Another day, another buzz-generating fried chicken sandwich.
At least that's the current reality here in New York City, where a new roster of deep-fried cutlets on bread have made their way onto the menus of casual joints across town.
So, Team Epicurious hung a "We'll Be Back Soon" sign on the doors of the Test Kitchen and hit the town. Along with food editor Rhoda Boone and assistant food editor Kat Sacks, I tasted this new class of all-star sandwiches. Our journey took us to across the city to Hill Country Chicken, Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken, The Commodore, Fuku, Genuine Superette, and Shake Shack.
Our mission? To synthesize what we liked and didn't like about each version of this new crop of sandwiches into a SuperSandwich, the likes of which has never been conceived before.
After eating dozens of sandwiches—all in the name of thorough research, of course—Kat and I got into the kitchen to start testing out what eventually became our Ultimate Fried Chicken Sandwich.
Here are the keys to fried chicken sandwich greatness:
1. Start with a spicy brine.
Brined bird is one of the hallmarks of great fried chicken—chilling the stuff in seasoned water or buttermilk helps keep the chicken moist through the rigorous frying process ahead of it. We especially liked the quiet tang that buttermilk-brined chicken lent to sandwiches at Hill Country, Genuine Superette, and Shake Shack. And then we had slightly-spicy versions at David Chang's Fuku, where the brine gets mixed with puréed habañero peppers, and the Commodore. We instantly knew our sandwich need to have a little bit of heat.
Spike the buttermilk with hot sauce—we like the vinegar-laced punch of plain old Tabasco sauce, but you can experiment with your favorite. The result is a subtle heat that pervades the chicken after it takes a dip in the deep fryer.
2. Double-dredge for extra crispy cutlets.
The first few times we tested out our fried chicken cutlets, we only dredged them in our flour mixture—it also contains paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, salt, and pepper—once. Big mistake.
Running chicken through the entire dredging process—which also sees cornstarch and egg yolks—twice and chilling it before frying yields the type of crunchy-crisp fried coating that chicken sandwich dreams are made of.
3. Go with a potato roll.
No need to get all DIY and bake your own bread in order to have the perfect sandwich bun. In fact, the platonic ideal is right under your nose—the famous Martin’s potato roll. (Not available where you live? You can order online.) Like the chain’s iconic cheeseburger, The Shake Shack ChickenShack is served on this squishy mound of carbo-loaded happiness, as is David Chang’s Fuku sandwich. Potato rolls provide the right amount of give when held, but without any of the added sweetness of a brioche bun.
4. Butter that roll.
So, you’ve got the perfect bun. Now butter it. Spreading a bit of butter on the split bun and lightly toasting it in a pan before assembling the sandwich ensures a golden brown bun with just the right amount of crisp texture.
Check out more tips for making the best fried chicken sandwich.
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