Julia Collin Davison's recipe for fried chicken with an extra crispy batter.
Picnic Fried Chicken
Fried chicken is a picnic staple but often involves making do with a soggy crust and bland meat. To achieve well-seasoned fried chicken that stayed crunchy when cold, we pulled out every trick in the book. A combination of Wondra flour and cornstarch made for a coating that kept its crunch even when the chicken was cold, and dredging the chicken twice, with a water dip in between, created a thick, craggy crust (dipping in beaten egg softened the coating too much, so we left it out and stuck with water). Double-frying the chicken permitted extra moisture to evaporate from the skin, and chilling it uncovered guarded against sogginess. Finally, since cold dulls flavors, brining and extra seasoning were in order. This recipe may not be fast, but it can be made a day ahead. Come picnic time, the chicken will still be moist and crunchy. Use a Dutch oven that holds 6 quarts or more.
- ¼ Cup table salt for brining
- 3 pounds bone-in chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half crosswise, drumsticks, and/or thighs), trimmed
- 1½ cups Wondra flour
- 1½ cups cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon pepper
- 2 teaspoons white pepper
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 quarts peanut or vegetable oil
- Dissolve ¼ cup salt in 1 quart cold water in large container. Submerge chicken in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Whisk flour and cornstarch together in large bowl. Transfer 1 cup flour mixture to shallow dish; set aside. Whisk pepper, white pepper, baking powder, thyme, sage, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne into remaining flour mixture. Add ¼ cup water to seasoned flour mixture. Rub flour and water together with your fingers until water is evenly incorporated and mixture contains craggy bits of dough. Pour 2 cups cold water into medium bowl.
- Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Working with 2 pieces of chicken at a time, remove chicken from brine and dip in unseasoned flour mixture, pressing to adhere; dunk quickly in water, letting excess drip off; and dredge in seasoned flour mixture, pressing to adhere. Place chicken on prepared wire rack and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
- Add oil to large dutch oven until it measures about 2 inches deep and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Fry half of chicken until slightly golden and just beginning to crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Adjust burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature between 300 and 325 degrees. (chicken will not be cooked through at this point.) Return par-cooked chicken to wire rack. Return oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining raw chicken. Let each batch of chicken rest for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Return oil to 350 degrees. Return first batch of chicken to oil and fry until breasts register 160 degrees and thighs/drumsticks register 175 degrees, 5 to 7 minutes. Adjust burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature between 300 and 325 degrees. Transfer chicken to clean wire rack. Return oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining chicken. Let chicken cool to room temperature, transfer to paper towel–lined plate, and refrigerate uncovered until ready to eat, up to 24 hours in advance. Serve cold or let chicken come to room temperature.