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The Best Flour for Fried Chicken (With 4 Alternatives)

Which flour to use to make the best crispy fried chicken is a common question that I hear over and over. I’ve been making good ol’ Southern fried chicken for over 50 years, and after trying everything possible, here is what I have found to be true.

The best flour for fried chicken is self-rising. But, there are 4 good alternatives if you happen to be out of self-rising flour: (1) Plain or All Purpose flour; (2) Cornstarch; (3) Rice Flour; and (4) no flour at all.

Pro Tip: Beyond choosing the right flour, getting the oil and temperature is also very important in making excellent fried chicken. I recommend using any type of vegetable oil or peanut oil, and making sure it is 350℉ before putting in the chicken.

The Best Flour For Frying Chicken: Self-rising Flour

My favorite flour for frying chicken is self-rising. The main reason I use it is that it results in an even, crisp coating that enhances the flavor of the chicken.

The reason that flour makes such a good, crisp coating on chicken is that flour browns at a slow rate, causing the coating to become completely browned at the same rate it takes for the chicken to get done.

If cooked at the right temperature, the two things happen at the same rate so that you have a beautiful brown coating on the chicken when it is fully done.

If using other options for a coating on fried chicken, it is very easy to either burn the coating before the chicken is done or get a beautiful coating and the chicken isn’t done all the way through or is rubbery because it is overcooked. With flour and the right oil and temperature, it all comes together at just the right moment.

Coating Chicken in Self Rising Flour With a Bag of Flour Behind
Self-Rising is my go-to flour for fried chicken

Many cooks use a batter for frying chicken, such as dipping in flour, beaten egg, and bread crumbs alternately, or a thick batter made of flour, egg, and milk, and some soak their chicken in buttermilk or other marinades, but I find the chicken that has been seasoned with salt and pepper and then dredged through flour and cooked in hot oil just until done has the best flavor.

Since I use self-rising for everything except breads and cakes, it is my go-to flour for everything else that I cook that calls for flour, especially for frying any type of meat, especially chicken, pork chops, veal, and steak, and for making any kind of gravies and sauces.

The 4 Best Alternative Flours For Frying Chicken

1. Plain or all-purpose flour.

I pretty much use self-rising and all-purpose interchangeably when frying chicken. Using self-rising or all-purpose flour for frying any kind of meat results in an even, crisp coating that enhances the flavor of any type of meat that is fried. I can see no significant difference when using the two different types of flour for frying.

2. Cornstarch

Though not as widely used in my part of the country for frying chicken, cornstarch can be used as a coating for your chicken or other types of meat if you are out of flour. The taste of chicken fried with cornstarch is very close to that of chicken fried in flour, but the coating is thinner and not quite as crisp.

But, if cornstarch is all that you have available to you when frying chicken, the difference is so minute that more than likely it will go unnoticed. I used cornstarch recently, and even though I was looking for differences, the only one noticeable was the thinner coating.

Is It Better To Use Flour Or Cornstarch For Fried Chicken?

In my opinion, flour is the absolute best option for frying chicken, and cornstarch should only be used as a last resort if you happen to be out of flour. If, however, you have a small amount of flour but not enough to fry all the chicken, a mixture of 3/4ths flour and 1/4th cornstarch will be better than using cornstarch alone. 

But, cornstarch does make a good substitute if you are totally out of flour, and your chicken will still be very good.

3. Rice Flour

Even though rice flour will not give you the crisp coating that results from self-rising or all-purpose flour, rice flour will be a good alternative for frying your chicken if you do not have any other type of flour available. The coating of rice flour will have a tendency to burn more easily, so it would be wise to reduce your heat just a little and turn the pieces more often to prevent the coating from scorching or burning.

The major benefit to using rice flour is that it is gluten-free and will be appropriate to use when you are serving your chicken to someone who has issues with gluten. This is the alternative flour that I always keep on hand when preparing food for friends and family who have this type of issue.

4. Use No Flour

Another good alternative for frying chicken if you are out of flour is to use no flour or other coating at all. Simply season the chicken and fry in hot oil without a coating. If you leave the skin on the chicken, you will have a crunchy and crispy coating, but it will be crunchy and crispy skin, and the chicken will be very good.

This is an especially good option if you are serving the chicken to someone who is on a gluten-free diet or someone who simply wants to reduce their carbohydrate intake.

What Is The Secret To Crispy Fried Chicken?

I hear all sorts of answers to the question of how to make crispy fried chicken, some of which include marinades, but my answer is quite simple and involves just a couple of easy steps:

  1. Get the temp right: The real secret to frying chicken that is crispy and delicious is to have the oil at the right temperature before putting the chicken into the pan. The chicken should never be put into the oil until water dances on the oil when you flick just a drop or two into the pan with your fingers. This is the easiest way to make sure the oil is hot enough. The temperature of the oil should be 350℉ before you start adding the chicken.
  2. Use the correct oil: The other important part of the secret to crispy fried chicken is that the right oil should be used. Any good vegetable oil such as canola, pure vegetable oil, or peanut oil are the best, in my opinion, to make fried chicken crispy and delicious. Not only do they have a high smoke point, but all are mild in flavor and will not compete with the natural flavor of the chicken. Oils like olive oil have a lower smoke point and will not make the fried chicken crispy, and the strong taste of olive oil competes with the natural flavor of the chicken.

Why Is My Fried Chicken Not Crispy?

As was discussed above, fried chicken will not be crispy under the following circumstances:

  1. If the chicken is put into the pan before the oil is heated to 350℉, the chicken will not be crispy, but the coating will be soft and chewy.
  2. If the chicken is cooked in oil with a lower smoke point, like olive oil, the chicken will not be crispy, and its coating will be soft and not crisp.
Chicken Fried With Flour Coating in an Iron Skillet
I like to fry my chicken in an iron skillet

Can You Use Self-Rising Flour To Coat Chicken?

Yes, you can use self-rising flour as a coating for frying chicken. As a matter of fact, it is the best coating to use and my favorite kind of flour to use for frying chicken, for making homemade biscuits, and even for chicken and dumplings. It gives you a crispy coating on the chicken and makes the fried chicken taste like fried chicken and not just some kind of meat wrapped and hidden in a thick batter of some sort.

Why Does The Flour Fall Off My Chicken?

Did you ever wonder why the flour falls off your chicken and doesn’t leave an even coating? There are actually two primary reasons this happens.

  1. If you have excess flour on the chicken, it is more likely to fall off during the cooking process. So, when dredging the chicken through the flour, be sure to get an even coating on the chicken and then shake off the excess flour before adding the chicken to the pan.
  2. The second primary reason the flour falls off your chicken is that the tongs or fork you are using to turn the chicken in the pan as it is frying removes the flour as you hold the chicken to turn it. If you have a very light hand when you are turning the chicken and do not press down very hard with the tongs or fork, the flour coating on the chicken will not be as likely to damage the coating and knock it off the chicken.

Final Bite

I think we can all agree that most people love fried chicken. Even though we know that frying is not the healthiest option for us and that most of the time, we can be good and either bake, broil, grill, or stir fry our chicken, we will thoroughly enjoy those options. But, once in a while, we have to break down and enjoy fried chicken. At those times when we just have to have some good homemade fried chicken served with rice or mashed potatoes and gravy on the side.

Even though there are 5 excellent coating options in this article for frying chicken, there are also quite a few others that can result in very good fried chicken, just not the more traditional fried chicken. Some other options include:

  • Breadcrumbs – Chicken fried with a coating of egg and breadcrumbs makes an excellent fried chicken if you are looking for a dish that is a little different, but it will not result in a coating that is as crisp as flour.
  • Panko Crumbs – Panko Crumbs will give you a crisp coating with a flavor and texture that is different from chicken fried with flour.
  • Potato Starch – Potato Starch is another gluten-free option that makes fried chicken that is very similar to chicken fried with a cornstarch coating and has a very mild flavor that will not compete with the natural flavor of the chicken.

Enjoy, and thanks for stoppin’ by!

Jelly Grandma

For more, don’t miss When Is Fried Chicken Done? (Internal Temperature).