I don’t know what you turn to in times of need—your loved ones, a support group, the Bible—but I know exactly where to go to solve all my problems: the internet!
Here’s a recent dilemma of mine. Lately I’ve been obsessed with achieving a non-fried chicken skin that’s audibly crispy. I want something that shatters between the molars, yet not wafer-brittle and completely rendered out, retaining some subcutaneous fat.
What did the internet tell me is the best method? Hell if I know. There are hundreds of sites that throw out unfounded superlatives—the best chicken skin! Ultimate crispiest! Chicken skin to die for!—that I don’t know where to start.
I’ll bet, though, that most of these methods will produce a chicken skin I’ll be pleased to consume. So while I won’t test through every one of these methods and declare a subjective “best,” let’s at least take a tour through the internet of some of the more intriguing methods. And maybe you’ll be nice enough to share some of your strategies below.
Perhaps no one has more authority than Serious Eats’ J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. His methods are based in science and rigorous testing, so his word weighs more than most. Lopez-Alt’s suggestion is to combine baking powder (not baking soda) and salt, then rub evenly onto chicken skin. It’s all about adjusting the pH levels and creating carbon dioxide gas bubbles and... well, I trust the man knows what he’s talking about.
Next, we turn to the Denver Post, which offers up a method that I’ve used with success. It’s a two-parter: First you let the whole chicken sit uncovered in the fridge overnight to help dry the bird. Then you apply a generous layer of soft butter on the skin before roasting. The one thing this video doesn’t suggest is salting the chicken the night before, which helps draw out some of the moisture (and if it seasons long enough, reabsorbs into the meat). Anyway, the chicken in that video looks pretty good too.
Now we turn to a Chinese method of roasting chicken. This method also involves letting the chicken dry in the fridge (or in front of an air-conditioner!), before marinating with a mixture that includes honey. Adding honey to skin will for sure caramelize the exterior and make the skin glossy and crisp, so I’m in favor. But the cook here does one more thing: He separates the skin from the meat before roasting. I don’t suggest using a chef’s knife as he does; I’ve found a wooden spoon works perfectly, as it won’t tear through the skin as easily.
And then there’s a fascinating method from Alton Brown—you should read our interview with him today!—in which he suggests cooking chicken wings twice: First by steaming, which renders out the fat without overcooking the meat, cooled and dried in the fridge, and finally roasted in the oven at a high temperature. Brown’s method is about reducing skin moisture, which will promote crispiness.
So many ways to crisp a bird, and only one mouth.