6 Fried Chicken Chains Where Chefs Actually Eat

There’s no doubt about it: fried chicken is as tasty as it is comforting. When prepared with a crispy coating and the perfect amount of spice, this classic dish always seems to hit the mark. Plus, when served with sides like creamy mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and homemade cornbread or buttermilk cookies, you’ve got a meal you’ll think about for days. Luckily, there are fried chicken chains all over the country that make stellar chicken.

Although you can make fried chicken yourself, it’s a time-consuming dish, even for professionals. Chefs are strapped for time in their private lives, just like us, and don’t have time to whip up the perfect seasoning blend or double up on some drumsticks and bread wings on the fly. So you’ll often find them picking up a bucket or two at their local fried chicken restaurants.

From classic fried chicken restaurants with more than 25,000 locations worldwide to small, family-run chains serving old-fashioned grandma’s recipes, here are seven chef-recommended fried chicken chains.

RELATED: The Best Fried Chicken in Every State

popeyes chicken sandwich combo
Bill G./ Yelp

We couldn’t put together a list of the best chef-approved fried chicken restaurants without including one of the most popular chains. Founded in Louisiana, Popeyes has been frying delicious, juicy chicken since the 1970s. The famous spot, which currently has over 3,700 locations, is known for its wide selection of fried chicken dishes, which include wings, sandwiches, family meals and much more.

A fan of the famous fried chicken restaurant, Ajai Sharma, sous chef at The Resident in New York and former chef de partie at Altro Paradiso in New York, says Popeyes’ Cajun-inspired fried chicken has a loyal following for a good reason. . He loves the chicken’s “bold, savory seasoning” and its “crispy, well-seasoned skin.” He also points out that the buttermilk batter and spicy flavor options are a nice perk.

Other chefs also love the chain’s delicious fried chicken. Beth Raynock, chef and owner of Local Mama Catering in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and working with local Lehigh Valley restaurants including Ashley’s, Kome and Riegelsville Inn, also enjoys Popeyes. “My grandma always asks for fried chicken for our picnics!” she says. “Their salad is the best.”

Chef Quinnton Austin aka Chef Q, the culinary director of Grind & Prosper Hospitality’s six locations, which include Miss B’s Coconut Club, Louisiana Purchase, Coco Maya, and more, hails from Louisiana and shares that he was also a great Popeyes fan when he lived there.

KFC Chicken Bucket

Since the 1950s, Kentucky Fried Chicken has been bringing great-tasting fried chicken to people around the world. Founded in Kentucky, the iconic restaurant is known for using a secret blend of 11 herbs and spices to give its chicken an undeniably delicious taste (there are plenty of KFC dupe recipes if you fancy making your own batch of fried chicken at home ). “Kentucky Fried Chicken – that’s what I grew up with,” Raynock says.

We can’t mention KFC without sharing how many places there are in the world ready to blow your mind. To date, there are over 25,000 KFC restaurants (yes, you read that right) in over 145 countries and territories around the world. According to statistics, it is one of the largest fast food chains in the world. Pretty impressive.

shake shack chicken sandwiches
Shake Shack/Twitter

Shake Shack may be known for its burgers and fries, but it also does some really good fried chicken. “Although primarily known for its burgers, Shake Shack has earned a reputation for its delicious fried chicken,” says Sharma. He points out that the high quality of the chicken, all natural and without antibiotics, is appreciated. He also loves that it’s made to order, and the taste and texture are just excellent. “The chicken is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.”

If you’ve never had fried chicken from Shake Shack before, you’re missing out. Next time you’re near one (there are over 250 locations across the US), be sure to grab one of their Chicken Shack sandwiches, which is a tasty sandwich stacked with brisket. white meat chicken, lettuce, pickles and buttermilk herb mayonnaise, or their crispy chicken bites which are served with honey mustard or barbecue sauce.

chick wire a chicken nuggets
Ann Marie Langrehr / Eat This, Not That!

Are you surprised that chefs also love hitting Chick-fil-A for fried chicken? We neither. With over 2,600 locations, the chain is considered one of the best places, even by experts, to get your fried chicken fix.

“Chick-fil-A has a solid reputation for their fried chicken sandwiches,” says Sharma. He notes that the chain’s chicken is top quality and its flavor, a combination of spices and peanut oil, is unique.

If you’re not yet familiar with Chick-Fil-A’s menu, you might want to start with their classic chicken sandwich, which comes with a white bun and pickles and can be easily customized if you want to add something like cheese. , sauce or lettuce and tomatoes. For those looking for something a little more original, you can’t go wrong with the Spicy Deluxe Sandwich with Pepper Jack, which has a special kick.

RELATED: Chick-fil-A Adds 4 Exciting Summer Items to Menu Next Week

Harold's chicken
Chris L. / Yelp

Although Chef Q lived in Louisiana and cites Popeyes as one of his favorites while living there, he mentions that Harold’s Chicken is also a must. After moving away from his home country, he found a new love for the fried chicken chain, which originated in Chicago but now has locations in Los Angeles and Phoenix as well.

Started in the 1950s by entrepreneur Harold Pierce, Harold’s Chicken is known for its delicious fried chicken options, including wings, combo dinners, family-style buckets, fried chicken breasts and more. Chef Q shares that he likes to drive up north and visit the Los Angeles site for chicken which he says is “always hot and fresh.” He recommends anyone visiting to dine Chicago style!

RELATED: 7 Italian Chains Where Chefs Actually Eat And What They Order

Babe's Chicken Dinner
Babe’s Chicken Dinner House / Facebook

Chef Emerio Viramontes, the executive chef of Chef’s Palette at the CANVAS Hotel in Dallas, loves Babe’s Chicken Dinner House in Texas for its fried chicken. “My favorite place for fried chicken is Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, a Texas chain with 10 locations,” Viramontes points out. The family-run chain started in 1993 and serves some of the best mouth-watering fried chicken, buttermilk cookies, creamy mashed potatoes and banana pudding.

“My favorite order is the chicken tenders,” he says, “because they have the perfect balance of crunch and flavor. I also appreciate that they do family style portions for their sides!”

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