The Vinegar Chilling Step You Shouldn't Skip When Making Fried Chicken

From fast food fried chicken sandwiches to your own homemade crispy fried chicken recipe, there's no denying the combination of juicy, seasoned chicken meat and a shatteringly crisp, crunchy breaded exterior is one of the greatest textural and taste experiences out there. But, even if you think you've mastered the art of making perfect fried chicken at home, it's important to remain open to new methods. An unexpected ingredient can take your fried chicken to the next level, and it's one you probably already have on hand: vinegar. Paired with a pre-frying refrigerator trip, this single ingredient can result in some seriously delicious fried chicken. 

You may have heard of brining chicken in vinegar or pickle juice as secret ingredients you should use in your fried chicken. However, acid can do more for chicken than simply adding flavor. To achieve the crispiest possible fried chicken, cooks should try soaking their chicken pieces in equal parts vinegar and water for 30 minutes before frying. This helps remove fat and oily residues from the chicken skin so the breading can adhere to the skin and meat with greater ease. Then, after it's breaded, the chicken heads to the refrigerator for at least 30 more minutes to rest.

Why this fried chicken technique works

A vinegar soak and a rest in the fridge make crispier fried chicken in two ways. First, you won't lose as much breading due to the soak in vinegar. However, it's important not to let your chicken sit in the vinegar mixture for too long: 30 minutes is all you need. Any longer, and the acid can start breaking down the meat, making it mushy. 

Second, resting in the fridge is essential. One of the ways you're screwing up your fried chicken is by not letting it rest after breading. As Chef Ben McLean told The Takeout, "It'll allow the moisture of the chicken to soak through the breading, and it makes it super tacky, allowing the breading to stick to the meat itself. It creates a hard, crack-shell crust." Let the chicken rest in the refrigerator after breading for as little as 30 minutes or, if you plan ahead, overnight. 

Between the vinegar soak and adequate time spent in the fridge, your fried chicken will yield a crunchy, crispy breading that doesn't fall off the chicken while you eat it.