Self-Rising Flour Is The Key Ingredient To The Crispiest Fried Chicken

When most folks think of fried chicken, it's usually accompanied by the word "Southern." That's why it pays to take a few tips from Southern cooks. While some are willing to share all and others cite their mama's fury at the thought of giving away family secrets, there's one thing that most are willing to admit: The key ingredient for the crispiest fried chicken isn't necessarily technique alone. It's in a crucial ingredient, the flour. Don't expect the secret to be anything fancy like almond, spelt, chickpea, buckwheat, or tapioca flour. Rarely will it involve the dense texture of whole wheat flour. It's a step up from all-purpose white, transformed by a couple of extra ingredients. That fried chicken secret would be self-rising flour.   

Self-rising is available in major supermarkets, albeit with less dedicated shelf space and fewer buyers — unless you're in the American South. It's a Southern pantry staple, and countless recipes from country cooks to renowned city chefs call for self-rising flour, including the begrudgingly shared fried chicken recipes. 

What makes self-rising flour key for crispy fried chicken

It's really quite simple why the crispiest fried chicken involves self-rising flour. The two transformative ingredients, which essentially get added to white all-purpose flour, are baking powder and salt. As a leavening agent, the baking powder acts the same way it does in baked goods such as cakes, biscuits, and cobblers — it makes the batter on the chicken rise evenly, resulting in extra texture and crispiness when it fries in hot oil.

If you don't have access to self-rising flour or don't want to buy the typically large bag it comes in, no worries. It's easy to convert old-fashioned, all-purpose flour into the self-rising kind. Simply use the same ingredients as the pre-packaged commercial brands. A basic conversion is achieved by adding 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder and one-half teaspoon of ordinary table salt to one cup of all-purpose flour.

Another don't-tell-mama secret to super-crispy fried chicken is to use that self-rising flour twice. After dipping the chicken in the flour, fry in hot oil as usual using medium-low heat. When the chicken is just about done, remove the chicken from the pan. Let it sit for about 10 minutes or so, and then dip each piece in a fresh round of self-rising flour. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and drop the pieces back into the hot oil for a couple of minutes. You'll get a double layer of extra-crisp fried chicken that crunches with every down-home-goodness bite.