The Easy Step To Guarantee Your Fried Chicken Is Juicy

People are willing to go to great lengths for the perfect bite of fried chicken. If you need proof of this fact, just look to the so-called "chicken sandwich wars" that have been raging among fast-food chains since 2019. 

The feud started when Popeyes launched its fried chicken sandwich, which sold out across the country. Per a detailed timeline in Restaurant Business, dozens of American fast-food chains, including KFC, have since added fried chicken sandwiches to their menus to suit customers' demand. 

That demand is fueled by the irresistible appeal of crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside chicken. But achieving this celestial result doesn't require a secret recipe, nor is it only found at fast-food chains. It's easy to perfect the fried chicken sandwich at home, especially when you follow J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's tip for making sure your meat doesn't dry out. (Hint: It's all about how you brine the chicken before you fry it.)

The secret's in the brine

In a YouTube tutorial for "Five-Ingredient Fried Chicken Sandwiches," J. Kenji Lopez-Alt pours the brine from a jar of jalapeños over raw chicken as a quick marinade, noting that regular pickle brine works just as well. Whether you're making fried, grilled, or roasted chicken, letting the bird hang out in a salty marinade or brine is a simple step to improve both its juiciness and its flavor. 

Lopez-Alt explains that the salt in the brine helps to break down the chicken's muscle proteins so that they "[don't] squeeze as tightly," allowing the chicken to retain moisture as it cooks. Many classic Southern fried chicken recipes use buttermilk, whose acids and enzymes function like a brine, per Taste of Home.

If you don't have any kind of briny jarred liquid around, you can also use plain old salt water. Your chicken can relax in its briny bath for as little as an hour, or up to 12 hours. In the latter case, you'll want to pop it in the fridge. 

The path to Crispytown is paved in corn flakes

Once your raw chicken is primed to reach its juiciest potential, it's time to start thinking about crispiness. Despite claims to the contrary, there's more than one way to reach maximum crunch. Many people swear by cornstarch, while others prefer baking powder or even Corn Flakes cereal. 

If you're Sohla El-Waylly, you'll probably turn to a box of corn flakes. In an episode of NYT Cooking's YouTube series "Mystery Menu," Sohla and her husband, Ham, are tasked with making a multi-course meal using the breakfast cereal as the main ingredient. In the planning stage, the pair immediately land on corn-flake-crusted chicken fried in a skillet as the centerpiece of the meal. Come tasting time, the chefs agree that the chicken is a winner. 

"The corn flakes add a really nice light texture," says Sohla, adding that "it's lighter than when you bread [chicken] with flour alone."