Batter-Fried Chicken

Using equal parts cornstarch and flour in the batter ensures a crisp crust on the fried chicken. And baking powder adds lift and lightness without doughiness. We flavor our fried chicken batter with black pepper, paprika, and cayenne for simple but unambiguous flavor. We replaced the milk in the batter with plain old water. (When wet batter hits hot frying 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.) As far as technique, deep-frying easily beats out shallow-frying for this fried chicken. With shallow-frying, the batter always burns on the bottom.–The Editors of Cook’s Country

LC Pepper To Taste Note

With its crisp, nubbly crust and tender, insanely moist meat, this fried chicken is fried perfection. Finger lickin’ good, actually. The only thing we’d consider changing? The amount of black pepper. It’s intentionally heavy-handed in this recipe, and that’s not a bad thing. Just essential for you to know going in that you have the right to add pepper to taste.

Batter-Fried Chicken Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • For the brined chicken
  • 1 quart (4 cups) cold water
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (halve each breast crosswise and separate leg quarters into thighs and drumsticks)
  • For the fried chicken
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 2 to 5 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 3/4 cups cold water
  • 3 quarts (12 cups) peanut or vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

  • Make the brine
  • 1. Whisk the water, salt, and sugar in a large bowl until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the chicken and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Make the fried chicken batter
  • 2. Whisk the flour, cornstarch, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, baking powder, salt, and water in a large bowl until smooth. Cover and refrigerate the batter while the chicken is brining.
  • Fry the chicken
  • 3. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or other deep-sided pot over medium-high heat till it reaches 350°F (176°C). Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • 4. Pour off and discard the brine from the chicken. Pat the chicken pieces completely dry with paper towels. Whisk the batter to recombine. (If the batter seems too thick, add a little 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 transfer it to the oil. Fry the chicken, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the oil temperature 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 (175°F/79°C for dark meat), 12 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. 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 (hah!).
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Comments
Comments
  1. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [M. Shoup] I’m one who loves fried chicken as a midnight snack, pulling it from the ice box and eating it cold. Although this chicken was alright for a late-night snack, where it really shines is straight out of the fryer. The batter comes out super crunchy, the interior is juicy and moist, and there’s just the right amount of seasoning to give it a nice, memorable kick.

  2. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Alexander Cowan] You know what this chicken reminded me of? Childhood. While my mother would make amazing fried chicken, some evenings it was easier for her to break out a box of frozen Banquet-brand fried chicken. Its thick, overly peppered crust wasn’t exactly a favorite but you wouldn’t hear any complaints from us. So yeah, this recipe—at least for me—reminded me of that chicken in a serious way.

    The batter came out way too thick after resting in the fridge for an hour. Even after beating it with a whisk for a bit, I ended up adding an additional 1/4 cup water to loosen it up a bit. The batter was still quite thick after the additional water was added and clung to the chicken easily. The cook times varied considerably from the recipe. My first batch took 23 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C), with the oil staying at a constant 330°F (166°C). I’d recommend checking your internal temperature after about 12 minutes in, then gauge the timing from there.

    Next time I’d change the seasonings in the batter. First I’d remove all but 2 teaspoons black pepper, as 5 teaspoons was way too much for me. I’d add 1 more teaspoon salt for a total of 2 teaspoons.

    We also used some of the remaining batter to deep-fry some artichoke hearts we had from the garden. I’m looking forward to trying this one again—sans all that black pepper.

  3. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Sofia Reino] Momofuku fried chicken, I DO love you, but I’ve found a new love! And I feel so very guilty for saying this. I must say that the chicken thighs I used ended up being in the brine overnight, as we had to run to the ER just as I was about to start cooking. So both the brined chicken and the batter were in the fridge for more than 10 hours, and I was worried the chicken would end up being too salty. When I removed the batter from the fridge, it was overly thick. I tried mixing it, but ended up adding 1 more tablespoon water to thin it a bit, and that did the trick. I used gluten-free all-purpose flour. When tasting the batter alone, I was a tad worried it was a bit too peppery for my 4-year-old. I heated the oil, dried the chicken, and started to fry it. The final result was an EXTREMELY moist and juicy chicken with a gorgeous, golden crust that had a nice little kick to it, but nothing too strong that a kid wouldn’t enjoy it. We all agreed that this is going to be our No. 1 choice for fried chicken. None of us could believe the taste and juiciness of each piece of chicken—even a couple that ended up a little too dark on the outside. Each thigh took about 11 minutes to cook. I was able to fry 4 at a time, so as we were eating the first batch, the second was being fried. Also, the 4 pounds would’ve been perfect for 6 people. We had some leftovers. I actually love cold fried chicken and this recipe also works well this way. After a few hours I decided to place one in a hot oven (under broil high), and not only did it warm up in 5 minutes but the crispness came back to life.

  4. Aleksandr Stankevic says:

    Yummy, that looks so great! I’ll have to try to cook that myself!

  5. cjaw288lhr says:

    I love chicken! I could eat it 7 days a week. This has got to be one of the very best recipes I have ever come across!! Because I like a bit more black pepper, I added a teaspoon more to the batter, but other than that I followed the recipe exactly. The inside was moist and it was superb when cold. We decided that this is our go-to chicken recipe from now on. Actually, all of the David’s recipes are spot-on!!

    • David Leite says:

      cjaw288lhr, why thank you. I’m blushing. I have a wonderful team, from Renee who picks the recipes, to Beth who oversees the testing, to the testers who say yay or nay.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      So lovely to hear it, cjaw288lhr! Thanks so much for taking the time to drop us a note. Looking forward to hearing which recipe you try next…

  6. Carole J. says:

    This is THE best chicken recipe I have come across…it’s excellent hot and just as good cold. I like my chicken a little spicy so I doubled the black pepper. Don’t be intimidated by the recipe—it really is easy and I promise you, once you make it, you won’t want chicken any other way. Thanks, David!!

    • David Leite says:

      Carole, music to my ears, dear. Music! So glad you liked the recipe. It was a huge favorite with our testers, too.

  7. Wendy says:

    I made this batter fried chicken tonight and my family LOVED it! The battered skin was so deliciously crispy!! I went very light on the pepper because we’re not fans of lots of pepper. Can’t wait to make it again for get togethers over the summer. Some of the best fried chicken we’ve ever had! Thanks for the recipe!

  8. Nick says:

    This is awesome! The batter was GREAT, and my extra choice of seasonings still blended well. I’ve always been too cautious of getting the right temperature, but with a medium flame on my stovetop it all temped perfectly and was very juicy. Cant wait to show this off! Thank you!

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

*

Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail