Never tried this unit for "southern fried chicken", but when I do prepare that meal I always turn up the heat a minute before flipping the chicken. Otherwise it has a tendency to stick to the skillet. Might be easier to go back to a skillet for "southern fried" chicken.
I am not sure we had the same problem when we did chicken but not when we did a 20lb turkey. I would maybe suggest dropping the chicken in instead of placing it in the basket first. This is what we are going to try next time.
I had the same problem and am going to buy a wire-style basket to use for fried chicken instead of the basket that comes with it. I'm intrigued by one of the other answers suggesting to place the chicken into the oil with tongs for a minute before letting the chicken fall into the basket and might try that too.
I would not dip the turkey or chicken in hot oil without the basket. It would be dangerous. You can dip the basket in the hot oil first but I have never had this problem if you slowly lower the turkey in. Turkey should be at room temperature.