How to Make Really Good Fried Chicken, According to an Expert

Max Henriquez of Phat Birds in East L.A. breaks it down

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

Photo by Dylan + Jeni

“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

Photo by Dylan + Jeni

“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

Photo by Dylan + Jeni

“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 

Photo by Dylan + Jeni

“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.”

RELATED: Where to Find Fried Chicken From All Over the World Right Here in L.A.

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