Crispy Fried Chicken Drumsticks

Crispy fried chicken drumsticks piled on a plate
The Spruce
  • Total: 100 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 80 mins
  • Marinate: 60 mins
  • Servings: 6 to 8 servings
  • Yields: 16 drumsticks

Drumsticks have fatty flavors and a delicious firm dark meat that is great for frying. This basic fried chicken recipe soaks drumsticks in buttermilk, then dredges them in seasoned flour. They're pan-fried to perfection in batches, resulting in chicken that's moist inside and wonderfully crispy on the outside.

There are many secrets to cooking great fried chicken at home. It may take some time for you to really get the hang of it, but your efforts will be worth it when you master this classic dish. For the best results, follow all the tips in the recipe, including the buttermilk marinade, proper oil temperature, and warm oven while you work in batches.

Kids love drumsticks, and this is a perfect choice for family dinners. They're inexpensive and can be cut from budget-friendly whole frying chickens (save the breast and thigh meat for casseroles and similar dishes). The recipe works for whole chicken legs, and you can add some wings if you have any; adjust the cooking time for smaller pieces of chicken.

Serve the chicken as a main dish along with coleslaw, potato salad, and baked beans. For special occasions, the drumsticks make great appetizers when enjoyed with dipping sauces like honey-mustard or blue cheese.

1:30

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Ingredients

  • 16 chicken drumsticks (or a combination of drumsticks and thighs)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Tabasco sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper (divided)
  • 3 cups vegetable oil (for frying; approximately)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Pat the chicken with paper towels to dry. Do not rinse your chicken, as the splatter of water and raw chicken juices can only increase the chance of cross-contamination in your kitchen.

    Raw chicken legs are patted dry with paper towels
    The Spruce
  3. In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, Tabasco sauce, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the black pepper. Add the chicken legs to the mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate with the marinade for at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours).

    Drumsticks are placed in a large bowl with the buttermilk marinade
    The Spruce
  4. After the marinating period is done, remove the chicken from the buttermilk and let any excess buttermilk drip off. If you have a cooling rack, put the chicken pieces on it, placing paper towels underneath to collect the drippings.

    Removing chicken drumsticks from the buttermilk marinade
    The Spruce
  5. Heat the warming drawer or oven to 200 F.

  6. In a large, heavy saucepan, deep skillet, or sauté pan, heat at least 3 cups of oil to about 350 F.

  7. In a large clean bowl, combine the flour, the remaining black pepper, and the cayenne. Shake the chicken legs in the seasoned flour and place on the rack while waiting for the oil to heat to the right temperature.

    In a large bowl, the chicken drumsticks are coated in seasoned flour
    The Spruce
  8. Once the oil has reached 350 F, place the chicken pieces in the oil, working in batches. Fry the chicken for about 10 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and cooked through. To check for doneness, use an instant-read food thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the largest drumstick, away from bone or fat. The minimum safe temperature for poultry is 165 F.

    Chicken drumsticks frying in a skillet
    The Spruce
  9. Once done, remove the chicken pieces to paper towels to drain. 

    Draining the fried chicken drumsticks on paper towels
    The Spruce
  10. Place the drained chicken on a baking sheet, cover loosely with foil, and move to the warming drawer or oven to keep warm while frying subsequent batches.

    Finished crispy chicken drumsticks
    The Spruce 
  11. Serve and enjoy.

Tips

  • In deep-frying, the food is completely immersed in the oil. This recipe uses the pan-frying (or shallow-frying) method in which the food is placed in enough oil to cover the bottom and sides. This makes it necessary to turn the pieces over to fry both sides. Three cups of oil will give you a depth of 1/2 inch in a deep 10-inch skillet and is sufficient to pan-fry. 
  • Use a thermometer to monitor and maintain the temperature of the oil. If the oil is too hot, the outside of the chicken will get crispy quickly, while the meat inside may still be raw. When the oil is too cool, the chicken must cook longer and the breading will soak up more oil, making it greasy.
  • A crowded pan will reduce the oil temperature, so give the chicken some space. You may also need to let the oil come back up to temperature between batches.

Oven-Fry Your Chicken

If you prefer to avoid deep-fried food, use your oven to cook and crisp up the chicken drumsticks:

  1. Heat the oven to 425 F.
  2. Once your chicken is well coated with the spiced flour, grease a baking pan with olive oil or butter and place the chicken on it.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes, turning once halfway through. When the chicken is golden brown on all sides, check for doneness with a food thermometer and be sure it is at least 165 F when inserted in the thickest part of the meat away from bone or fat.

What Does the Buttermilk Soak Do to Chicken?

Soaking chicken in buttermilk before frying is a popular method in Southern-fried chicken. The acid in the buttermilk tenderizes the meat as it marinates, which results in juicier fried chicken. If possible, let it soak overnight.

Why Is the Fried Chicken Raw Inside?

The oil and internal chicken temperatures are crucial to cooking fried chicken properly. Maintain the proper oil temperature to ensure the chicken gets cooked inside and out. Always use a thermometer to check the chicken's internal temperature; it's not safe to simply eyeball doneness by pulling the chicken when the breading is crispy. There are many variables to this method, and it's best to rely on tools rather than your instincts.