Fried chicken acquires its distinctive crunchy from the interaction between flour and hot cooking fat. This fortunate kitchen chemistry forms a crusty layer around the meat, keeping juices inside so that your chicken stays tender and moist. Using a baking mix instead of plain flour produces results that some claim are even crisper than those obtained with flour alone. Baking mix adapts to the three most commonly used chicken frying techniques.
Baking Mix Vs. Plain Flour
In addition to flour, baking mix ordinarily contains partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening, a leavening agent such as baking powder, and small amounts of salt and dextrose sweetener. Formulated for use in biscuits, quick breads, pancakes and other baked goods, baking mix requires the addition of only milk, water and sometimes eggs to produce a viable dough or batter. Recipes with a distinctly sweet taste, like banana bread, require additional sugar, but some cooks can detect a sweetness in the unaltered mix that distinguishes it from plain flour. If so, you may wish to make slight increases in salty or pungent seasonings to duplicate the taste of your traditional fried chicken. In some recipes, cooks may prefer to avoid partially hydrogenated fats and the calories they add to a recipe, but these are likely minor considerations when making fried chicken.
For some cooks, frying chicken involves dipping pieces in a seasoned flour mixture, brushing off excess and pan-frying. Baking mix can be seasoned and used this way easily. As with simple flour dredging, marinating the pieces briefly in buttermilk, fruit juice or seasoned vinegar adds flavor and can improve the adhesion of a dredging mixture of any kind. In this and other frying methods, some cooks worry that using a leavened mixture will produce puffy coating. While there may be slight puffing, cooking is quick and hot enough that the leaven acts only briefly and the interaction between fat in the pan and fat in the baking mix predominates, increasing crispness over plain flour and fat.
Especially when frying skinless, boneless chicken pieces, you may prefer a three-stage coating procedure before cooking. The standard procedure is to dip the chicken in plain flour, egg and then a seasoned flour mixture, allowed to rest for the coating to set, then fried. You can use baking mix for both flour-based dredges or just for the seasoned outer coating, as you prefer.
For batter frying, also used most frequently with skinless, boneless chicken pieces, flour, the seasonings and eggs are mixed together. You would then coat the chicken with the batter and deep-fry. Baking mix is an asset when batter-frying; the leaven it contains is activated by liquid in the eggs and slightly increases the lightness of the batter. To make batter-frying most successful, the chicken pieces should be close to room temperature rather than cold, and you should allow the battered pieces to rest briefly to stabilize the coating before frying. The oil temperature should be correct and consistent.
Oven frying may not be regarded as "real" frying, but for busy homemakers it still produces real dinner. Whether you cook chicken pieces with or without skin, dredging distributes the shortening contained the in baking mix evenly over the entire surface of the chicken. You may prefer baking mix to plain flour if you struggle with how much oil to drizzle over the floured chicken surface or consistently find white floury spots when baking is done.
Janet Beal has written for various websites, covering a variety of topics, including gardening, home, child development and cultural issues. Her work has appeared on early childhood education and consumer education websites. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Harvard University and a Master of Science in early childhood education from the College of New Rochelle.