Wondra Flour Is the Secret to Cold Crispy Fried Chicken

Cold fried chicken is delicious. But it just can’t be soggy.

Published May 14, 2021.

Picture this: It’s a beautiful day, you’re enjoying a picnic, and you take a bite into a cold, soggy piece of fried chicken—it doesn’t have to be this way.

Cold fried chicken is common picnic fare, but it can get flaccid or even soggy, missing that quintessential crunch it has when it’s hot. But crispy cold fried chicken isn’t a pipe dream thanks to Cook’s Country’s Picnic Fried Chicken recipe, which uses a secret ingredient: Wondra flour.

What is Wondra flour? 

It’s a brand of instant flour that has been precooked and dried, also known as pregelatinization. It’s a favorite for making gravies and other sauces, but why is it so important for making fried chicken? I reached out to our science editor, Paul Adams to get some insight on the magic of Wondra flour when it’s mixed with cornstarch, as the recipe instructs.

“Both the wheat starch in Wondra and cornstarch are relatively high-amylose starches, which cook and crisp up readily,” Adams said.

Adams said Wondra is low in protein when compared to regular all-purpose flour. If a coating has a lot of protein, it’ll darken and burn more easily. Since Wondra doesn’t have that, we can fry this chicken as hot and long as needed, to drive out water from the surface, which helps keep it crispy long-term.

But the protein—or the lack thereof—plays another important role in preserving that crunch.

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“Protein also acts like a moisture sponge, holding water during the frying and then releasing it when the chicken is stored—releasing it into the waiting arms of the starch, which becomes soggy,” Adams said.

Since Wondra flour has a lower amount of protein, less moisture is retained in the coating, and less water seeps into it when it’s sitting in your picnic basket, keeping it as crispy as when it was made.

This recipe, which you can check out here, has a few other quirks that make it special (and crispy).

  • The chicken is brined in salt water, for deep seasoning, and also to keep the meat moist.
  • Plain water is added to the flour mixture to create a thick, craggy crust. The chicken is also dredged in water instead of egg, as the fat would soften the coating.
  • It’s double-fried to let extra moisture evaporate from the skin between fries.

Even if you don’t follow that recipe, consider substituting Wondra flour next time you fry chicken. You may find it just as delicious hot out of the fryer as it is cold the next day. 

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