The quest for perfect fried chicken is not for the faint of heart. You need evenly golden brown skin, tender, juicy meat, and a combination of crisp and crunch that would make the Colonel quake in his cowboy boots. To complete the journey to fried chicken nirvana, I went through 5 whole chickens, 3 gallons of peanut oil, and over 20 iterations of the recipe so that you won't have to. The final result is a simple formula: a seasoned buttermilk brine + a dip in batter + a shake in flour + a dunk into a pot of hot oil = the only fried chicken recipe you'll ever need. Read on for my top tips to ace this extra-crispy recipe:
Go for the full marination.
To get the most flavorful, tender chicken possible, let the meat marinate at least overnight for up to 24 hours. I know, I know: You want the crispy fried chicken right now. But trust me, the extra time in the buttermilk brine brings much-needed tenderization and flavor to each bite (especially the breast pieces!). Do it for your future fried-chicken-eating self.
Vodka?? Believe it or not, yes—vodka. Water gave the batter the right consistency, but vodka evaporates much faster than water, allowing the crust to crisp quickly rather than getting crunchy. You won't be able to taste it, and just about all the alcohol cooks off. If you absolutely don't want to use vodka, you can use water, but shorten your second fry by a minute.
Fry dark and white pieces separately.
The dark meat pieces will take a few minutes longer to cook than the white meat pieces. To avoid tracking multiple timers at once, batter, dredge, and fry the dark pieces and white pieces in separate batches.
Double-fry the chicken.
After the first trip to the fryer in 300° oil, the chicken will come out piping hot and fully cooked, but the water inside the meat will continue to evaporate for a few minutes, causing that once crispy exterior to sweat and get soggy. Soggy crust is heartbreaking, but it's nothing a double fry can't fix. Cranking the heat up to 350° will give the crust the deep golden brown color that fried chicken is known for, and it will return the crisp crust to its former glory.
Fried chicken is an anytime food. Sure, you can make it for dinner, but please don't stop there. Fry a batch for a spring picnic, a 4th of July BBQ, or to serve alongside cornbread waffles at brunch. Whatever you do, don't forget to save a leg to eat cold while standing in front of the open refrigerator!
Made this? Let us know how it went in the comments below!
Yields: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 9 hours
dill pickle juice
(3- to 4-lb.) whole chicken, broken down into 8 pieces
plus 1 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
large egg whites
Peanut oil, for frying (8 to 10 c.)
Place 1 large paper lunch bag inside another (or use a large plastic container with a lid). In bag, whisk flour, cornstarch, and salt.Frying