The secret to perfectly fried chicken is a lot simpler than you’d imagine. These smoky chipotle popcorn chicken bites have a great, crispy crust and deep, smoked flavors to die for.
There are many people out there who claim to be unable to cook. It’s just not in their genes. At least that is what they say. And I can completely commiserate. If you rewind a few years, you’d see me in the kitchen, struggling to make even the simplest of meals. I’m convinced that those who say they are unable to cook just don’t enjoy cooking. Because if you really enjoy something, you do it. And you continue to do it over and over again until you begin excelling at it.
That’s how these little chicken bites came into being. The marinade is something newer, dreamed up due to urgency. But the breading? The perfectly crisp, not overly oily, fried skin? That’s something I’ve been working on for a little while now. When I first started out in the kitchen, fried chicken was simple. An egg wash, a little seasoned breadcrumbs and a lot of oil. It took no time at all but the results were always so sub-par. Now, I fry with the best of them and end up with great chicken each and every time. Here’s why.
– The marinade. This one includes buttermilk and a spicy kick of chipotle peppers and adobo. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you choose to marinate. Just do it. It will keep your chicken moist inside. Buttermilk is always a great choice since it doesn’t impart too much flavor.
– The double dredge. This is the most important trick when it comes to perfect fried chicken. Take your chicken out of the marinade and dredge it through a flour-spice mixture. Shake it off and then dunk it back into the marinade, then through the flour again. It gives the chicken a thick coating which allows for that crunch, that texture you want. Always double dredge.
– The oil. Now, I’ve cooked with oil that was way too hot and oil that was not hot enough. It’s a disaster and messy. Instead, heat your oil over medium to medium high. It should be hot enough to cook the chicken but not so hot that it splatters everywhere as soon as you add something to it. Stick with medium to medium high. And wait until it is fully heated before adding anything.
– Drainage. Grab a stack of paper towels and line your plate. When you take the chicken out, it will be oily. So lay it on the towels and let the excess oil drip off. It will keep your chicken from getting soggy and from having that yucky oil taste.
The length of time you’ll want the chicken in the oil depends largely on the size of your chicken. In this case, with bites, 4 to 5 minutes per side was enough to cook the chicken completely while giving me the coating I wanted. For larger pieces, try a little longer soak time. And feel free to play with both the ingredients in your marinade and in your dredge. I used white whole wheat flour and a healthy heaping of garlic powder, salt and smoked paprika to give it a kick of heat and smoke. Try southwestern flavors, middle Eastern flavors, anything. Be creative!
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup chipotle peppers in adobo
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- oil for frying
- Place the chicken in a zip top bag with the buttermilk and peppers and adobo. Mix it around to combine then refrigerate for at least one hour but up to a day.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade, placing the remaining marinade in a bowl.
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
- Prepare the flour mixture. Combine flour, garlic powder, smoked paprika and salt in a large bowl or on a plate. Mix well to combine.
- Place the chicken pieces in the flour mixture and toss them, ensuring they are well coated. Remove them and place them back into the marinade. Toss to coat.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and toss it back in the flour, dredging it again to completely coat. Place on a plate or in a bowl.
- Heat 1/4 to 1/2 inch canola oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, place half the chicken in the oil. Cook for 5 minutes on one side. Flip and cook on the other side for another five minutes.
- Once completely cooked through, remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken.