How Mayo Will Help Your Breaded Chicken Reach Golden Status

Few items are bigger crowd-pleasers than a serving platter full of hot, perfectly fried chicken. A Southern staple that people from coast to coast enjoy, Michelin-star chefs and home cooks alike have committed to perfecting the art of fried chicken. Some might say that the cut of chicken has everything to do with getting recipes right, while others attribute a perfect batch of fried chicken to the seasoning blend you use — Old Bay, anyone?

For some, an irresistible piece of fried chicken is all about the breading. Although breading chicken is as simple as tossing your chicken in egg, flour, and breadcrumbs, there are a million ways to elevate the breading on your fried chicken, from using homemade breadcrumbs to pulverized pretzels. But, did you know that mayonnaise can take your fried chicken to new heights and leave it with a crispy, photo-worthy golden-brown exterior?

Mayo and chicken create a delicious chemical reaction

While you might think this simple condiment and chicken only pair well together in your favorite chicken salad recipe, a slathering of mayo works incredibly well in a fried chicken recipe. Once you start frying mayo-dredged chicken, you'll notice that it takes on a particularly golden hue. That's because mayo initiates something called the Maillard reaction — a process that frying oil alone can't manage. This scientific phenomenon occurs when a heated or cooked ingredient undergoes a chemical reaction that rearranges its amino acids and simple sugars. The reaction results in a browning effect that enhances both the flavor and texture of your now-golden fried chicken. 

In regard to why frying isn't as effective in creating the Maillard reaction on its own, Greg Blonder, professor of product design and engineering at Boston University, told the Los Angeles Times, "When you just put regular oil on meat, it doesn't bring these to the table. It only brings fat." But, that's not the only reason to consider using mayonnaise on your fried chicken. Mayo is adhesive and thick, like glue, and can help your exterior coating's chances of sticking. Not only will mayo add color to your fried chicken and keep your coating from falling off, but it also helps keep the chicken moist inside — a triple win! Next time you fry chicken, ditch the Crisco or plain egg wash and try mayonnaise instead.