10 Tricks to Perfecting Ultra-Crispy Chicken
Crispy chicken is distinctly hard to resist. I mean, who doesn’t love a piece of juicy, salty chicken with a crackling crust? I’ve weirdly spent a lot of time chasing crispy chicken in different forms, from classic fried chicken while I lived in the South to chicken nuggets for my little picky eaters.
There are a few tricks for crispy chicken, whether you deep-fry, pan-fry, or oven-bake it. These are 10 of my favorites for every crispy chicken scenario.
Crispy Oven-Baked Chicken
1. Use a crispy coating — and toast it.
Of all the ways to get chicken crispy, oven-baking is the hardest. Starting with an already-crispy coating will get you at least halfway to that goal. We love panko (although crushed crackers or cereal are popular too), but here’s our secret: Toasting the panko breadcrumbs before coating with them gives them the color and flavor of frying and helps them stay crisp through baking.
2. Cut the chicken for quick cooking.
Faster cooking means less steam making your crispy coating soggy. You can cut the chicken into nuggets, strips, or even butterfly the breasts into thin cutlets.
3. Coat with mayo for deep-fried flavor.
Fat carries flavor, helps crisp oven-baked chicken coating, and makes it taste more like it’s fried counterpart — and mayo has plenty of fat and helps the crispy breadcrumbs stick.
Get a recipe: How To Make Crispy Oven-Baked Chicken Tenders with Creamy Dip Trio
Crispy Pan-Fried Chicken
4. Pound the chicken thin.
A lesson I learned from schnitzel, the coating and the chicken need to cook at about the same rate for moist but crisp pan-fried chicken. So use a mallet or rolling pin to get your chicken as thin as possible before coating and cooking it.
5. Use smaller breadcrumbs for coating.
Counter to oven-baked crispy chicken, pan-fried chicken actually does best with smaller traditional breadcrumbs, rather than larger panko crumbs. The smaller crumbs stick better and won’t fall off and burn in the pan’s oil.
6. Use less oil.
Steam is the enemy of pan-fried chicken and too much oil can trap the moisture of cooking under the coating of the chicken pieces. A good rule of thumb is about 1/4 inch of oil, which will rise a bit when the chicken pieces are added.
Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken
7. Use an egg white to coat the chicken.
Egg whites are pure protein and when whisked into the coating for fried chicken and then deep-fried they create a tight bond with the flour, making the coating crisp and holding it tightly to the chicken.
8. Use alcohol or club soda in the coating.
A tip to take from tempura or pie crust — both alcohol and club soda bring their own unique chemistry to a chicken coating batter, but either will render the coating shatteringly crisp.
9. Add cornstarch to the flour mixture.
Just a little cornstarch added to the flour mixture for fried chicken makes for a more tender and crisp crust. The starch in the cornstarch and flour work in tandem to hold the coating together and make it super dry and crispy once fried.
10. Fry in a Dutch oven.
A little like pan-frying, deep-frying chicken relies on steam escaping the chicken in just the right way at the right time. Not only do the high sides of a Dutch oven keep the oil from making a mess of your cooktop, but they also help direct steam up and out of the pan for crispier chicken.
Get a recipe: How To Make Crispy, Juicy Fried Chicken
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