from six hours to overnight makes it super moist and tender. After soaking in buttermilk, shake off the excess, flour each piece, and fry.

No Buttermilk?

Make your own “sour milk”: Stir in one teaspoon clear/white vinegar or lemon juice into one cup milk. Let sit for several minutes. It will curdle just a bit. This won’t be as thick as store-bought buttermilk, but it works well.

Oven-Fried, Panko-Crusted Chicken

  • 1 frying chicken, cut up or your choice of chicken pieces, 3 to 4 pounds total
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, shredded
  • Herb & Spice Blend


Preheat oven to 425. Fill the bottom of an ovenproof pan with olive oil. Whisk together eggs and water. Pour into shallow dish. Mix breadcrumbs, cheese, and seasonings together.

Panko oven-fried chicken

Pour into a shallow dish. Dip chicken in egg mixture, letting excess drip off, then into breadcrumb mixture, pressing firmly to coat pieces thoroughly. Place chicken in single layer in baking pan, skin side up. Drizzle each piece with a little olive oil. Or use cooking spray to keep the fat content lower. Both give the chicken a golden brown crust. Bake for 35-45 minutes. The chicken will register 165-180 when done.

Tips from Rita’s Kitchen

Wet Hand, Dry Hand

When breading, use one hand to coat the wet ingredients and the other hand to pat the dry coating on.

Wet hand, dry hand: egg wash and bread crumbs

Put Thermometer in Sideways

When checking the temperature of small pieces of meat, insert the thermometer into the side, where meat is fleshy. Don’t touch bone.

Checking chicken temperature


Oven-fried chicken

What are Panko Breadcrumbs?

Without getting too technical, Japanese Panko breadcrumbs are made from a special type of crustless bread. The bread is ground into airy flakes which give fried or baked foods a crunchy coating. Because Panko breadcrumbs absorb less oil than regular breadcrumbs, you wind up with a healthier dish.

Keeping Food Safe: Chill It!

When packing food for a picnic, remember that heat rises and cold sinks, so pack chicken in containers on the bottom, and put ice packs on top.

Or fill water bottles 3/4 of the way and freeze them. The nice thing about using water bottles is the ice in them may thaw enough to have some water to drink.

Make sure leftovers stay thoroughly cold. Add more ice if necessary.

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