Step Up Fried Chicken's Crunch Game With Leftover Marinade

Good fried chicken is not a simple meal you can whip up on a weeknight. It's at least a two-day process whether you choose to dry brine or wet brine your bird. Indeed, fried chicken is a tricky balance between a crispy crust and a juicy interior. If you prioritize one over the other, you end up with undercooked chicken or an overdone crust. However, there's a way to enhance the crunch with an unexpected ingredient you'll already have on hand.

After you've brined or marinated your chicken overnight, don't automatically throw that liquid out. After you've mixed your breading, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of marinade into the flour and mix it with your fingers, fork, or whisk. Then bread and fry your chicken as usual, and marvel at the extra ridges and crispy bits. The extra liquid in the dredge forms lumps that cling to your chicken, adding more crispy, crunchy surface area. That's why the chicken pieces toward the end of the frying process are usually crunchier. The extra bits of briney dredge dehydrate in the oil, giving you some serious crunch and texture.

You could omit the step, and your chicken will still be crunchy, but adding a tablespoon or so of marinade to the dredge seriously enhances the crunch factor. Let your chicken sit in the dredge for a few minutes to allow the flour to hydrate in the buttermilk brine clinging to your chicken.

Maximize crunch with vodka and cornstarch

Besides adding some of your brine to your dredge mix, there are other tips and tricks to avoid screwing up your fried chicken — especially when it comes to your crunchy crust. To guarantee a crisp exterior, you should add vodka to your fried chicken. Adding vodka (or bourbon) to your brine or your wet batter translates into a crispy crust. The alcohol evaporates more quickly than other liquids during frying, which results in crust bubbles and provides more surface area. It's the same reason you can add vodka to your pie crust for flaky layers.

Don't be afraid to experiment. Add some cornstarch to the dredge. The cornstarch will prevent the flour from developing gluten and bogging down your crispy coating. Think of it as adding the crisp, airy element of tempura to your fried chicken. You can also fry twice to ensure an extra-extra-crispy crust. Let the chicken cool for an hour or up to overnight in the refrigerator before frying again.

If you're worried about undercooking, fry your pieces until they're golden brown. Then, finish your chicken in the oven until it comes to a food-safe temperature — usually around 40 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.