Why It Works
- A blend of potato starch and wheat flour enhances the batter’s crispiness, inhibits gluten formation, and limits oil absorption.
- Baking powder enhances the crispiness of the crust and encourages browning.
Batter-fried chicken is something of a rarity. Due to tradition or cultural preference, battering isn’t the go-to method, and dry-dredged Southern fried chicken reigns supreme.
The Case for Batter-Fried
And yet, while you can’t go wrong with the classic dry-dredge, I’d argue that batter-fried chicken is cleaner, faster, and requires less effort to make. Batter also has another benefit, which is it creates a thin, crispy shell, which you see in the double-fried crust of Korean fried chicken, and in the light and puffy shell of tempura. But what if you could have a batter-fried chicken with a light and crispy crust and also some of dry-dredged fried chicken’s heft? That was the question I set out to answer with this recipe.
Many recipes for batter-fried chicken recommend using wheat flour or a combination of wheat flour and cornstarch. In side-by-side testing, I found that recipes with wheat flour tended to produce a dense, tough coating that was all too reminiscent of bad tempura batter. In contrast, recipes that used a blend of wheat flour and cornstarch were much better, but the coatings were either too delicate or too brittle.
The Perks of Potato Starch
I turned to potato starch. In a wheat flour-based batter, potato starch and cornstarch perform a similar function. They both inhibit gluten formation, limit oil absorption, and produce a crispier texture. But because of its larger granule size, batters with potato starch can form a rigid, semi-brittle network when fried that’s crunchier and more robust than a batter made with cornstarch.
Given potato starch’s properties, you might wonder why I include any wheat flour at all in this recipe. Early on in my recipe testing, I tried mixing batters of mostly potato starch, but these batters produced coatings that were glass-like and excessively crunchy, and they didn’t brown that much, even after lengthy frying. I got the best results when using a 50-50 blend of potato starch and wheat flour by weight. The wheat flour facilitates browning, while the potato starch provides structure, cohesion, and that all important crunch factor. What comes out of the fryer is super crispy fried chicken that’s easier to make than your go-to dry-dredge method, but with a similarly substantial crust.