For chicken with lots of crunch, we here in the test kitchen like to add a secret ingredient to our recipes: baking powder.
We then typically combine this flour mixture with a wet ingredient. This could be egg, buttermilk, or water, depending on the recipe. The moisture helps create a craggy coating that, when fried, yields lots of crunchy morsels to bite into.
But the baking powder is key, because it acts like a salt. It helps draw moisture to the surface, where it can evaporate. Since they have similar reactions, we typically combine baking powder and table salt to amplify this effect, resulting in extra-crispiness.
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But baking powder doesn’t only make fried chicken crunchier—it also magically gives nonfried chicken extra-crispy skin.
An example of this is our Oven-Fried Chicken Wings, which aren’t fried at all. But when you bite into one, you would think it was. In order to get crispy wings without frying, you need to dry out the skin. That’s where a coating of baking powder and salt comes in. The baking powder and salt help break down the proteins in the skin, draw moisture to the surface, and also aid in browning. We take a very similar approach in our recipe for Crisp Roast Chicken.
So next time you are making fried chicken, or even cooking it in the oven, make sure that you have some baking powder on hand to add extra crunch.