For Extra Crispy Fried Chicken At Home, Grab The Vodka

With tender juicy meat and a crunchy golden crust, fried chicken is always a treat. Or at least it is when it actually turns out like that. Sometimes the coating can be disappointingly soggy, or thick, heavy, and chewy, turning what should be a pleasure to eat into more of a chore. But if you've got a bottle of vodka lying around, then it might just be the unlikely secret ingredient to change the way you prepare fried chicken in the future.

Vodka works so well when it comes to crisping fried food such as chicken for a number of reasons. One is that its high alcohol content makes it less stable than the water in other liquids commonly used for fried chicken, like buttermilk. As vodka evaporates at a lower temperature than water, it means the spirit evaporates faster when it hits the hot oil, drying the batter more quickly. This means you get bigger bubbles, and a larger surface area, which helps to form a better crust on the meat.

But vodka also has another advantage. It inhibits gluten production in the floury batter of the fried chicken for a thinner, lighter, and much crispier result. And because the alcohol in the vodka reduces the strength of the gluten bonds, the batter also stays lighter for longer, without becoming tougher or heavier as it fries.

Vodka works in a batter or marinade for a crispier crust

The basic process for most fried chicken is pretty simple, either involving a wet batter or marinating the chicken pieces in a liquid such as buttermilk and then dredging them in seasoned flour or another dry coating before frying. And the good news is, you can use vodka for both methods to get a shatteringly crisp crust every time.

Making a batter with vodka is simple. Just mix equal parts of the spirit with cornstarch, flour, and water along with a little salt, and baking powder, which happens to be another underrated ingredient you can't skip for crispy chicken wings. The vodka will thin the batter to create a satisfyingly light and crispy crust, and its subtle taste means it won't impart any unwanted flavors that could detract from your spices or seasonings.

If you prefer not to use a wet batter, but like to marinate your chicken before dredging it, then you can also use vodka in the marinade itself to help get a crispier result. Just add two tablespoons of the clear distilled spirit for each cup of your regular marinade for the best results. Then dredge the marinated chicken pieces in your dry mix before frying them for a crisp coating with no unpleasant chewiness.

You can use vodka to elevate other fried foods, too

Fried chicken is not the only deep-fried delight to benefit from a little vodka. Michelin-starred British chef Heston Blumenthal uses vodka and lager in the batter for his fish and chips, which gives a gloriously golden crispy coating. It could equally be used for other fast food favorites, such as corn dogs.

Or try using the spirit in the batter for your favorite fried vegetable sides or party snacks. From classic onion rings to crunchy fried pickles, vodka can help create the lightest, crispiest crust possible. For a meat-free alternative to fried chicken, you could try making a crispy batter using cornstarch, baking powder, flour, and equal amounts of water and vodka to coat cauliflower florets. They're delicious deep-fried and tossed in a sharp and spicy buffalo sauce or sweet and hot gochujang glaze.

If you've not got any vodka, or you're not a fan, then other spirits such as whiskey or gin could be used instead, but they will add a distinctive flavor to your food; the benefit of vodka is that you won't be able to taste it in the finished batter. So next time you're making fried chicken, grab a bottle of the clear spirit, and not just to make a classic Moscow mule cocktail to drink alongside the food. For the lightest, crispiest batter, try vodka; it's certainly worth a shot.