KFC, eat your heart out! Our Fried Chicken Burger is way crispier than yours, the chicken is way juicier and it tastes way better. The trick is to mix a bit of marinade into the flour coating – this creates lumps that fries up into an awesome ultra crunchy crust.
Henry’s Ultra Crispy Fried Chicken Burger
Today’s recipe is here courtesy of a young boy named Henry whom I met at a book signing in the NSW regional town of Mudgee. Huddled on the couch of a cosy local book store, he declared his signature dish to be the RecipeTin Fried Chicken. We enthused over how remarkably un-greasy it is and marvelled at how it’s crunchy all over, unlike KFC which we eeewed about how the skin has greasy soggy patches.
Conversation then moved into how we’d use the Fried Chicken to make the BEST fried chicken burger in the world. (Yes, we capitalise it!). We both agreed plain shredded lettuce was better than coleslaw (too rich!), melted cheese was unnecessary (too much!), tomato was optional. and the bun must be super soft.
So here it is. Dedicated to Henry and the town of Mudgee – I present to you, our very best Ultra Crispy Fried Chicken Burger!
Please observe the nubbly, crunchy, craggy surface on the fried chicken!! 🙌🏻
Here’s what you need for homemade Crispy Chicken Burgers.
Chicken brine keeps it juicy!
I use breast because it’s easier to get a nice uniform shape suitable for burgers. It’s marinated in a buttermilk and salt mixture which locks in juices. Essential because breast will cook beyond the ideal internal temperature in the cook time required to make the crust really crispy and golden.
Don’t worry if you don’t have buttermilk, substitute yogurt and milk instead. It works virtually the same!
Chicken breast is my preference for a relatively uniform shape when trimmed to size. However, boneless chicken thighs work as well. Whichever you use, it’s best to pound to even thickness so it cooks through evenly and sits reasonably straight on the burger.
Buttermilk – Known for its marinating qualities so the chicken is really juicy inside once cooked. It’s the traditional marinating ingredient used for Southern Fried Chicken which is the fried chicken recipe used for this burger.
While it’s a common ingredient in the States, it’s more of a speciality baking item here in Australia. But there’s an easy substitute that works virtually the same – just plain yogurt and milk! The acidity and thickness of yogurt diluted with milk results in almost the same consistency as buttermilk, and yogurt is excellent for marinating (proof here!).
Salt – For seasoning and increase the chicken’s juiciness.
Egg – To make the flour crust stick to the chicken.
KFC 11 secret herbs and spices!
The flavour of the fried chicken is a copycat of KFC fried chicken. Flavour wise, it is very similar!
Herbs and spices – No unusual players here, just all the usual suspects! Adjust the cayenne pepper for the amount of spiciness you want. Simply omit if you don’t want spicy at all!
Cornflour/cornstarch and flour – For the coating of the chicken to make it fry up ultra crunchy! Cornflour makes it crunchier than just using flour. So why not just use all cornflour? Because it doesn’t go golden when fried, it stays white. On the other hand, flour coated things fry up into a beautiful golden colour! So by using a blend of the two, we get the best of both worlds – crunchy and golden colour.
Don’t let anyone tell you what you should or should not have on your burger. Though, if you want a copycat better-than-KFC-Burger experience, here’s what you need!
Soft buns – I use brioche buns because they’re so soft and pillowy, and a little bit sweet like KFC buns. However, you can use any buns you want. (I’d personally avoid ultra chewy / crispy ones though. A little too tough for use in burgers).
Gherkins/pickles – Just your everyday dill pickles, or whatever takes your fancy. Just a little something to cut through the richness and saltiness of everything else going on inside the burger!
Lettuce – Good ole’ iceberg lettuce! Nice and fresh, finely slicing it gives it some decent height and a lovely bed for the crunchy chicken to rest on. 🙂
Garlic mayonnaise – KFC doesn’t use garlic mayo, but you and I know that a touch of garlic just makes mayo better. Turns it into aioli, actually! 🙂
How to make Crunchy Fried Chicken Burgers
It’s easier than traditional Fried Chicken which is made with bone-in chicken that take longer to fry (~6 to 8 minutes) so you need to be quite accurate with temperature control.
Chicken Burgers, on the other hand, are thinner, boneless pieces and take just 3 to 4 minutes to fry. And because of the shape, you don’t need nearly as much oil.
Pound the chicken to 1cm / 0.4″ even thickness. Use freezer bags, ziplock bags or similar (I use a purpose-made product called “Go-Between”) and a meat mallet, or rolling pin. Pounding is recommended so the chicken cooks through evenly and sits a little straighter on the burger. But if you skipped this step, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. 🙂
Trim the chicken to the size of the buns, or larger, if you want! It will shrink a touch when it cooks but the crunchy nubbly bits add size.
Marinade – Mix the buttermilk, salt and egg. Then add the chicken and toss to coat. Marinate for at least 3 hours, or up to 24 hours. Don’t go much beyond 24 hours, it actually over marinades and makes the texture of the chicken too much like the cold cut chicken slices you buy at the deli. Still nice, but it does change the chicken texture.
Crunchy coating – Mix together the flour, cornflour/cornstarch and all the spices.
PS There is no spice mix in the marinade because there is a ton in the coating which is where you want a punch of flavour. If it was in the marinade too, then the whole chicken just tastes the same all the way through. The contrast between chicken flavour inside and intense coating is nicer. KFC tastes like ours ie you can’t taste the seasoning inside the chicken, just on the coating.
Marinade flour clumps – This is the trick to the ultra crunchy chicken! Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the marinade into the flour mixture then use your fingers to mix it in. The flour will form little clumps.
When this sticks to the chicken, it fries up into ultra crunchy nubbly bits. This is what makes this chicken so crunchy! See my Fried Chicken recipe for musings and ravings about this method. Thanks Kenji!
Coat the chicken in the flour mixture just prior to frying. Don’t do this in advance and leave it lying around, the chicken will sweat and make the flour soggy.
Look at all those clumps! Express pass to crunchy town!
Fry in oil for 4 minutes or until golden and crunchy, then drain on paper towels.
Cooking vessel & oil amount – You will need 2.5cm / 1″ of oil in whatever cooking vessel you use, so the chicken is elevated off the base and will fry evenly all the way around. A heavy based pot like a dutch oven is ideal for safety, even distribution of heat and also because it retains heat well.
Oil temp – The oil temperature should be 180C/350F. If you don’t have a thermometer (I use a Thermapen) then test by throwing in a small cube of bread. At 180C/350F it should turn golden in 15 seconds. OR stick a bamboo chopstick in and touch the base of the pot – if bubbles immediately rise from floor of pot, oil is hot enough.
Keeping cooked pieces warm – Because the thin pieces of chicken cook in just 4 minutes, you won’t need an oven to keep the cooked pieces warm. Batch 1 will still be hot when you finish batch 2. However if you are scaling up, keep cooked chicken warm in a 50C/125F pre-heated oven on a rack set over a tray (so the underside doesn’t go soggy).
⚠️ Do not touch the chicken for the first 90 seconds, to give the crust a chance to adhere.
Assembling the chicken burgers
Garlic mayo – Mix the mayonnaise with grated garlic. Do this at least 15 minutes ahead to give the flavours a chance to meld.
Spread the mayo on the lid and base of lightly toasted buns. You can toast in the oven, under a grill or just put the cut face down in a pan on the stove.
Assemble – Pile lettuce on the base, top with tomato if using, then chicken, gherkins then the lid.
Eating time! Sink your teeth into the burgers while hot and crunchy!
Love to know what you think if you try this! Hand on heart, this really is far superior to KFC burgers. I am not one to shy away from going public with Shameful Food I love (oh, I’ve been busted doing midnight kebab runs multiple times!). But KFC burgers is one thing you will never catch me eating!! – Nagi x
PS If you make a side of homemade fries to serve with these burgers, I’ll be impressed. And if you do a full-blown homemade KFC spread by adding Coleslaw plus Potato and Gravy, I’ll be seriously impressed!
Complete your Homemade KFC spread!
Watch how to make it
Ultra Crunchy Fried Chicken Burger
- 2 x 250g/8oz chicken breast (I use this)
- 4 boneless thigh fillets
- 3/4 cup buttermilk (Note 1 for sub)
- 1 1/2 tsp cooking / kosher salt
- 1 large egg
- 4 soft buns , split and lightly toasted (mine are 10cm/4″)
- 2 – 3 cups iceberg lettuce , finely sliced (or other leafy greens of choice)
- 2 tomatoes , sliced (optional, sometimes I do)
- 2 gherkins / dill pickles , sliced on an angle
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise , preferably whole egg
- 3/4 tsp garlic , finely grated (1 clove)
- 3/4 cup flour , plain / all purpose
- 1/4 cup corn flour / cornstarch
Fried chicken seasoning:
- 1/4 tsp celery salt (or heaped 1/8 tsp celery seed)
- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (inc to 1/2 tsp for spicy ZINGER burger!)
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp ginger powder
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp cooking salt / kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 3 cups vegetable oil (or canola or peanut) (2.5cm/1″ depth in cooking vessel)
- Shortform recipe:
- Pound chicken to 1cm / 0.4" thickness, trim, marinade 3 – 24 hrs. Mix coating and seasoning, mix in 2 tbsp marinade. Coat chicken, fry at 180°C/350°F for 4 min (don't touch for first 90 sec). Assemble!
- Full instructions:
- Chicken – Cover the chicken with a freezer bag or plastic sheet and pound to 1cm / 0.4" even thickness. Trim to just a touch larger than the size of your bun. Save off-cuts for another use (stir fry – or Dozer, in my case!).
- Marinade – Whisk Marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add chicken, toss. Marinate in the fridge for 3 hours minimum, to overnight (don't go beyond 24 hrs).
- Garlic mayo – Mix in a small bowl and refrigerate until required.
- Prepare crunchy coating – Mix flour, cornflour and Seasoning ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of the marinade, then use fingers to mix through to form lumps – when this sticks to the chicken, it fries up into awesome crunchy bits!!
- Heat oil in a large heavy based pot over medium high heat to 180°C/350°F (Note 2).
- Coat chicken – Pick up a piece of chicken and allow excess marinade to drip off. Press to coat in flour coating. Shake off excess, then fry for 2 minutes on each side until golden. DO NOT TOUCH for the first 90 seconds to allow the coating to adhere. I fry 2 at a time. Drain on paper towels, cook remaining chicken.
- Assemble – Smear garlic mayo on the top and bottom of the buns. Pile lettuce on the base, top with tomato if using. Then chicken, gherkins and put the lid on. Sink your teeth into it immediately and enjoy!
Life of Dozer
Explanation of his forlorn look: He’s not allowed in the kitchen when I deep fry. So he slunk off outside for a snooze. By the time he woke up and waddled back inside, the burgers were long gone and I was roasting vegetables. Explanation complete.