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The Science Behind Crunchy Fried Chicken

Fried chicken should have a moist interior and a crunchy exterior.

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350°F

Hot oil creates the crispy exterior. Water boils away at 212°F, but oil can be heated far above that. Choose an oil with a high smoke point and heat it to around 350°F.

Peanut has a smoke point of 450°F.

When breaded chicken is dropped into super hot oil, the water in the batter will boil instantaneously, in a process known as flash evaporation. This is what creates bubbles in the oil.

The water escaping from the chicken creates pressure, which locks the oil out and keeps moisture in. This keeps the meat juicy.

A candy thermometer will help you monitor oil temperature. If the temperature drop too low, the escaping water won't generate enough pressure, and the chicken could get greasy.

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If the oil gets too hot, it could read its smoke point. At this point, the oil chemically breaks down and takes on an acrid taste.

185°F

Keep the oil temperature below 400°F and make sure to cook the chicken all the way through. Look for an internal temperature of 185°F, or for opaque white meat and clear juices.

After the chicken has been removed from the oil, the pressure will equalize. The cells that have lost their water will form a vacuum, and suck in the oil on the surface of the crust. Cool the chicken on a rack to prevent it from drawing in too much oil.

Once the chicken cools, try enjoying with a glass of Champagne. The high acidity in the wine will balance out the salty, savory chicken.

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