Batter-Fried Chicken

Some of Chris Kimball’s most popular recipes are his fried chickens.  I know fried chicken is so seemingly simple, but he has taken all the guess work out. His fried chicken get 4-to-5-stars every time. I first made this batter-fried recipe just over a year ago, and it solved the problem of over-darkened skin. It turns out that the problem was adding milk to the brine or coating. The sugars in the milk solids browned too fast (not enough to adversely affect the flavor but it’s definitely visible; see photos here and here). This recipe use plain water instead of milk. The chicken emerged perfectly cooked; soft and moist. However, it was not as crunchy and as his extra-crunchy recipe. Still a solid 4-stars.

Perfectly cooked inside and out; but not extra crunchy

Issues/Comments:

  1. Because the runny batter can stick to the bottom of the dutch oven, use tongs to loosen each piece free after 4 minutes of frying.
  2. Each batch can be at most 2-pounds of chicken. I you have 5-pounds of chicken breasts, then you’ll need to make 3 batches.
  3. If you have any leftover chicken, let cool for an hour on the counter-top, then cover loosely with paper towel and refrigerate until complete chilled. Finally, cover with fresh paper towel with plastic wrap. This ensures that no condensation forms inside the plastic wrap, and will preserve the crispness of the crust, and that the chicken will not dry out.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $5 for 4-pounds.
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess? Medium/High.
Started: 4:30 pm  Ready:  6:30 pm.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I cooked it today are given below.

Brine:
1 quart cold water
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces

Batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
5 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-3/4 cups cold water
3 quarts vegetable oil

  1. Cut chicken breasts in half crosswise, which will cook more evenly. Also cut apart any leg quarters to separate the thighs from the drumsticks.
  2. Make the brine by whisking together 1 quart cold water, 1/4 cup table salt and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in large bowl. After the sugar and salt have dissolved, add chicken pieces and refrigerate for one hour.
  3. Meanwhile, in large bowl add together the flour, cornstarch, pepper, paprika, cayenne, baking powder, salt, and water. Whisk until the batter is smooth and refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. After 1 hour, place a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 3 quarts of vegetable oil and begin pre-heating.
  5. Discard brine and pat chicken dry using paper towels.
  6. Re-whisk the batter to ensure an even consistency. Add half your chicken pieces to the bowl with the batter. If you are mixing white with dark meat, try to cook your batches either all white meat or all dark meat.
  7. When the oil reaches 350 degrees, remove chicken from batter one piece at a time and let the excess batter drip back into the bowl to avoid a doughy crust; add chicken piece to hot oil.
  8. If you want to serve the both batches together, pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees to keep the first batch warm while the second batch cooks.
  9. Fry up-to-2-pounds of chicken for 14 to 15 minutes until the skin becomes deeply golden brown and the white meat registers 160 degrees (any legs of thighs should be cooked to 175 degrees). After 4 minutes stir the chicken to ensure that it has not stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  10. Place the chicken on wire rack set over a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Allow it to drain then pat with paper towels. Place in 200-degree oven while you prepare the second batch.
  11. Bring oil back up to 350 degrees and repeat from step 5 with remaining chicken pieces.
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