Crispy Deep Fried Chicken

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The criteria for great deep fried chicken are easy: the crust should be crispy and light, the chicken should be tender and succulent. With a few simple tricks it is possible to achieve this every time:

  1. Use wings or drum sticks (more flavor and juicier than breast)
  2. Coat them with a mixture of corn starch, salt, and baking powder and let them dry to make the skin more crispy and to allow the batter to stick better
  3. Use a mixture of corn starch and flour in the batter to get a light yet browned crust
  4. Add baking powder to the batter to add more air and to let it brown more easily (because of the higher pH)
  5. Use vodka in the batter to reduce formation of gluten (which would toughen the crust)

I knew most of these tricks already, but I had never used them all at the same time yet. This article on Serious Eats was what got me started. I tried the recipe, and it worked like a charm! The sweet soy sauce mentioned in the same article is also outstanding.

Kenji from Serious Eats prefers wings because of the higher skin-to-meat ratio. Personally I prefer drum sticks, but drum sticks have the disadvantage that the time needed to fry the crust to perfection is not sufficient to cook them through. I tried cooking the drum sticks sous-vide first, with outstanding results.

Ingredients

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chicken wings or chicken drumsticks

1/4 cup (60 ml) corn starch

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2-3 liter/quarts of vegetable oil suitable for deep frying, such as peanut oil

For the batter

1/2 cup (120 ml) corn starch

1/2 cup (120 ml) flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup (120 ml) vodka

1/2 cup (120 ml) cold water

For the sweet soy sauce

1/2 cup (120 ml) soy sauce

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1/4 cup (60 ml) mirin

3/4 cup (180 ml) brown sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp freshly grated ginger

shichimi togarashi or dried red pepper flakes to taste

2 tsp sesame oil

1 Tbsp corn starch

green onions for garnish

Preparation

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If using drum sticks, rub with salt on all sides, vacuum seal and cook sous-vide for 4 hours at 64.5C/148F. Cool quickly in (ice) cold water, remove from pouch and pat dry with paper towels.

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Combine 1/4 cup corn starch, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt in a bowl. Whisk to mix.

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Coat the wings or drum sticks with this mixture on all sides.

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Arrange on a wire rack in a single layer and refrigerate for at least half an hour, but preferably some hours or overnight.

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You can see the difference after some drying.

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For the batter combine 1/2 cup corn starch, 1/2 cup flour, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp baking powder in a bowl. Whisk to blend.

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Add 1/2 cup vodka and 1/2 cup cold water.

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Whisk energetically until there are no more lumps. The batter should be quite thin.

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Dip the wings or drum sticks in the batter to coat them with a thin layer of batter on all sides. Shake off excess batter.

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Deep fry at 180C/375F for 8 minutes.

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Meanwhile, combine 1/2 cup (120 ml) soy sauce, 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 1/4 cup (60 ml) mirin, 3/4 cup (180 ml) brown sugar, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp freshly grated ginger, 2 tsp sesame oil, and shichimi togarashi or dried red pepper flakes to taste in a saucepan. Stir to mix and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

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Combine 1 Tbsp corn starch with 1 Tbsp cold water. Stir to mix until there are no more lumps.

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Add the corn starch mixture to the sauce and stir to mix.

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Cook for a minute until thickened. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

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Garnish with green onions.

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Drain the deep fried chicken on paper towels to get rid of excess oil.

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Serve with the sweet soy sauce.

Wine pairing

We enjoyed this with a full-bodied Grüner Veltliner from Austria that goes well with Asian flavors. For the combination to work it has to be a more ‘tropical’ style Grüner Veltliner rather than a very dry and crispy style. A similar pinot blanc/bianco or sauvignon blanc (from New Zealand) would also work.

16 thoughts on “Crispy Deep Fried Chicken

  1. Good tip about letting the cornstarch dry on the skin first. I actually like chicken that has only a thin starch coating instead of batter (although I like the batter too). I also brine breasts if I am using them and often steam the chicken first… did you ever try marinating in buttermilk first?

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    • Have never tried marinating with buttermilk.
      I’ve tried a drumstick without batter (only with the cornstarch) and it was not as good by far. The chicken was not as moist and the skin was not as crispy.

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    • It works as long as the pieces aren’t so big that they won’t get warm all the way through from 8 minutes of deep frying. A way around that would be to limit the drying period to only half an hour or so, so the center will stay warm from the sous-vide cooking.
      I think it will be great with breast as well, but then the sous-vide should be done at 60C/140F rather than 64.5C/148F.

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  2. Boy, Stefan! This sure does look crispy! I’m not much a fan of batter-fried chicken but, then again, I’ve not been at all successful with breadcrumb or flour coatings, either. Maybe it’s time I give batters a second chance, especially if something like yours is possible.

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    • Give it a try! You will love it! I should have made pictures of my second batch (unfortunately I did not) because I made the batter thinner with that one and it came out even better. The batter and skin form a very thin single crispy layer, i.e. you can’t distinguish between the skin and the batter.

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  3. Pingback: Torta di Mele (Apple Cake) | Stefan's Gourmet Blog

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