Fried Chicken > How does fried chicken work

How Does Fried Chicken Work?

Fried chicken is one of the most beloved comfort foods around the world. From American Southern cuisine to Asian street food, there’s something irresistible about the crispy, golden exterior and juicy meat inside. But how exactly does fried chicken get its signature taste and texture? The process involves some interesting chemistry.

What is fried chicken?

Fried chicken refers to chicken pieces that are coated in seasoned flour or batter and then fried in hot oil. The hot oil cooks the meat while also crisping the exterior coating. Fried chicken is especially popular in American Southern cooking but is enjoyed worldwide. Some common cuts used are wings, breasts, thighs and drumsticks. The flouring and frying process gives fried chicken its signature crunchy crust and juicy meat when done right.

How Does Fried Chicken Work? The Coating

The key to fried chicken is the coating. Traditional recipes call for dredging pieces of chicken in flour or a flour-based batter. This coating serves several purposes. First, it helps the chicken develop a crispy outer layer in the hot oil. Flour undergoes a chemical reaction called the Maillard reaction under high heat, which causes browning.

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The sugars and amino acids in the flour react, producing hundreds of complex flavor compounds and aromas. This is why fried foods have such a distinct, appetizing smell and taste. The coating also seals in moisture. As the chicken fries, the hot oil rapidly cooks the batter, turning it into a hardened shell. This crust prevents juices from escaping the meat inside.

Finally, the coating provides a textural contrast. The crunchiness of the fried batter complements the soft, tender chicken interior.

How Does Fried Chicken Work? The Frying Process

Frying is crucial for getting that signature fried chicken profile. Frying involves fully submerging food in hot oil, usually around 350°F. When the chicken hits the hot oil, its moisture starts vigorously turning to steam. This steaming process temporarily prevents oil from penetrating the meat.

Next, the hot oil triggers protein coagulation, stiffening the meat. Meanwhile, the coating quickly browns and crisps. The temperature must be carefully controlled – too low, and the chicken will absorb oil and be greasy. Too high, and the exterior can burn while the interior remains undercooked.

As frying continues, the bubbling gradually slows down as moisture evaporates. Once the bubbles nearly stop, the chicken is done. The interior is fully cooked and juicy while the crust is perfectly crispy.

Why is fried chicken raw inside?

Sometimes, fried chicken ends up cooked on the outside but still raw inside. This happens if the oil is not hot enough or if the chicken is overcrowded. Cooler oil means less moisture evaporates, so the inside does not get hot enough. Crowding also lowers the temperature and prevents the inside from cooking through.

For ideal fried chicken, use an oil thermometer and fry in batches. The temperature should hover around 350°F, ensuring the inside cooks fully by the time the outside is browned and crispy. With the right technique, you can enjoy perfectly fried chicken every time.

The Chemistry Behind The Crunch

Fried chicken owes its iconic taste, aroma, and texture to some fascinating food science. Coatings enrich flavor through the Maillard reaction while also providing crunch. Fast-moving hot oil rapidly transfers heat to seal in juices and cook the meat. Controlling oil temperature prevents underdone chicken. Understanding the processes at work can help anyone achieve professional-quality fried chicken worth savoring.

FAQs
How does frying chicken work?

Frying chicken cooks the meat rapidly in hot oil, usually around 350°F. As the chicken hits the hot oil, its moisture starts vigorously turning to steam, which temporarily prevents oil penetration. Next, the high heat quickly coagulates the chicken’s proteins, firming up the meat. Meanwhile, the coating seals the exterior and browns via the Maillard reaction. Bubbling slows as moisture cooks out. Once bubbling nearly stops, the chicken is fully cooked – juicy inside with a crispy coating.

What is the chemical reaction in fried chicken?

The Maillard reaction produces fried chicken’s signature flavor, aromas, and brown exterior. This chemical reaction occurs between amino acids and sugars in the chicken and coating when subjected to high heat. The reaction produces hundreds of complex compounds and sweet, savory flavors that give the fried chicken its distinct taste.

How does KFC deep fry their chicken?

KFC uses pressure fryers to deep fry chicken at over 400°F under high pressure. This extreme temperature and pressure enable an extra crispy crust. The high heat pressure fries the chicken rapidly and thoroughly for a crunchy exterior and hot, juicy interior. KFC is renowned for their secret original recipe for fried chicken.

What makes fried chicken so crunchy?

The crunchy exterior comes from frying the floured coating in hot oil. As the batter fries, it undergoes the Maillard reaction, producing complex flavors and aromas while also turning golden brown and crispy. The flour coating dehydrates and hardens to form a crunchy crust.

 

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