Kenji's Crispy Crunchy Fried Chicken

Kenji's Crispy Crunchy Fried Chicken

I know you love fried chicken. You know you love fried chicken. Deep frying anything at home can be a pain in the butt, and handling boiling hot oil can be intimidating. So if you are ever going for the task of frying up some chicken at home, might as well do it the right way to make sure what ends up on your plate will be truly rewarding – crispy and crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside! And here's how you do it. I do have to say, Kenji from Serious Eats really taught me everything about deep frying chicken which involves a lot of science that I was sucked into reading. I appreciate so much of how far he had gotten in finding out the best way to fry chicken, and sharing the knowledge with the world. Therefore, 95% of the credit of the recipe goes to Kenji (I just heavily adapted it to my liking). What his recipe produces is a thin crackling skin that's super crispy. With that being the goal, here are the steps to follow:

1) Pre-treat the chicken. Why? Because fatty chicken skin simply will not stick to the batter. But what do you treat it with exactly? WRITE THIS DOWN. Corn starch + salt + baking powder. After coating all the pieces, you let them air-dry for about 20 minutes.

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2. Mix some batter just before you're ready to fry. If you've deep-fried things before, you know the batter requires flour. That's true. But it also requires corn starch. Too much flour will create too much gluten, and too much gluten means "tough or leathery crusts". On the other hand, too much corn starch will make a powdery coating, and creates little browning. Therefore, a 50/50 mix is what you're looking for. Now, we're not done just yet. To make a lighter, crispier, and crunchier coating, you need to add baking powder which will help with the browning as well. But don't go crazy on it, just a touch is needed.

3. The secret weapon. VODKA. What it does is pure magic (okay, maybe not quite magic since it's science that can be proofed). Alcohol limits gluten development while the battered chicken is swimming in hot oil. Secondly, by adding vodka, you're creating a "drier" batter which will aid with evaporation and dehydration tremendously when frying, resulting in a bubbly surface and a crunchier texture of the chicken.

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Regular batter mixed purely with water forms gluten as it sits. This batter mixed with vodka limits gluten development so it's got a longer shelf life, which means you don't need to keep an eye on it every minute.

So there you have it. Perfect bubbly, crispy, crunchy fried chicken.

Thank you, Kenji!

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Kenji's Crispy Crunchy Fried Chicken

Prep time: 35 mins  Cook time: 30 mins  Total time: 1 hour 5 mins

Serves: 20 wings

You'll need:

  • 5-6 cups canola oil (or peanut oil)
  • Pre-treatment:
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup corn starch
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 lbs chicken wings, about 20 mid-section wings
  • Batter:
  • ½ cups corn starch
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup cold water
  • ½ cup vodka

Approach:

  1. Mix together the pre-treatment ingredients. Pat dry the chicken wings with paper towels then coat each piece with the pre-treatment mixture, shake off excess coating. Lay them on a wire rack, uncovered, and air-dry for about 20 minutes.
  2. When you're ready to fry, set up your deep-fry thermometer, preheat oil to 350°F in a wok, sauce pan, cast iron pan or Dutch oven.
  3. While waiting for the oil to heat up, get the batter ready by mixing the dry ingredients first, then whisk in water and vodka.
  4. Coat 4-5 wings with the batter at a time. Using a pair of chopsticks, lift each piece one at a time and gently shake off excess batter. Carefully lower it into the oil. Fry each batch for about 6 minutes until golden brown. Use another clean pair of chopsticks to remove chicken from the hot oil, and set them on a paper towel-lined plate to cool off.

Notes:

Recipe adapted from SeriousEats.