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Sep 9, 2011 07:51 AM

"Double brining" your bird when making fried chicken?

How many of you brine chicken in a traditional brine (be it salt water with or without aromatics), and then also brine or soak the chicken thereafter in buttermilk?

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  1. I don't brine mine at all, but I am fascinated by all the recent fuss over fried chicken! All this multiple brining and coating in special mixtures. Maybe it's because I grew up with a grandmother and mother who both turned out great fried chicken with no fuss. Just dip in flour and S&P, drop in a skillet of Crisco, turn once. Crunchy, juicy, and delicious! I rarely make it any more, but the only change I've made is to canola oil instead of Crisco.

    5 Replies
    1. re: arashall

      Very complicated/multiple brines do seem to be the rage right now but I've come to the conclusion that they are overkill, but that's just my taste.

      1. re: arashall

        Got to be one of the very best post/comments I've seen about fried chicken on CH ~~~~ Wish I knew where all the faddish "Rocket Science" came from....Oh well, thanks for the breath of fresh... Common Sense......

        1. re: Uncle Bob

          But doesn't brining add saltiness / flavor the actual meat? I don't know the science of whether brining actually works ( i assume it does), but whenever i bite into fried chicken breast that has tasteless meat (even if the outershell is crunchy and delicious), I can't help but think the brining would have helped.

          1. re: FattyDumplin

            More salt always = more flavor. In my over 50 we've-got-hi-bloodpressure home we say bad new good news. And bringing does work, but it can't really "create" flavor. Just my experience, free range and organic chickens always have MORE flavor.

            1. re: samthechef

              does the meat also pick up whatever aromatics are in the brine?

      2. Couple of interesting discussions on this right now... one on doing KFC Extra Crispy at home and another on why someone's chicken came out too dark. Both discuss brining with and without buttermilk. Scroll down on this page or the next and you should find them.

        1. I typically do one or the other. I use a buttermilk marinade more often than a brine. When I brine, it's usually to try out a recipe like the Keller fried chicken. If I'm just winging it because I want some fried chicken, I use a buttermilk marinade.

          I'm not sure what the end result would be if you brined and then marinaded overnight in buttermilk. Have you tried this Ips?

          I know you can brine and then use a quick buttermilk wash as a part of the dredge with good results though.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cowboyardee

            This made me wonder about marinades and buttermilk. I found this article by Shirley Corriher, which I thought was very informative. It also explained why, as said repeatedly on The Next Iron Chef, the pineapple/pork mix doesn't work.


            1. re: cowboyardee

              No I have not tried it ... yet.

              I forget which show I was watching, but the chef raved that this is how to make the best fried chicken.

              Who would've thunk it.

            2. I'm a failure when it comes to making a good fried chicken but I try--both brining and then soak in buttermilk, as in Ad Hoc, or just soaking in buttermilk as part of coating and frying. Don't both have different purposes--the brine keeps it moist and adds flavor and the buttermilk tenderizes it?

              25 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                Ideally, yes. But as we discuss in the threads above (they appear below as well) the dairy also adds a browning component, for better or worse. It needs to be accounted for in temperature and cooking time, and can be controlled by rinsing or dripping off most of the dairy before breading, and also by how thick the breading is.

                As Corriher notes in the article you linked to, acids don't tenderize very well, so I think this notion of buttermilk tenderizing chicken is probably mostly the placebo effect, exacerbated by the fact that tart flavors make us salivate, which tend to make things seem more tender. And to be honest today's chickens don't really need tenderizing -- I haven't run across a tough chicken in 30 years, even in the large Roaster category.

                There's also this idea about letting the chicken sit for a while after breading, which results in the coating getting moist and sticky before frying. Some people say this helps the coating stick better; I've found the opposite to be true but some people swear by it. But if the milk sugars migrate through to the surface of the breading, rather than being sealed beneath it, your chicken will get browner faster.

                You may or may not be a fan of KFC -- it is admittedly unChowish -- but if you like an even crisp golden crust with moist, juicy meat, and not the deep mahogany crust with dark bits of a pan-fried chicken, give the KFC thread (linked both below and above) a look and try that technique. You may be pleasantly surprised.

                1. re: acgold7

                  as much as i like the idea of free-range birds, they can easily be perceived as tough since the flesh is muscular, and not flaccid like their industrially-farmed cousins.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    So let me see if I understand this. All those silly foodie city folk will willingly pay three times as much for a tough rubbery so-called "free-range" bird... and then go through all these gyrations to try to make it tender... when they could have just bought a tender one in the first place?

                    1. re: acgold7

                      not sure why you are disparaging city folks. plenty of peeps in the hinterlands eat their own chickens too. in a bid to support our new and local farmers' market my b/f recently paid over $25 for a free-range, antibiotic-free-yada-yada bird. i scoured on-line the best way to cook it. there seemed little consensus, so i did a slow cook roast, letting rest to come to "done" temp
                      1. the bird was tiny. after 2 of us had dinner there were only a few shreds left over, and i am not a big eater.

                      2. neither of us cared for the texture and the flavor was not that much greater than a bell & evans bird.

                      frankly, i thought the price was highway robbery. if the birds are foraging and you're not doping them up, they're practically free to raise, ya know?

                      never again.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        "not sure why you are disparaging city folks"
                        is in direct opposition to
                        "plenty of peeps in the hinterlands eat their own chickens too," because if you read what I wrote I was mocking them for radically overpaying for an inferior product that someone else raised when a better, cheaper product was easily available. So the second statement can't be used as support for the first.

                        Eating the chickens you raised in the country is the opposite of radically overpaying for chickens someone else raised that aren't any better. I mock cityfolk (and I are one; I'm an NYC/LA expat) because this silly romantic notion of paying three times as much (sorry -- in your case it appears to be TEN times as much) for a worse product seems to be unique to the urban foodie zeitgeist.

                        But your experience is exactly what I'm talking about and we are, overall, on the same page.

                        I used to waste my money on all this nonsense and I am now convinced this is a case of the Emperor's New Clothes.

                        1. re: acgold7

                          off-topic, i guess, but the tangential seemingly will be allowed here...

                          "inferior"; "better", "cheaper" are not good bedfellows here. the free-range local bird was small, expensive and not all that for flavor, while a perdue bird can be had at about $1 a pound, but the birds are raised in abysmal conditions, and would die from their diet/drug regimen (amy winehouse farming) if not slaughtered ahead of their natural demise.

                          i am adamantly opposed to factory farming and utterly grossed out that every single commercial animal sold as food is mostly corn & soy wearing a meat dress.

                          even though the economy has me by the 'nads, i would be willing to pay more for healthier, humane foods, and to cut corners elsewhere to support local farmers. except they seem willing to utterly pillage me.

                          what's a noodle to do?

                          $30 chickens and $7 cartons of eggs are a con job. i'll eat grass-fed lamb and game birds instead.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            We certainly agree about whether these prices make sense for what you get, it appears. The adjectives you listed are completely appropriate and accurate from a culinary and economic point of view and that's all I was talking about.

                            Clearly we disagree on all that other stuff and you're absolutely entitled to your opinion on this, even though I can find no moral, factual or scientific basis to back up any of it.

                            "would die from their diet/drug regimen (amy winehouse farming) if not slaughtered ahead of their natural demise" and "every single commercial animal sold as food is mostly corn & soy wearing a meat dress" make for cute sound bites but are utterly unsupported by fact. These things are pillows-in-waiting with the intellectual capability of a soap dish. They wouldn't even exist if they weren't destined for our dinner plates. And they stink. And they peck at you.

                            But they are delicious at .79 a pound.

                            1. re: acgold7

                              I stand somewhere between you two (and I'm in the mostly commercial meat business). Here's how to end the debate. Make indentical recipes at the same time. Then make your decisions. When I grilled organic grass fed beef next to a corn fattened prime NY strip steak (I sell both)the flavor of the agri-biz steak was so much better I was in shock. When I scrambled range and cage eggs i found virtually no difference. But a yard raised chicken was profoundly better than a Foster' Farms fryer. My point? We eat meat because it tastes good, period. Otherwise I'll just live on lentils and brown rice.

                            2. re: hotoynoodle

                              YOU are funny. i hope you write for a living because otherwise, the public is really missing out.

                  2. re: chowser

                    i've had great success with the ad hoc version. guests proclaiming best fried chicken EVAH. but it's such a bother, honestly, and frying chicken is such a mess i don't know that i'll ever bother again. leaving the chicken, uncovered, to dry in the fridge at least 24 hours gives excellent, no-muss-or-fuss results for crispy skin.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      I do like the results of the ad hoc best. But, since I rarely deep fry, it's always a challenging experience for me and by the time I'm finished, I'm exhausted and the place a mess (although it is somewhat comforting to know someone w/ your background also deals with that). And, for days I'm cleaning oil off of surfaces all around the kitchen. I don't care enough for deep fried foods to spend the time to learn to do it right but once in a while I experiment.

                      When you leave the chicken uncovered, do you bake it or fry it? That's how I do roast chicken and love the crispy skin. But, I've never tried frying it.

                      1. re: chowser

                        the clean-up kills me too. commercial kitchens with deep fryers have those hoods for a reason! lol.

                        i dry chill, season with salt pepper and dried thyme, then bake at 425. i'm sure it would be great for frying too, but my last ad hoc at home chicken was 2 years ago and i haven't fried any since!

                        btw, when i do deep fry anything, i use a deep pot. this at least simulates a fry-o-later environment and there indeed is less spatter. mostly all i fry now is potatoes, (for which i use the cold-oil technique) and occasionally shrimp.

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            my mother had one of these. oil still spits and it's an additional utensil to clean. my deep pot trick is more satisfactory. i never fry in skillets anymore.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              Some mesh screens are finer than others and some use 2 layers of mesh. Could be that your mom's splatter guard just wasn't fine enough. Even the good ones aren't perfect, but they seem to stop over 90% of the splatter (I made that figure up, but you get my point).

                              Not that I have anything against a deeper pot, btw.

                          2. re: hotoynoodle

                            That's the idea of the Zuni roast chicken, too, and it's the only way I'll roast chicken now. I have to plan ahead but it's well worth it.

                            The deeper pan would help w/ frying. I usually use a cast iron pan--because the best fried chicken I've ever had was my friend's mothers and she used one but I've never gotten close to her results.

                      2. re: chowser

                        .... both brining and then soak in buttermilk, as in Ad Hoc, or just soaking in buttermilk as part of coating and frying. Don't both have different purposes--the brine keeps it moist and adds flavor and the buttermilk tenderizes it?

                        I was definitely referring to an "Ad Hoc - esque" type of process.

                        But where Ad Hoc is simply brining and then using buttermilk for dipping and coating the batter, I'm talking about marinading in buttermilk for an extended period of time (e.g. 1-2 hours or so).

                        So essentially it's a double brine -- first with salt water, and then with buttermilk.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          In the link I posted above Shirley Corriher talks about marinating chicken in buttermilk only for a few hours and how it would work because the meat is firmer than, say, fish. If you want to double marinate, the first marinade is mostly for aromatics so why not add those to the buttermilk and let it sit for a few hours and eliminate a step? If you try it, let us know how it works. I'm curious.

                          1. re: chowser

                            from paula wolfert, i got a technique of soaking in yogurt and LOTS of lemon juice. i do add aromatics.

                            she recommends to not soak over 4 hours, since all that acid will start to break down the meat.

                            that stuff comes out krazee delicious and can be relatively spur of the moment, vs. days of soaking and switching in/out other liquids.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Strictly speaking, the brine isn't really for the aromatics. The idea is that the salt solution deforms some of the proteins in meat, draws water (and salt) into the meat, and traps it there. The end result is juicier meat.

                              People put aromatics in a brine because... why not. But infusing with aromatics is more an added benefit than it is the main reason to brine.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Would you get the same result from salting the buttermilk?

                                1. re: chowser

                                  The truth is I'm not sure. The science behind brining relies on the meat's cells containing more solutes than the brining solution, which helps pull water into the the cell via osmosis after salt from the brine diffuses through the cell membrane. I suspect that buttermilk might have too many dissolved solutes itself for this step to take place effectively. Also, the tenderizing effect of the buttermilk may prevent the meat from forming a 'web' of denatured proteins so as to keep moisture inside the meat. But I'm speculating.

                                  I know that if you add salt to a buttermilk marinade, you'll get tender chicken. But I'm not sure that there's any added tenderness or juiciness beyond what you'll get from a standard buttermilk marinade.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    I wonder if you did a dry rub of salt mix instead for a day and then the wet buttermilk soak if that would get the best of both worlds. Or, would the less salty buttermilk draw the salt out of the meat because of the lower salinity.

                                  2. re: chowser

                                    >>>Would you get the same result from salting the buttermilk?<<<

                                    Cook's Illustrated says yes.

                                2. re: chowser

                                  This is along the lines of what I mean. It sounds worth trying. Aromatics and buttermilk at the same time.


                                  Or, doing the dry rub first and then letting it marinade in the buttermilk:


                            2. Tenderness shouldn't really be an issue with chicken at this size (3-4 pounds), free range or otherwise. Brining does bring other benefits to the table, though. First off, since cooking times are reduced you get more food for your $, you'll use less gas or electricty and your oil will last longer. Better yield, shorter cooking time. Beware the additional spatter since you've added more moisture into the bird. I find home cooks fry at too high a temperature. Most still insist on transfering cooked fried foods to paper towels (where they steam and sit in their own grease) rather than baking/cooling racks. Big difference. Clean your oil when its hot and it'll last longer.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: samthechef

                                'Tenderness shouldn't really be an issue with chicken at this size (3-4 pounds), free range or otherwise'
                                I'd agree that small chickens don't tend to have 'tough' meat,
                                But brining isn't so much about tenderness as it is about juiciness. Which isn't really the same thing. Lets face it - white meat that's actually cooked to 165 (which generally raises the maximum internal temp to 175 or so after resting) isn't tough so much as it is a little dry and mealy. Heck, even white meat cooked to 150 is a little dryer than my ideal (try cooking chicken breast to 138 sous vide, and it's hard to go back to traditional methods). Brining combats this effect by forcing the meat to retain more liquid.

                                Buttermilk on the other hand can tenderize meat to an extent, but I'm of the opinion that the best reason to use it in a marinade for fried chicken is just because it adds a nice flavor.