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FAQ: How Long to Deep Fry Chicken Legs

So the common question we get in emails is; How Long to Deep Fry Chicken Legs?. Crispy Fried Chicken is the definition of comfort food. Who doesn't love a juicy and crispy chicken drumstick fried to perfection? Read below on what you need and arm yourself with the knowledge to make great fried chicken every time.

What You Need to Deep Fry Chicken

When you decide to make fried chicken legs let’s make sure you have some of the basics first. At the very least you need a deep pot, a dutch oven works perfectly. A long pair of tongs and enough oil to fill the dutch oven with about 4 inches of oil. Oh and don’t forget about thermometers. A candy thermometer to monitor the oil temperature is a good starting point as it can handle higher temperatures.  Plus an instant-read meat thermometer for checking the internal temperature for doneness. 

For the oil, I use regular vegetable oil or peanut oil if the price is right. Olive oil is not the oil to use here. It has a low smoking point which is not ideal for deep frying, plus it is significantly more expensive. Especially in the quantities, you will need. 

The next tier of tools involves a wire mesh strainer a baking sheet with a wire rack and an upgraded oil thermometer. The wire mesh strainer makes it simpler, and safer to remove the chicken from hot oil. The baking sheet with a wire rack allows you to cool the chicken in a way that lets the excess oil drip into the sheet pan while keeping the chicken elevated above the rack. This keeps the bottom portion of the chicken from steaming and losing the crispiness that you have worked so hard to get.

The final stage to becoming a master of fried chicken is a deep fryer. These control the heat better than you can on a stovetop. Controlling the temperature is a huge factor in making consistently great fried chicken and chicken wings.  So take that air fryer basket and stick it back under the cupboard, it’s time to make real fried chicken. 

ThermoPop Thermometer with all the color options
ThermoPop: Affordable and Fast Meat Thermometer
Thermoworks Dot Thermometer
ThermoWorks Dot: Perfect for Roasting, Grilling and Deep Frying

Crispy Fried Chicken Recipes

There are a few ways to go about frying chicken, whether it is the chicken breast, thighs, or drumsticks. 

Southern Fried Chicken

This is the classic comfort food most people grew up to love.  At its core, Southern Fried Chicken is bone-in portions of chicken soaked in buttermilk or pickle juice and then dredged in flour, sometimes with a special blend of 11 herbs and spices. I prefer a simple salt and black pepper flour mix. It is then deep fried to a beautiful golden brown. Crispy crunchy goodness on the outside while juicy and flavorful on the inside. 

A variation of the Southern Fried Chicken is the Nashville Hot Chicken. This is one step beyond traditional fried chicken. When you bring the chicken to cool on the wire mesh rack, they combine a spice mixture with hot oil from the fryer in a small bowl and then dredge the chicken in the mix. You would think this makes it greasy but what it does is it coats the spice onto the crispy chicken in a way that makes it magical. 

Korean Fried Chicken

This style is growing in popularity. It does not use as much flour as southern fried chicken as the breading is primarily potato starch. Korean fried chicken is also double fried and then tossed in a sauce. The second fry is what locks in the crispy and helps to prevent the crust from becoming soggy even after being tossed with a sauce. 

Fried Chicken being pulled from hot oil with a fry spider

What is Chicken Fried Chicken?

This is a boneless chicken portion that is pounded out to form a  ¼” thick cutlet. It is then breaded and fried in the same manner as the southern fried chicken.

How Do I make a Flavorful Crispy Fried Chicken Leg?

For a flavorful southern fried chicken, place your raw chicken into a resealable plastic bag with a pickle juice brine for an hour. For the Korean fried chicken, brine the portions in a mixture of water, vinegar, and spices overnight. After brining the chicken, always make sure to drain and then dry the chicken legs with paper towels before applying the flour mixture.  

How Long does it take to fry chicken legs?

While I wish I could give you a rock solid time to know when to pull the chicken out of the fryer for perfectly crispy and juicy fried whole chicken legs. The reality is there are a lot of factors involved in how fast your chicken cooks. The temperature of the oil while frying and how quickly the temperature recovers after you place a few pieces of chicken into the pot. How large, or small, the pieces of chicken you are using are also big contributing factors to the time. 

I would give them 4-5 minutes on each side or until the color is a perfect golden brown. Then use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken. For drumsticks and thighs, you want an internal temperature of 175º. For chicken breasts, the target temperature is 155º. I know this is not the 165º everyone says you need but there is something called carry-over cooking that happens. After resting a few minutes the temperature of the chicken can rise by as much as 10º. The old rule of looking for clear juices won’t apply here as the chicken is coated in breading. 

Many times, you will have a perfect golden brown color to the chicken but it has not quite hit the right internal temperature yet. While still on the wire rack, place the pieces of fried chicken into an oven set at 350º. This method also works great when you have a large group of people you are frying chicken for and need to move things along a little faster.

Chicken Legs Dredged in Potato Starch in a stainless container next to a red pot of bubbling hot oil and then a drying rack with a red thermometer and fry spider sitting on top

Pro Tips:

  • Make sure you completely dry the chicken before battering. Moisture on the chicken before breading turns into steam when fried and pushes the crust off the chicken.

  • For southern fried chicken, add some of the buttermilk to the second flour dredge and mix it into the flour to form “flakes”. This helps create more texture when breading the chicken pieces and results in a crispier fried chicken.

  • Bread the chicken and let it rest for about a minute before adding it to the fryer. This gives the flour time to bind slightly to the skin which helps keep the crust from flaking off the chicken.

  • Set up a breading area with 3 pans. This is called 3-step breading and is very useful in keeping things clean. So Flour, buttermilk, flour then into the oil after a brief rest.

  • Use your right hand for the dry ingredients and your left hand for the wet ingredients. This will prevent your fingers from turning into big chunks of dough. 

  • When taking the chicken out of the buttermilk dredge, make sure to let it drip off. Slapping the portions against the side of the bowl also helps get the excess milk off the chicken. 

  • A thermometer you can trust is vital! Read about my experience with ThermoWorks Thermometers and why it is the only brand of thermometers I will ever buy for my restaurants and my home. 

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Chad Kelley
Hi!! This is Chef Chad. I'm a former restaurant chef and turned stay-at-home dad. My wife Yvette and two amazing kids live in North Dallas and are Huge FC Dallas fans.

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