A staple in southern cooking, nearly everyone loves fried chicken. How could you not like the crispy and delicious skin that is full of flavor or the tender and juicy meat inside?
While fried chicken is delicious, many people won’t even attempt to make it at home for fear of the mess and the process.
When ordering in a restaurant, most fried chicken is cooked in a deep fryer. However, when cooking it at home, the most traditional way (and arguably the best way) to cook fried chicken is in a good frying pan.
It can be difficult to choose a suitable frying pan, though, as there are so many choices available.
People often get overwhelmed and just grab the first one on the shelf which leads to a disappointing experience. Using the wrong pan can result in food that sticks to the pan, or food that burns or cooks unevenly. Poorly made frying pans can peel, chip and warp.
Our #1 Pick: The Best Pan for Frying Chicken is The Lodge 12 Inch Cast Iron Frying Pan With Ergonomic Handle
Cast Iron skillets have been used for frying chicken for centuries, and they are the perfect tool for the job. They are heavy-duty, great at conducting heat and with proper care they are virtually nonstick
Keep reading for more information on all of our picks for the best pans for frying chicken.
Table of Contents
I. Things You MUST KNOW Before Choosing Your Frying Chicken Pan
The idea of frying chicken at home can be an overwhelming one. It can be scary to know that you are dealing with a vat of oil that is nearly 400 degrees.
Hot oil like to splatter, especially once food is added to it. If that food has any moisture of its own, this makes for an even scarier situation.
While we’re talking about scary, let’s also take into account that the majority of house fires start in the kitchen and the grease fires are extremely difficult to extinguish.
Fried chicken might be delicious, but it is also understandably scary to make. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way.
When you are planning to cook fried chicken, there are some things you absolutely MUST know beforehand. You can’t just bread your mead and toss it into any old pan, or you could wind up with a dangerous situation on your hands.
Instead, you need to pay attention to many details about the frying pan you will be using for frying your chicken. There are several key points you must be aware of to ensure your safety as well as to guarantee the deliciousness of the end product.
Considerations you need to be aware of are:
- Heat Retention
- Heat Distribution
- Ease of use
- How to clean
Depth: The first thing you should know is that you absolutely never want to use a shallow pan to fry chicken (or anything for that matter). Using a pan with low sides is just inviting disaster into your kitchen, and you definitely don’t want that.
Instead, reach for a frying pan that is deep – 3 inches deep at minimum. A deeper pot lets you use enough oil to get the job done but will ensure that grease splatters are not a common occurrence.
Safety: It might seem silly to consider safety when cooking some chicken, but this is a really important consideration when frying foods. Look for a frying pan that has a lid. Not only will this help to keep the temperature in range while you are cooking your food, but it can be extremely useful if something bad happens. Should a fire start, having a lid will give you the opportunity to quickly snuff it out and deprive the flames of oxygen.
Material: You’ll also want a frying pan that is made from material that will retain heat well. If your temperature is fluctuating rapidly, not only will it take forever to cook your chicken, but you run the risk of your meat not being able to cook to the proper temperature. This is dangerous as chicken that is not cooked well can lead to severe illness.
Materials that can retain heat well are:
- Cast iron
- Hard anodized aluminum
Many people think that stainless steel itself is a good conductor of heat, but it isn’t as good as other options available. If it is used in conjunction with another material, stainless steel can work well for frying chicken, but used alone it is not the best.
Another reason you want your pan to be good at retaining heat is that after each batch of frying chicken, you will need to wait for the oil to come back up to temperature (at least 350 degrees) before you add the next batch to the pan. If you have a pan that cools significantly in the meantime you will have a long waiting period; but if you have a pan that retains heat well, you can keep powering through and get to enjoy your dinner much sooner.
When it comes to how evenly the different types of frying pans heat up, this is another important consideration. If you’ve got a couple of hot spots in your frying pans, you will have bits of chicken that cook faster than others resulting in chicken that is not well cooked and can be difficult to enjoy. Additionally, these hot spots can cause the fried chicken’s breading to stick to the pan which will make you lose out on some of the delicious flavor you’ve worked hard to achieve.
Size: You’ll want a pan that is big enough to fry several pieces of chicken at once without crowding them together. Frying chicken can be quite a process, so you’ll want to be able to get through it in a timely manner. You don’t want to place too many pieces of chicken in the pan at once though, or they won’t cook properly.
Instead you will want a pan that is big enough to hold multiple pieces of chicken while still having room for the oil to move freely around the pieces.
Weight: The last thing you need when you have a pan of blisteringly hot oil is for it to be lightweight and easy to knock over. No, when frying chicken, you will want to be sure that the frying pan you are using is heavy and cannot be easily bumped.
Ease of Use: There are many great options available, but a lot of them need special utensils. When frying chicken, you need to be able to use heavy-duty tongs that can withstand high temperatures. You’ll need to choose a frying pan that can tolerate being bumped and scraped by your cooking utensils.
Cleaning: After spending all day prepping and cooking your fried chicken, the last thing you will want is to spend an hour scrubbing all of your dishes clean. For this reason, you will want to use a frying pan that is easy to simply wipe clean or rinse and toss in the dishwasher.
Truthfully, the best type of frying pan for chicken is a cast iron skillet. It is heavy, retains and distributes heat well, has a deep and large cooking surface and it is easy to care for and clean. That is why our pick for the best pan for frying chicken is the 12 Inch Cast Iron Frying Pan from Lodge.
We mentioned earlier that one of the best and most traditional ways to fry chicken is in a heavy duty frying pan on the stove top. However, some people just aren’t willing to do that, and we can understand their reasoning. It hurts to get popped by hot oil as the chicken fries, and frying chicken can be especially messy. Instead of avoiding this delicious food altogether – consider using a deep fryer to cook it instead.
II. 7 Best Pans for Frying Chicken
1. Lodge 12 Inch Cast Iron Frying Pan With Ergonomic Handle
Lodge has been making great cast iron cookware since the 1800s, and there is good reason they are still around today. These frying pans are durable and extremely versatile.
This specific frying pan is 12 inches around and 2 inches deep – plenty of room to cook up some fried chicken. The pan is pre-seasoned with soy based vegetable oil, so it is essentially nonstick. With proper use and care the seasoning will become even better over time.
Lodge frying pans are heavy duty and have great scores when it comes to heat retention and even heating.
Extremely useful, this frying pan can be used to bake, broil, braise, fry, sauté or sear foods, and you can use it on the stovetop, in the oven or over the campfire.
You have to be careful when cleaning cast iron cookware, and you must never allow it to remain damp. You will also need to season it occasionally so that it remains in the best possible condition. This is worth it though, as your frying pan could be frying chicken for generations to come!
Things We Liked:
- Non-stick surface that gets better with time
- Can be used to cook many things and in many ways
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Takes time to care for it properly
2. Lodge 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven With Lid
Another selection from Lodge is this Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven. We’ve already discussed the benefits of owning cookware from Lodge, so no need to rehash that information.
At nearly 5 inches deep, this Dutch Oven is no shallow frying pan. There are benefits to this though, like less risk of getting burned by popping grease and oil as your chicken fries.
The pan is made from cast iron as all of Lodge’s products are, but instead of being bare it is coated in a porcelain enamel. The porcelain is a thin layer of glass that is bonded to the cast iron during processing. Once adhered, the cast iron is protected from water and other liquids and it won’t react with ingredients
Due to the cast iron construction, this Dutch oven is great at heat retention and will evenly heat your food as it is cooking.
It is almost as versatile as its uncoated cast iron cousin, too. The Dutch oven can be used on the cooktop to simmer, sauté and fry and it can be used in the oven to braise, bake or broil. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t be used over a campfire, but there are plenty of other options for that.
Things We Liked:
- Useful for frying chicken as well as many other things
- Available in a broad spread of colors
- Comes with a lid
Things We Didn’t Like:
- The interior enamel can stain, and it can be difficult to remove these stains
3. Anolon 12 Inch Hard Anodized Skillet
When frying chicken, it is important that the pan is heating evenly and that the battered skin doesn’t stick to the pan. You won’t have any problems getting cooking magazine worthy chicken when using Anodon’s 12 Inch Hard Anodized Skillet.
The depth of 3 inches makes this pan suitable to frying larger pieces of chicken as well, and you won’t have to worry about the grease popping because Anolon provides a domed glass lid for this frying pan.
Made from heavy gauge hard-anodized aluminum, this frying pan from Anolon will heat up evenly, and they will retain their heat well. They are strong and durable and won’t warp over time.
The interior of the pan is coated in a nonstick coating from DuPont. Remember, when you have a pan with this type on interior, you need to be sure to use wooden or silicone utensils, never metal.
The handle of the frying pan is made of stainless steel that is coated in silicone rubber to keep it cool while being used on the cooktop.
The pan is versatile, as you can use it on the stovetop as well as in the oven up to 400 degrees.
Things We Liked:
- Material is heavy duty and durable
- Retains heat well allowing food to cook evenly
- Nonstick so you won’t lose breading from your chicken
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Can’t use metal utensils which can make flipping chicken a bit difficult
4. Utopia 12 Inch Stainless Steel Skillet With Cover
If you’ve got an induction cooktop, you have probably found that it is sometimes hard to find quality and affordable cookware that is compatible with it. Well, when it comes to a frying pan that will work with your cooktop, look no further than this 12 Inch Stainless Steel Skillet from Utopia.
The stainless steel construction of the frying pan means that it will heat up quickly and evenly, and that the heat will be retained for longer. Additionally, stainless steel is non-reactive, meaning you don’t have to worry about it imparting strange flavors in your food as it cooks.
Stainless steel can also be made nonstick as long as you follow directions. This allows your food to cook thoroughly with no worries when it comes to burning or sticking to the pan. To do this, allow your pan to heat for a few minutes before you add your cooking oil.
The tight fitting lid allows your chicken to fry without burning you, and it locks in the flavors for you as well.
Another bonus is that this frying pan is dishwasher safe.
Things We Liked:
- Compatible with induction cooktops
- Dishwasher safe, saving you time
- Tight-fitting lid makes cookies easier
Things We Didn’t Like:
- You must allow it to heat before adding food or it will stick horribly
5. Copper Chef 10 Inch Ceramic Coated Frying Pan
In the past few years you might have noticed a lot more options for copper cookware in stores, and there is good reason for that. Copper is a great conductor of heat, not to mention it is an attractive addition to your kitchen. This isn’t your grandma’s copper though, so no need to worry about constant polishing and upkeep. This copper is treated so that it won’t tarnish.
The Copper Chef 10 Inch Ceramic Coated Frying Pan has a lot to offer. The 5 layers of this frying pan include a core that is made from aluminum, which we have explained is an excellent heat conductor. The pan is coated with a nonstick ceramic material that is free from cadmium and lead as well as PFOA, PTFE and PFOS.
The bottom of this pan features a stainless steel induction plate, making this frying pan compatible with induction cooktops as well as gas and electric. It is heat resistant up to 850 degrees making it oven safe, too.
The 10 inch x 3 inch measurements make it perfectly suitable to fry up some delicious chicken, as well. Be careful to not use metal utensils, though! When you are done cooking, this frying pan is dishwasher safe.
Things We Liked:
- Nonstick without the use of chemicals
- Can be used on all cooktops, including induction
- Beautiful material with easy care
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Can’t use metal utensils when cooking in this frying pan
See Also: Top 12 Best Ceramic Non-Stick Pans
6. Cuisinart CDF-200 4 Quart Stainless Steel Deep Fryer
There are many reasons you might want to shy away from using a frying pan to fry chicken on your stovetop, and that is fine.
Thankfully, there are other options for doing this, so you won’t have to forego the delicious meal of fried chicken altogether.
The Cuisinart CDF-200 4 Quart Deep Fryer is a great option for deep frying chicken in your kitchen at home. It has a large capacity and can cook chicken faster than if it were done on the stovetop.
The removable oil container is enamel coated and can hold up to one gallon of oil. This allows you to fry over two pounds of food at a time.
Placing your breaded chicken in the large stainless steel mesh basket will give you peace of mind, as there should be very little, if any sticking when your food is done.
Cleanup won’t be a hassle either, as the basket, lid and oil container are all able to go in the dishwasher.
Things We Liked:
- Cleanup is a breeze since so many parts are dishwasher safe
- No worries about popping grease since everything is contained
- Large capacity allows you to cook plenty of food at a time.
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Not the traditional way of frying chicken, but great results nonetheless
7. Breville BDF500XL Smart Fryer
Another great option if you’d rather deep fry your chicken instead of pan frying is this one, the BDF500XL Smart Fryer from Breville.
The fryer can hold up to four quarts of oil, and the stainless steel frying basket can hold nearly three pounds of food. That’s a lot of delicious fried chicken!
You won’t have to worry about the odors from fried foods permeating your home either, as this fryer has a mesh filter that greatly reduces the smells of oil and cooking foods.
The electronic thermostat makes for shorter wait time between batches, as it allows the fryer to quickly come back to temperature after removing food.
The controls are easy to read thanks to their illuminated LCD displays. There is a timer and a temperature display, so you know what is going on as your food fries.
The cooking pan and frying basket are dishwasher safe, too. The cord attaches magnetically instead of permanently, and some people have issue with it not being well secured.
Things We Liked:
- Mesh filter reduces cooking odors in your home
- Can make several batches of food in less time
- Easy to use controls
Things We Didn’t Like:
- Magnetic plug can be a bit difficult to properly secure to the fryer
III. How to Fry Chicken
There are a few different ways you can fry chicken, but for the sake of time we will focus on the two that are most often used.
First, we will take a look at how to fry chicken in a frying pan on top of your stove, and then we will look at how to fry chicken in a deep fryer that you have in your kitchen. There are benefits and drawbacks to each method, and different people will have different preferences.
Regardless of how you plan to fry the chicken in the end, the preparation is the same.
The Chicken: Obviously it is extremely cumbersome to fry an entire chicken, which is why it is generally cut into pieces before it is cooked.
You can buy a whole fryer and cut it up into separate pieces yourself or purchase the pieces that have already been cut.
Additionally, you can purchase only the pieces you like instead of buying a whole chicken. If everyone in your family prefers the chicken legs but no one will touch the wings, it makes no sense to waste the wings when you can buy just the legs.
Chicken meat that is still attached to the bone will take longer to cook than chicken that is boneless, but a lot of people don’t mind this as they find it more flavorful.
Flavoring The Chicken: Let’s talk about the preparation before we get to the cooking. There are hundreds of recipes available for fried chicken, and they are incredibly versatile. It can be difficult to choose a favorite, but when you have the tools to cook it yourself you can experiment and find your favorite.
You can choose from a plethora of seasonings for your fried chicken, and some of the most popular are:
- Garlic powder
- Poultry seasoning
- Herbs like oregano, parsley and thyme
- Pepper such as cayenne and white pepper
- Salt and pepper
No matter what blend of herbs and spices you choose, you’ll need other ingredients to make your chicken properly. You’ll need something to wet it and something to make it crispy.
For the moisture, many people use milk, eggs or buttermilk, or even a combination of them.
The spices will be mixed into a flour of some sort, most often it will just be all-purpose flour.
Once you have decided on what ingredients you wish to use, it is time to start preparing to fry the chicken. You will want your chicken to be cold, so that the juices remain inside throughout the cooking process. Some people achieve this by soaking their chicken pieces in an ice bath while the oil preheats.
Preparing The Pan: If your pan needs preheated (like a non-coated stainless steel pan), do so now. Once ready, add your oil to the pan. It doesn’t need to be full to the top, but it does need to be enough that about half the chicken will be submerged. However, you don’t want it to be so full that it overflows, or you will start a grease fire, and these are extremely dangerous. Generally filling the pan to be half full is enough.
You’ll want to heat your oil to be about 350 degrees before you add your chicken to the pan. Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil. One that clips to the side of the pan is ideal, as it can constantly let you know where the temperature is at. There are specialized deep fry thermometers for just this purpose.
If you are cooking your chicken in a deep fryer, be sure that the oil in the fryer is heated to 350 degrees.
Coating The Chicken: When the oil is almost heated through, it is time to start breading your chicken.
You will want two separate shallow dishes. In one dish, add your liquid (egg, milk, etc.), and in the other add your flour and spice mixture.
If your chicken is wet with water, pat it dry and then dip it in the liquid you have chosen. With your other hand, dip the chicken into the flour mixture. If you want your chicken to be extra crispy, do this again, dipping the already coated chicken back into the liquid and then the flour.
Let the chicken rest for a minute or two, so that a slight crust can form on the pieces.
Cooking The Chicken: Once the oil has preheated and the chicken pieces are coated you are ready to fry them.
If you are cooking the chicken in a frying pan on your stove, you’ll want to use tongs (be mindful of the material) to lay the chicken into the hot oil.
- Lay the pieces in the pan in a single layer being careful not to crowd them
- Place a lid on the pan and allow the chicken to cook for 8 minutes
- Check the chicken to be sure it is browning, and then flip it over allowing it to cook for an additional 8 minutes
- Check the coloring and check that the chicken is at the correct temperature
- Once it is cooked through and you are pleased with the coloring, use tongs to remove the chicken to a paper towel lined plate and allow to cool
- Let the oil come back to temperature before adding the next batch of chicken to fry.
- Repeat this process until all of your chicken is cooked
If you are cooking your chicken in a deep fryer, much of the above will be the same but you will need to follow the appliance’s cooking directions.
- Place your coated chicken in the cooking basket being careful to not overfill it
- Lower the basket into the oil and close the lid on the fryer
- Set the timer and allow the chicken to cook
- When the timer goes off, carefully open the lid of the fryer and lift the basket
- If you are pleased with the color and the chicken is cooked to the proper temperature, remove it from the basket with tongs and place it in a paper towel lined plate
- Allow the oil to come back to temperature and add the next batch of chicken to fry
- Follow these steps until all of your chicken is fried
After reading this guide, we hope you’re more comfortable with he idea of using a frying pan to cook fried chicken in the comfort of your own home. We know that it can be scary, with the risk of getting burned or an accidental fire, and we know that going through the entire process of frying chicken is time consuming. We also know that it’s totally worthwhile.
Choose your frying pan. Remember to go for an option that is heavy, that is deep and large bottomed, that can handle the heat and necessary utensils and opt for a lidded frying pan if possible. A good heavyweight and deep-cast iron skillet is the best option available, in our opinion.
And remember, if you are really just not comfortable with the idea of pan-frying your chicken, you can always use a deep fryer. We’ve given you two of our favorite options to choose from above.
Next, buy your chicken, beg your grandma for her recipe and gather your ingredients. Remember it doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious.
Carefully follow the directions and you’ll be crunching into a fabulous chicken leg before you know it!