The Ingredient That Will Change Your Fried Chicken Forever

Comfort food is easy to love, isn't it? These dishes feel like a warm hug — from homey meatloaf and buttery mashed potatoes to gooey brownies and chocolate chunk cookies. They often remind us of our childhoods. Of course, the most comforting food of all is fried chicken. In its most perfect of iterations, it's piping hot, juicy, tender, and has a perfectly crisp, well-seasoned, non-greasy crust.

Here's a simple explanation of fried chicken and how to make it: cut a chicken into separate pieces like breast, wing, thigh, and drumstick. Dredge it in flour that's been seasoned, and then cook each piece in scalding-hot oil. If you follow those steps, you're bound to have a great meal — but there's no question that adding some extra steps and ingredients can take your fried chicken game to the next level. One option? Smear some mustard on that bird. 

But frying a chicken is still cooking it — and all cooked chicken is made even better if you brine it first. Use buttermilk, spiced vegetable broth, or even just salty water to infuse your raw chicken with moisture and flavor that will set it apart. Or, if you're feeling really bold, there's yet another ingredient you can use to brine your bird that'll drive your dinner guests wild. So what is it?

It's pickle juice!

If you enjoy the salty, sour tang of pickles and you love fried chicken, listen up. Adding a splash of pickle juice to a fried chicken brine can help infuse the poultry with the same tangy flavor you enjoy. It also helps tenderize the meat. We previously shared burger chef Chris Kronner's recipe for pickle-brined fried chicken, and we love the juicy, crispy-fried bird it turns out.

In the recipe, Kronner makes a brine of equal parts pickle juice and buttermilk, another classic brine ingredient beloved by fried chicken cooks everywhere. As explained by Food & Wine, dill pickle juice, which contains sugar, helps infuse the meat with a subtle sweetness and tanginess. The site's brine recipe also calls for buttermilk, hot sauce, and salt.

Brining your chicken in pickle juice is a win-win because you can serve pickles alongside the finished dish, which will make cutting through the richness and oiliness of the chicken easy. There's a reason why you often find pickle slices on fried chicken sandwiches.