Shantell tells us her secret behind great fried chicken.

Southern cooks will argue about the techniques of making the best fried chicken with as much passion as they debate barbecue styles. But with our recent triple-digit Florida weather, who really wants to kick up a pot of vegetable oil to 350F?

That's especially true when local restaurants and markets can do the work for you.

From fast-food chains — KFC, Zaxby's and Popeye's — to small independent eateries — Osteen Diner, Oviedo's Townhouse and Orlando's Dixie Belle's Café — there's fried chicken to suit any palate.

The day after my doctor told me my cholesterol levels were good, I set off on the Central Florida fried-chicken trail. From Osceola to Lake County, I found a lot of great food.

Among the chains, Lee's Famous Recipe in Sanford was tops, but didn't make the overall Top 10 list. Founded by Lee Cummings, nephew of KFC's Colonel Harland Sanders, Lee's chicken has a buttery crust. Another chain contender, Crown's in Kissimmee, also didn't crack the Top 10, even though the poultry is tender and juicy.

Crispy chicken with juicy meat is an art form at the following 10 places that serve the best fried chicken in Central Florida. These are the kind of places where you swear the owner swiped your mother's recipe. Grab a napkin and dig in.

The Mason Jar

Hands down the fried chicken at this Lake County restaurant is the best I found. Fans stream in for the all-you-can-eat fried chicken on Sunday and you'll find single plates on the Thursday menu, too.

The lowdown: Consistent golden color, not too greasy with sweet and juicy meat. This is how my grandmother's fried chicken tasted.

Where: 37534 U.S. Highway 19, Umatilla (Dona Vista)

Contact: 352-589-2535

Shantell's Cafe

This is my Aunt Betty's fried chicken. Not my mom's. Not my grandmother's. Still trying to figure out when Shantell Williams was in Aunt Betty's Greenwood, Ind., kitchen!

The lowdown: The crackly skin has a thin coating of lightly seasoned batter. The meat is tender and juicy.

Where: 406 S. Sanford Ave., Sanford

Contact: 407-732-7728;

Bonnie Lee's Fried Chicken

This unpretentious cafe is an Osceola County favorite. Dave and Jan Smith have owned the restaurant since 1983. It is named after the couple's daughter.

The lowdown: The chicken has a nice rumpled coating of crispy batter and the meat is juicy through and through.

Where: 900 13th St., St. Cloud