The Secret To Jacques Pépin's Perfectly Crisp Fried Chicken Breasts

If there's anyone who understands the paradoxically simple universality of "cooking" as a dogma, it's Jacques Pépin. The legendary French chef has been inventing and reinventing the culinary world for decades. When he moved to America in 1959, Pépin's first job was at Midtown Manhattan's Le Pavillon, which is still rocking today. The chef went on to co-host "Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home" alongside Julia Child, win 16 James Beard awards, author 29 cookbooks, and host numerous television shows. It's safe to say Pépin is someone who knows a thing or two about cooking, even when it comes to simple chicken breasts.

In a recipe shared in his 2004 cookbook, "Jacques Pépin: Fast Food My Way," via The Splendid Table, Pépin says he took the inspiration for his crispy chicken from the traditional French preparation of frog legs — no deep frying required. Instead, the chef cooks his chicken in a skillet with minimal fuss and one secret ingredient.

It's no Wondra why it works

The secret to Jacques Pépin's perfectly crisp fried chicken breasts is Wondra Flour. According to Serious Eats, Wondra is a finely-ground, pre-cooked flour that first hit the market in the 1960s. Due to its super fine grain, Wondra doesn't clump in the presence of liquid — it instantly dissolves in either hot or cold water and crisps up when fried. That's why Pépin's perfectly crisped chicken is dredged in a simple combination of Wondra flour, oil, and butter, says Kitchn. Apart from a little parsley, garlic, and lemon juice to finish, these staples are the only ingredients. Gold Medal (Wondra Flour's parent company) lauds the product as "the unsung hero of the kitchen," and it might have a point. As Serious Eats revealed, Julia Child recommended the product, which costs just $4.18 at Walmart, by name in "The Way to Cook" for achieving smooth crepes.

Pépin specifically calls for Wondra flour in his recipe, via The Splendid Table, but relents, "substitute all-purpose if you must." If you don't already have Wondra in your pantry, says The Spruce Eats, you can whip up a quick do-it-yourself substitute by combining two cups of all-purpose flour with one teaspoon of cornstarch and finely sifting the combination twice.