Learning how to make perfect pan-fried chicken legs will change your dinner game forever. Once you know how to create the ideal combination of ultra crispy skin and tender, moist meat, there is no going back.
The first rule: Choose bone-in legs, with skin. Chicken pan-fried with the skin cooks in its own rendered fat, becoming insanely delicious. The bone helps hold in moisture, keeping things nice and juicy.
This technique is brilliant, but so simple you'll master it on the first try.
A few notes for the cook
- You can make this recipe with just chicken thighs or just drumsticks, rather than the entire leg quarter. Follow the same steps but be aware that the cooking time will be reduced drastically due to the smaller surface area.
- A 12-inch skillet is a perfect size for two bone-in chicken leg quarters, each of which will comfortably serve two (as long as you can agree on who gets the drumstick).
- A spatter screen will help you avoid a greasy mess. Don't cover the chicken until at least halfway through or it will get too soft.
Perfect Pan-Fried Chicken Legs
Makes 4 servings
- 2 bone-in chicken leg quarters with skin
- 3 tablespoons mild-flavored oil, such as vegetable or canola oil
- Salt and pepper
1. Season the chicken
Clean the chicken and dry it thoroughly. Any water will spatter once the chicken hits the pan, and you don’t want that — it could burn you, and it's a huge pain to clean up. Generously salt and pepper the skin-side of the chicken.
2. Get cookin'
Heat the oil in a 12-inch iron skillet or heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet. Get the oil nice and hot, but don’t let it smoke.
Test the heat by flicking a drop or two of water on the surface; if it dances, reduce heat to medium and you're ready to cook! Place the chicken, skin side down, in the pan. Season the bottom side, which is now facing up. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. The skin will gradually turn golden and the fat will drip off.
If you try to lift a corner of the chicken, it should look golden and the skin should not stick to the bottom of the pan. If it is not quite at this point, give it another 5 minutes (up to 35 minutes).
3. Flip and sizzle
Flip the chicken (gently, so oil doesn't spatter on you) and cover. Cook for 25-30 minutes more, or until the chicken closest to the bone slices cleanly. Place the chicken on paper towels to cool and blot for about five minutes before serving.
Reheat any leftover chicken in the oven at 475 F for about five minutes to re-crisp the skin.