Max Henriquez never tried what he calls “a righteous piece of fried chicken” until he was in college. These days the veteran chef makes a living off his deep-frying skills at Phat Birds, his stand in East L.A. Elbow-deep in fixings, he let us peek into his process.
Step One: Chop It
“We get our chickens fresh from Commodity Sales in Boyle Heights—one to two days from being slaughtered. They come whole, and we break them down into eight pieces: Drumsticks are separated from the thighs; wings, from the breasts. Then we cut out the chicken back to use for making stock.”
Step Two: Brine It
“The chickens go into a brine, which is just salt and water. But we add brown sugar and two secret liquid ingredients. After 14 to 16 hours, we pull ’em out and chill ’em in a walk-in cooler. They’re left uncovered so they can air-dry—get the skin as dry as possible, and you get a crispier skin.”
Step Three: Dredge It
“Two hours before service, we’ll dredge the chicken in all-purpose flour, rice flour, and cornstarch. The cornstarch draws out moisture to create almost a paste on the skin. Then we dredge it one more time right before service. That way you don’t get this coating that’s falling of in the fryer.”
Step Four: Fry It
“In canola oil, the cook time is usually between 12 and 15 minutes—wings cook in about 9. When you take a bite, you should get a nice crunch from the skin, and then the juices from the meat flow into your mouth. I watch people sitting there picking the meat of the bone, and it makes me so happy.”
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