Hacking Chicken: The Tasty Science of a Secret Ingredient

Hacking Chicken: The Tasty Science of a Secret Ingredient

Living and working in the remote woods has many benefits. But we do miss a couple of things about city life – chief among them dialling up some delivery for dinner after a long day. Not even the thickest-crust pizza would last the schlep to DFC headquarters – but, according to chef Eric Huang, some fried chicken from his pop-up Pecking House in Queens, New York, might!

That’s because Huang has innovated hard in the face of the pandemic, and the subsequent rush on all kinds of takeout – even foods that traditionally can’t withstand a bouncy trip inside a box or bag. Huang’s wheelhouse is one such vittle, fried chicken, which, thanks to a scientifically solid secret ingredient, has turned itself into a hot carryout commodity instead of a sad soggy puddle of oily fowl.

“Huang found his solution in EverCrisp—a modified wheat dextrin (a type of starch found in wheat) from the food science products emporium Modernist Pantry. In most fried foods, as the protein releases its moisture after being fried, the gluten in the flour absorbs it, eventually causing the crust to become soggy. Wheat dextrin, on the other hand, retains less oil. Also, in the manufacturing process for EverCrisp, the gluten is removed. […]
Huang theorizes that this process results in a crust that better sticks to the chicken, by hydrating the flour and therefore creating a ‘uniform, durable substrate for dry starches to adhere to when fried,’ he says. […]
When he was developing his fried chicken, he ordered some EverCrisp and tested out replacing 20 percent of the flour in his dredging mixture with EverCrisp. The results spoke for themselves. ‘People pick it up in Queens and drive it to Connecticut, and it is still crispy,’ Huang says of his fried chicken.”

While Huang’s chicken could hypothetically survive the voyage to our dining room as easily as Connecticut, the waitlist for this golden bird is a staggering eight weeks long. Good for them! Though I might be better off snagging some magical EverCrisp myself and getting resident food scientist David cooking (literally) on a homegrown version… We’ll let you know if DFC opens a pop-up any time soon!