There are a few secrets to fried chicken with a wonderful, super-crunchy crust, but be forewarned: crunchy crusts come only to those who wait. The first step is the buttermilk soak. Soaking chicken parts in buttermilk gives it a moist coat that absorbs more breading. for a thicker, crunchier, crust, and while tenderizing the meat. A one-hour soak will get you on your way, but a few hours is better, and overnight best yet.

Next comes dredging. Most hounds stick squarely with a simple flour base, seasoned with salt and pepper and whatever other dry spices take their fancy (sage or garlic powder for flavor; cayenne, Cajun seasoning, powdered ginger for heat). Some add ingredients for extra crunch: cornmeal, rice flour, or a pinch of baking powder. Shake a few pieces of chicken at a time in a zip-top plastic bag or paper bag filled with your dredging mixture, and put the chicken on a rack set over a pan, then park it in the fridge for an hour or so. Letting it rest after dredging it helps to ensure that the coating won’t separate from the chicken in the hot oil.

When it’s time to cook, you want your oil medium hot and deep enough to submerge a little over half the chicken. That way, the steam created by the moisture in the meat hitting the hot oil has somewhere to go, explains ricepad. “If you immerse the chicken [in oil], your crust starts to form all over, but the steam from the meat gets trapped by the crust and will loosen it and/or make it soggy.” White meat takes less time to cook than dark, small pieces—but even those who’ve fried their fare share say it can be hard to get the chicken cooked through without overdoing the crust. melly’s solution: fry chicken until the crust looks perfect, then finish it on a rack in a 375F oven, usually for about 25 minutes. Whichever way you cook, make sure you drain and cool fried chicken on a rack so it stays crisp and crunchy.

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