By Sydney Mondry
Updated Feb 24, 2016 @ 3:00 pm
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Credit: Courtesy of Chef Todd Richards

Fried chicken, the old-as-time Southern comfort food, has experienced a delicious renaissance over the last couple of years, as indicated by trendy poultry-focused eateries like David Chang’s Fuku and N.Y.C.-based restaurants Root & Bone and Birds & Bubbles. This April, Todd Richards, a James Beard Award nominee and the executive chef of White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails in Atlanta, Ga., will open Richards’ Southern Fried, a highly anticipated fried chicken stand in Atlanta’s Krog Street Market. Richards, whose forthcoming joint will serve classic, hot, and “Richards’ HOT” poultry, gave us the lowdown on how to make perfect fried chicken every time. Read below for his top five tips.

Buy Quality Chicken

“Like any other protein, chicken quality can vary from good to great," Richards says. "When buying chicken, ensure the skin is firm and not slumping or falling off the bird." Check the date and ensure that you have at least three days before it expires, he advises. "The chicken shouldn’t be sticky, slimy, or odorous," he adds. "Finally, choose a chicken that’s between 2½ to 3¼ pounds.”

Use a Thermometer and Timer

“Chicken is best fried between 300°F and 315°F, especially if you brine the chicken," he says. "Using a thermometer to keep temperature accurate is the best way to control crust, and prevent overcooking and dryness. " A timer also is essential he says. "Chicken wings generally take 8 minutes, legs 9-10, thighs 12, and breast 14," he says. "Of course, this depends on the size of the chicken.”

Brine Your Chicken

“Brining chicken is the simplest way to ensure that your chicken will come out juicy and full of flavor,” Richards advises. “A basic brine of salt and water will easily suffice. If you want to be creative, you can add spices like curry and black pepper, or even hot peppers like Serrano or jalapeño.” (Our friends at Food + Wine recommend using this delicious recipe.)

Let Chicken Come to Room Temperature Before Frying

"This is probably one of the most important tips for frying chicken,” says Richards. “Most people pull chicken straight from the fridge and wonder why they have that half-cooked piece in the middle. The reason is that the temperature in the middle of the chicken is cold compared to the surface and will take longer to cook. This results in a dry exterior and cold interior.”

Add 1 Tablespoon of Cornmeal for Every 4 Cups of Flour

“Adding a small amount of cornmeal to the flour will provide some extra crunch to the chicken without any added heaviness,” Richards explains. “It will also give the chicken a nutty flavor. Use a fine ground cornmeal and ensure that it's evenly mixed in the flour to avoid clumping.”

Bonus Tip: Cook More Chicken than You Need

“The only thing better than hot fried chicken is cold fried chicken,” says Richards. “Save a few pieces to eat the next day for breakfast, preferably with a glass of champagne.”