This batter-fried chicken calls for the pieces to be quickly brined and then dipped in a seasoned batter for a crisp Southern-style crust. Simple as can be. This is the real deal. Includes secrets for that crunchy crust.
What's the secret to crispy fried chicken?
The batter contains equal parts cornstarch and flour to ensure a shatteringly crisp crust.
The batter also calls for baking powder to create a crust that’s ethereally airy without a trace of doughiness or gloppiness.
The batter relies on black pepper, paprika, and cayenne for a “simple but unambiguous flavor” (just be forewarned, the amount of black pepper is intentionally heavy-handed).
The batter contains no dairy. They replaced the milk in the batter with plain old water. The logic behind this? “When wet batter hits hot oil, the moisture in the batter vaporizes, leaving behind the solids that adhere to the chicken. With milk, the sugars in the milk solids browned too fast and produced a soft crust.”
And, perhaps most critically, the batter-dunked chicken is then deep-fried in several inches of oil (a regular pot works just fine; no need to have a fancy deep-fryer) to ensure that the carefully constructed batter doesn’t scorch on the bottom as is often the case when you attempt to shallow-fry it in a skillet.
- Quick Glance
- 45 M
- 1 H, 30 M
- Serves 4 to 6
Special Equipment: Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer
- For the fried chicken brine
- For the fried chicken batter
In a large bowl, whisk or stir together the water, salt, and sugar until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
While the chicken is brining, in a large bowl, whisk or stir together the flour, cornstarch, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, baking powder, salt, and water until smooth. Cover and refrigerate the batter while the chicken is brining.
Pour the brine from the chicken down the sink and pat the chicken pieces completely dry with paper towels.
Whisk the batter to recombine. (If the batter seems too thick, add some cold water, no more than 1 tablespoon at a time, until the batter becomes the consistency of pancake batter.)
Place half the chicken pieces in the batter and turn to coat. Remove the chicken from the batter, allowing any excess to drip back into the bowl, and carefully place it in the oil. Fry the chicken and keep your attention on the oil temperature, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the oil between 300°F and 325°F (149°C and 163°C). Cook the fried chicken until deep golden brown and the white meat registers 160°F (71°C) or 175°F (79°C) for dark meat, 12 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces and the exact temperature of your oil.
Place the fried chicken on the wire rack to drain. Bring the oil back to 350°F (176°C) and repeat with the remaining chicken. Serve the fried chicken hot, warm, at room temperature, even cold if there are any leftovers. Originally published October 17, 2013.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
This recipe is an out-of-the-park home run. This is what fried chicken is supposed to taste like. The perfect combination of crisp, crunchy skin with a hint of spice, and moist, tender, juicy meat. It's good hot out of the fryer (my personal preference), room temperature, or cold for a picnic.
The spices are easily customizable to taste. Some like it hotter and spicier, so you can add some more cayenne. Some secrets to success are first—bring it up to temperature. Resist the temptation to just plop a batter soaked piece of chicken in the oil if it's not up to the proper temperature. Next—be sure to hold the batter coated pieces of chicken up over the bowl of batter until the excess batter stops dripping before you add it to the oil. Last, but not least—it's absolutely critical that you not fry too many pieces all at once. The temperature will dip too low and you won't get that toastiness and that sought after crispy crunchiness that fried chicken is famous for.
I jumped to test this recipe because I am a big fan of fried chicken and I’m missing my mother’s, since I haven’t been able to visit her recently. I typically don’t make fried chicken at home but the steps of the recipe seemed clear. The results were amazing! The salt level was perfect and the crunch factor was so enjoyable. When I heard the crackle of my son trying a piece, I knew the chicken would be delicious. All of the chicken was perfectly browned. I sent my Mom a picture and she approved as well.
Putting together the brine was easy. The chicken brined for 60 minutes in the refrigerator. I ended up using legs and thighs that were already portioned. I used volume measurements to make the batter. It was pretty loose, definitely a lot thinner than pancake batter, maybe closer to a thick salad dressing. My batter was in the fridge for an hour and there was very little change in the texture after sitting. I'd still describe it as a thin batter and I didn't need to add any water. It coated the chicken easily but still dripped off easily.
The note to check the heat of the oil was super helpful. I fried my chicken in three batches because I probably had between 4 to 5 pounds of chicken. For the first two batches of drumsticks, the heat was maintained between 300-325°F easily with a little tinkering. Overall the timing was accurate. For the drumsticks the cook time was 14 minutes. The thighs took a bit longer and I removed them at 17 minutes.
In my opinion, this is a great fried chicken recipe, straightforward steps and the results are perfect for picnic season. I can’t wait to eat the leftover chicken cold, that is my guilty pleasure for some odd reason.