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Food for Thought: Crispiest Chicken Skin Ever

N. Leson
Nancy's spicy chicken thighs from Ruth Reichl's Gourmet Today cookbook

In this week's "Food for Thought," Nancy Leson and I share a couple of recipes we love for shatteringly crisp chicken skin and neither calls for a deep fry.

In my case, it's a recipe for braised chicken thighs.  Sure, it sounds counter-intuitive.  How could a moist heat process ever produce crispy skin?  The secret is keeping the skin above the moist.  The recipe is from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at and the bonus is bacon.

One of Nancy's long-term crispy faves is spicy chicken from Ruth Reichl's "Gourmet Today" cookbook.  Hint: She always uses thighs and she doubles the spices. 

No full discussion of crispy chicken skin can avoid its deep fry destiny.  I love fried wings.   My problem has always been that of perfectly brown and crispy skin concealing undercooked meat.  Even using a thermometer to monitor oil temp I can never seem to get that coordinated, so I came up with a work around. 

I marinate the wings, press them into a mixture of water chestnut powder and cornstarch, then steam them on an oiled plate until they are cooked through.   The steamed water chestnut powder will give the wings a gelatinous surface that fries up extra crisp.  And no worries about underdone meat.  You can get the powder at any Asian market.

In closing, let us give thanks that the restaurant "I-double-dog-dare-ya" fashion for rare poultry has passed, and for these "Six Reasons Why Chicken Skin is Good for You."

"Keep it crispy"  – Pete Holmes

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.