Dried Citrus Is Key To Zesty Fried Chicken

Fried chicken may seem simple, but there are endless small tweaks, family traditions, and other variations that can turn a bland bird into a flavorful, crisp, juicy dish. One ingredient most people have never considered might be the thing your next batch of homemade fried chicken needs — dried citrus.

It's a trick commonly used by chef and media personality Andrew Zimmern, who adds dried lime to the buttermilk and flour dredge for his chicken. Grated into small pieces, it infuses the mixture with a subtly tart, citrusy zest that perfectly complements the richness and savoriness of the chicken.

It's not clear where Zimmern picked up the technique, which doesn't seem to be widely used in the culinary world. Chicken in Latin America is often marinated in a mixture of spices, including lime juice and sometimes lime zest, though not usually dried lime. Dried lime is more prevalent in Middle Eastern cooking, where dried Persian limes (sometimes called black limes) are a relatively common seasoning. However, these aren't typically cultures known for their fried chicken.

More offbeat tricks to cluck about

Of course, adding dried citrus isn't the only way to create impressive fried chicken with the help of an unconventional addition. Another unexpected ingredient that can take your fried chicken to the next level is alcohol, typically vodka, though any type of high-proof spirit will do. When added to the chicken brine before frying, the booze evaporates faster and slows the formation of gluten in the batter, creating a lighter, crispier crust. Just an ounce of liquor per cup of liquid brine will do. 

Other substitutes that will change the way you make fried chicken include swapping out traditional brine for pickle juice for added salty-savory flavor, using a beer batter, or swapping out traditional wheat flour batter for alternative flours or even a breadcrumb coating.

Overall, fried chicken is a highly personal dish, with factors like regional preferences, budget, time, and more all playing into the subtle variations of this familiar recipe. Adding dried lime is just another crucial (and chef-approved) trick to add to your arsenal.