Why You Shouldn't Skip Brining For Fried Chicken

A comfort food classic with a market so demanding that there are hundreds of restaurants dedicated to perfecting its iconic taste, fried chicken is an American staple. From fried chicken thighs to wings, nuggets, sandwiches, and tenders, there are endless ways to prepare and enjoy the dish. Whether you prefer stopping at the KFC drive-thru or making it home-cooked, take it boneless or bone-in, there's no wrong way to enjoy fried chicken.

Most fried chicken is made with the cut of your liking — wings, thigh, or breast, paired with plenty of seasoning, a binding agent like buttermilk or egg, corn starch, and frying oil. According to Pioneer Woman, you can deep fry chicken in oil with a high smoke point like canola oil, vegetable oil, and peanut oil, or for a healthier option, you can ditch the oil altogether by opting for a sheet pan fried chicken recipe.

But if there's one step you should never skip when home cooking fried chicken, it's brining.

Brining improves the flavor and texture of fried chicken

Brining is a simple kitchen affair that relies on a process called osmosis. While it sounds like something out of a mad scientist's kitchen, it's actually a simple process. Brining saturates protein with flavor and helps tenderize the meat so that it falls right off the bone. Brining typically includes salt, spices, and a liquid like water or even beer or wine. Through osmosis, the meat retains more of its water and flavor content (per Food Network). Unlike a marinade which is used exclusively for flavor, brining is about texture and flavor. So why is it so important when frying chicken?

Brining chicken for around eight hours prior to frying will give your fried chicken a perfectly tenderized, one-of-a-kind flavor and texture. Southern Living says that one simple way to brine chicken is by soaking it with three quarts of water or buttermilk and only one tablespoon of salt. It's important to drain and rinse the brine before frying the chicken so it's not too salty.

Although your fried chicken won't suffer without it, brining the meat beforehand is a surefire way to take it up a notch.