Insanely crunchy fried chicken that stays insanely crunchy
July 30, 2014 3:20 AM   Subscribe

Once, I made fried chicken, and it was as close to perfect as I've even made it. The crust nearly shattered when bitten into. It was almost unbearably crispy. I have absolutely no idea how I made it, and never made any notes as to what I did. If anyone out there has found the forbidden secrets of fried chciken, and more importantly, remembers what they did to get there, I would love to hear what you did.

This Saturday is the fireworks festival we go to every year. For years, for no obvious reason, I've made enough fried chicken to feed the small army (roughly twenty people) that we meet up with and drink away the day. The goal is to make the chciken in the morning, let it cool, then pack in wax paper and take to the site.

Since it's essentially something to munch on while drinking, I don't use whole pieces, or bone-in cuts (too much garbage to deal with). I usually chop up boneless skinless breasts (they are nearly half as expensive as thighs here in Japan, and I'll brine them before hand). Essentially, finger-sized chicken fingers, and I'm looking for the crispest possible coating.

Spice-wise, I'm pretty okay, but I'd like to hear what sort of flour you use, if you use eggs, eggs + x! or whathaveyou. Temperatures, cook times, mixes, I'd love to hear what you do.
posted by Ghidorah to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
The Food Lab has done a few different experiments with fried chicken of various styles. I think the one that would be most relevant to what you want is the General Tso's recipe. TLDR: use a bit of hard liquor in your brine, and mix some of the brining liquid into your breading mix.
posted by kagredon at 3:46 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you ever used pancko bread crumbs? Super crunchy. I did a quick google search and found this website possibly the most relevant.
posted by Under the Sea at 4:19 AM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Generally speaking if you switch to a batter and specifically follow the primary goals of any tempura batter you will get crispy.... It's all about batter and not dry coating.
posted by chasles at 4:39 AM on July 30, 2014

I get good results from a cornstarch batter and a double fry. I fry bone-in pieces for 7-10 minutes, then let them rest for 7 minutes (while frying another batch), then fry again 7-10 minutes. You'd probably adjust the time for boneless pieces. The skin adds crunchiness, so I'd try to keep it if possible, by boning split breasts myself.
posted by erloteiel at 5:32 AM on July 30, 2014

Came in to recommend the double-fry. Chef John of just did a Korean fried chicken recipe you might find useful to check out.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 5:45 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been reading through a blog that makes a lot of America's Test Chicken recipes and the author's very favourite recipe is for extra crispy fried chicken. I haven't made the recipe (I don't like fried chicken) but here it is for reference

The key seems to be double frying the chicken. This blog has other variations on fried chicken (including using chicken breasts) if you search.
posted by hydrobatidae at 6:27 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another key is to drain the chicken on a wire rack, like you would use for cooling cookies. If it sits on e.g. paper towel, the steam will soften the underneath.

As for amazingly crunchy, crushed cornflakes make for a pretty amazing crunch.

So does straight up dip in buttermilk, then flour, then repeat.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:35 AM on July 30, 2014

I'll give the batter approach a try tomorrow. Tonight was a half and half cornstarch/flour with baking powder, with egg and milk as the liquid, flour, dip, flour, utter lack of crispiness. Hopefully the batter approach will work out. Thanks for all the answers, and if anyone else has any ideas, feel free to let me know.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:13 AM on July 30, 2014

I second using Panko bread crumbs instead of flour.
posted by Safiya at 8:22 AM on July 30, 2014

Rice flour makes a huge difference for me. If I don't have rice flour, I add cornstarch to the regular flour.
posted by quince at 8:39 AM on July 30, 2014

The way I was taught to get a crispy oven-baked chicken is to put it in a cold oven. I've always found it works. Nothing else needed, though obviously anything you put on the skin will add to its crispy deliciousness, whether that be olive oil, spices, batter, etc.

Just to state the obvious: you turn on the oven to the desired temperature as soon as the chicken's in there. Cook it the same amount of time as you would normally, check it, leave it in longer if/as needed.

Nthing on a rack for the underside to be crispy too, though you'll probably want to put a drip pan beneath it to catch juices.
posted by fraula at 9:25 AM on July 30, 2014

Batter into a cold oven will not work. It will melt and slide off the chicken. Ask me how I know! Derp. Roasting, even with breadcrumbs, won't give the same crispiness. Just FYI.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:47 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Actually, oven fried chicken is kind of impossible for me. Japanese kitchens being what they are, I have a microwave/convention oven that's roughly big enough for a medium sized whole chicken. Especially for the amount I'm doing, it's gotta be pan fried.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:47 AM on July 30, 2014

Ghidorah, do you mean shallow frying or deep frying? In either case (you probably know this but anyway) your fat should never go more than 1/3 up the sides of the pot or pan you're using, and get a thermometer to monitor the temperature. Safety!

Also for speed you can crisp in the fryer and then transfer to the oven to finish cooking. This'll let you work faster, in batches. (E.g ~10 mins frying, ~10 mins in oven)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:54 AM on July 30, 2014

I'm not sure of the crunch factor, but Alton Brown is a goto guy for pan fried chicken:

Note that you want the pan to be full with the pieces just a quarter inch apart. If you have less chicken, use a smaller pan.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:56 AM on July 30, 2014

Fffm, I usually do deep frying. I've got a really nice cast iron pot that I use, and yeah, I've got thermometers aplenty (sausage making and BBQ/grilling make them requirements). I'm curious about shallow vs deep, and if that makes a difference.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:08 PM on July 30, 2014

I used the technique and recipie in this article and it worked out great.
posted by shothotbot at 5:50 AM on July 31, 2014

So far, the thing that seems to be coming closest to working is the double frying method. The most recent batch (overnight in faux buttermilk, with a bit of baking soda, dredged in flour/cornstarch) has taught me that chicken that rests in the dry bowl, covered in the flour mix, will be crispier than chicken dredged, then set out on a rack before frying.

In happier news, I've discovered that minced garlic, minced chipotle, honey, and a bit of bourbon make a great sauce when you're making endless test batches of fried chicken and you've decided to forego your normal allotment of seasonings (because they aren't all that cheap).
posted by Ghidorah at 4:27 AM on August 1, 2014

Chickenmaggeddon is upon us. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. One of the biggest issues is that I'm doing finger sized chunks of breast rather than bone in pieces, so the cooking time is much shorter. That said, after four nights of testing things out, I ended up making fake buttermilk and soaking the chicken pieces overnight. The biggest mistake was not drying the chicken off well enough. With the chicken still wet, the cooked pieces need to be handled carefully, or the batter shell will come right off.

I did an egg wash and flour dredge. Three eggs, two cups buttermilk, Tabasco, 11/2 tbsp baking powder, 3/4 tbsp baking soda, salt, pepper. The dredge was eight cups flour, two cups cornstarch, two tbsp baking powder, then not enough seasoning. I reckon I would have been better off with three tbsp of each: granulated garlic, paprika, black pepper, and cumin (it's a lot of flour) plus two tbsp salt.

I dredged, soaked, then dredged. I double fried, but maybe I didn't really need to, as I ended up with some pretty dark chicken. The best thing is, a la the idea to drizzle the wash over the dredge, the later pieces picked up more and more of the globules and came out much crunchier.

As for some of the suggestions (thanks for all of them), the one thing I found was that a full batter didn't get me where I wanted. I ended up with a very fluffy batter shell, which would be perfect for onion rings, but not the rough, bumpy crispy fried chicken I was looking for. Thanks again.

About the portions, this is for a fireworks festival for a group of about twenty people, so I ended up using about five kilograms of chicken. You might want to adjust accordingly.

Thanks again for all the great ideas.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:28 PM on August 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're up for experimenting and you can track it down, Trisol in place of 30% of the flour will make your fried foods stay crispy and crunchy for much longer. I don't know where/if you can get that in Japan.
posted by WasabiFlux at 9:04 PM on August 3, 2014

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