The Secret Ingredient That Will Give Your Chicken The Crispiest Skin Ever

Chicken is one of the most versatile of meats since it can be cooked about a million different ways and paired with a billion different ingredients. In fact, not a year goes by where there isn't some magic new way to cook chicken being touted, with secret ingredients ranging from cream cheese to pickle juice. Well, guess what? There's one mystery ingredient you probably haven't yet tried, but it's almost certainly in your kitchen and will give you the most amazingly crispy chicken you've ever tried. Believe it or not, the real secret to cooking a chicken with the crispiest skin ever is baking powder.

How can this boring, plain-Jane ingredient make such a difference when it comes to cooking chicken, be it roasted, baked, or fried? According to the crack culinary research teams at America's Test Kitchen, Cook's Illustrated, and Serious Eats, the secret lies in the science. Baking powder, which is slightly alkaline, helps to raise the pH level of the chicken skin. This in turn allows the proteins to break down, and broken-down protein equals faster browning and extra crisping. What's more, baking powder, when combined with chicken juice, forms a carbon dioxide gas which makes little bubbles in the chicken skin, thus expanding its surface area and creating even more crunch.

So how do you go about using baking powder to crunchy up your chicken, whether it be a whole bird or a batch of wings? Serious Eats suggests mixing one part baking powder with three to four parts kosher salt, adding in some black pepper, and sprinkling it over the whole chicken. Just a light dusting, though. When it comes to wings, they suggest one teaspoon each baking soda and salt per pound of chicken. No matter which cut you're cooking up, it's important that the chicken be allowed to rest after sprinkling and before cooking, so the baking powder can have time to work its magic... er, science. For wings, it's anywhere from 8 to 24 hours, and for a whole chicken it's 12 to 24 hours.

One caveat, though — make sure you are using baking powder (the stuff in a can), not baking soda (the stuff in a box). While baking soda will make your chicken skin crunchy, the Serious Eats kitchen testers found it also added a "very distinct metallic bitterness." Sadly, it seems mistaking baking soda for powder is quite a common error, so heed this warning and don't be That Cook.