This batter-fried chicken recipe is proof that it doesn’t take buttermilk or beer or an insufferably long overnight brine to make crispy Southern fried chicken that’s finger-lickin’ good. It’s actually magnificently simple.
With its crisp, nubbly crust and insanely tender meat, this batter fried chicken recipe is fried chicken perfection. Those of you who are geeks for cooking technique wizardry, pay attention. The clever folks at America’s Test Kitchen carefully devised this Southern fried chicken recipe as follows:
The batter contains equal parts cornstarch and flour to ensure a crisp crust;
The batter also contains baking powder for a crust that’s light without a trace of doughiness;
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 the battered chicken is then deep-fried to ensure that the carefully constructed batter doesn’t burn on the bottom as it would if you attempted to shallow-fry it in a skillet.
Brilliant, yes? Wait’ll you taste it. Originally published October 17, 2013.–Renee Schettler Rossi
Special Equipment: Deep-fry or candy or instant-read thermometer
Batter-Fried Chicken Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 45 M
- 1 H, 30 M
- Serves 4 to 6
- For the fried chicken brine
- 1 quart (4 cups) cold water
- 1/4 cup kosher 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 batter
- 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 kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 3/4 cups cold water
- 3 quarts (12 cups) peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
- Make the fried chicken brine
- 1. In a large bowl, whisk or stir together the water, salt, and sugar until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the chicken and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Make the fried chicken batter
- 2. 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.
- Make the fried chicken
- 3. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or other deep-sided pot over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F (176°C). Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.
- 4. 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. 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!).