For this unusual sauced, or “dipped,” fried chicken, we started by brining chicken parts in a solution of salt, sugar, and water. We coated the chicken pieces in a seasoned flour mixture and let them sit in the refrigerator to ensure that the coating adhered. We then deep-fried them in 350-degree peanut oil until the coating was crispy. For the sauce, we combined Texas Pete Original Hot Sauce (a North Carolina specialty) with Worcestershire sauce, oil, molasses (to balance out the heat), and cider vinegar. We let the chicken cool for 10 minutes (to let steam escape) and then spooned the tangy-spicy sauce over top, which proved to be easier and less messy than dipping. The coating absorbed the lip-tingling sauce and still retained its crispy, craggy texture.
The chicken needs to brine for at least 1 hour before being coated in step 3. Do not brine the chicken longer than 4 hours or it will be too salty. Use a Dutch oven that holds 6 quarts or more. You’ll need one 12-ounce bottle of Texas Pete Original Hot Sauce for this recipe.
1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Dissolve the 1/2 cup salt and 1/4 cup sugar in 2 quarts cold water in large container. Submerge chicken in brine, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours.
2. Whisk flour, cornstarch, granulated garlic, baking powder, 2 teaspoons pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt together in large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons water to flour mixture; using your fingers, rub flour mixture and water together until water is evenly incorporated and shaggy pieces of dough form.
3. Set wire rack in rimmed baking sheet. Working with 1 piece at a time, remove chicken from brine, letting excess drip off; dredge chicken in flour mixture, pressing to adhere. Transfer to prepared rack. Refrigerate chicken, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.
4. Set second wire rack in second rimmed baking sheet and line half of rack with triple layer of paper towels. Add oil to large Dutch oven until it measures 2 inches deep and heat over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Add half of chicken to pot and fry until breasts register 160 degrees and drumsticks/thighs/wings register 175 degrees, 13 to 16 minutes. Adjust burner, if necessary, to maintain oil temperature between 325 and 350 degrees.
5. Transfer chicken to paper towel–lined side of prepared rack. Let chicken drain on each side for 30 seconds, then move to unlined side of rack. Return oil to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining chicken. Let chicken cool for 10 minutes.
6. FOR THE SAUCE: Meanwhile, whisk all ingredients together in bowl. Microwave, covered, until hot, about 2 minutes, stirring halfway through microwaving.
7. Transfer chicken to shallow platter. Spoon sauce over chicken. Serve.
HOW DOES IT GET SO CRISPY?
One hallmark of dipped fried chicken is its coating, which retains its crispy, craggy texture after being sauced. We’ve tested many fried chicken coatings over the years, and our reliable mixture of three main ingredients gave us the best results in this recipe. Here’s why.
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2017, America's Test Kitchen. Reprinted with Permission.