You eat it with your hands. It’s probably going to be super moist on the inside and the shattering golden crust you bite into will probably give you the feels, but none of that’s happening if the fried chicken is arriving in a warm-ish doggybag from the local KFC. Time to take matters into your own hands.
From dreaming about chicken lollipop rain showers to forking Chinese-style fried chicken over beers, we’re all connoisseurs when it comes to chicken, and can definitely tell a hot juicy hunk from a weak one. Don’t ruin fried chicken Sundays for you and your family with under-seasoned, limp excuses for a chicken burger; Instead, get down with this gorgeous hellfire stack of spicy fried chicken, flavoured butter, an intense hot mayo, slaw and greens as an afterthought.
We set out to make a fried chicken burger that was a real game-changer; something that would make you scoff every time a QSR burger ad was on the telly. Think of this as vengeance for being served limp cabbage and a negligible smear of mayonnaise between buns on days when we could have really used that extra bit of comfort. If fried chicken is not comfort food, we don’t know what is. Also, non-vegetarians who don’t describe crispy chicken skin as a religious experience- who ruined you?
1. Thighs For Days
To begin, the cut of chicken you choose will make or break your burger. Opt for boneless thigh pieces instead of breasts- that’s where the real pockets of flavour are. They don’t dry up as easily as breasts and holds up to the brining and the cooking process. You want your chicken to really stand up to the rest of the condiments- it’s got to be big, bold, and overshadow everything else. It’s not a patty, so don’t treat it like one.
2. You Always Have Time To Brine
Next up, brining. If there’s one way to really get your meat to absorb flavour and retain a juicy plumpness, it’s with brining. The chicken increases in weight during bringing and retains some of this water during the cooking process, which means that it doesn’t dry out so much. We used a 1/4 cup jalapeño brine that came out of a bottle of pickled jalapeños, together with grated ginger, chopped onions, sugar, salt and pepper. The chicken rested in the brine for 4 hours, but up to 6 hours is good too. Any more time and the texture of the chicken will change because the flavoured brine can change the texture of the bird if left overnight. Don’t overbrine because it’s white meat. It’s a cut fillet so the absorption of flavour is faster and the proteins aren’t as tough as with red meat.
A more advanced way of retaining moisture in a bird is by dry-brining it. This method does not rob the bird of some of its more chicken-y flavours and there is a more intense concentration in every bite. Dry brining involves combining half a cup of coarse salt and two tablespoons of baking powder. Rub this mixture together with your fingers or using a whisk, and sprinkle this mixture over your chicken (you may not need to use it all). Leave this to refrigerate for 12 hours or overnight. Since we were short on time and ravenously craving chicken, we went with the wet brine.
3. Let It Soak In Like Seasoning
The brined chicken is patted dry after the brining process and then takes a tumble in corn flour that has been seasoned with ground black pepper and is left to sit on a rack for five minutes, to shake off any excess.
4. Who You Gonna Call? Ghost Chilli
You want to brace yourself for this next bit- our spicy batter that the flour-rolled chicken will be dipped into has bhut jolokia in it! For two good sized thighs, in a big bowl, mix together 1/8 cup flour, a tablespoon of breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon each of hot paprika, white pepper, garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt, a pinch of baking soda, a tablespoon of bhut jolokia sauce that comes out of a bottle, a teaspoon of rice vinegar and 1/8 cup cup ice-cold water. Whisk this together and dip the chicken in it till it has been covered on all sides.
5. Drop It When It’s Hot
When the oil is hot enough to deep-fry, take a pair of tongs and lower the chicken into the hot oil, but don’t let go of the chicken just yet. Let a skin form around the chicken thigh and then gently release it. The chicken should be a crispy golden-brown. Season with some cracked pepper, if need be.
6. And The Award For Supporting Condiment Goes To…
We served the fried chicken over a simple slaw of diced pineapple, tossed together with sweet chilli sauce and a mix of peppery greens such as arugula, but you can definitely opt for iceberg lettuce as this should tone down the spice in the burger. Swirl a teaspoon of bhut jolokia into two tablespoons of mayonnaise and spoon this over the chicken when assembling the burger.
7. The Secret Ingredient Is Umami
For the burger buns, you want to go for brioche- the softest you can find. We slathered the buns with miso butter (a tablespoon of miso for every two tablespoons of butter) and got it nice and hot on a griddle pan. The toasty caramel notes that the bread takes on makes it a sublime cover for the chicken fillet.
You want to serve this immediately because no one should suffer a cold chicken burger. We recommend a long nap later.