Why You Need To Consider Brining Your Fried Chicken In Kimchi

The simplest way to make fried chicken is to coat it in batter and toss it in a pot of oil. Technically speaking, this will yield edible results, but the fried chicken will be seriously lacking in taste and texture. That's because, according to Unilever Food Solutions, brining the meat beforehand is one of the most important steps to making fried chicken. Brining is a process where meat is soaked in a liquid for up to 24 hours. This allows it to remain juicy and flavorful on the inside, as opposed to drying out while it fries.

As Southern Living explains, fried chicken brine is typically made up of either salted water or buttermilk. But some fried chicken recipes call for using pickle juice, and Sunny Anderson even shared on "The Rachael Ray Show" that she uses sweet tea. 

Any of these options will make your fried chicken moist and flavorful, but if you're looking for an option that packs a punch while also maximizing the effects of food science, you may want to try using kimchi.

It works a lot like pickle juice

Pickle juice is effective at brining meat because of its combination of salt, acid (in the form of vinegar), and spices. As Quartz explains, the salt and vinegar cause the protein molecules to uncoil; when this happens, liquid and flavor can be more readily absorbed. The spices stick to the surface of the meat, producing a more savory and caramelized flavor when cooked, thanks to the Maillard reaction.

The same thing happens when you brine chicken in kimchi instead of pickle brine. Per Cooking Light, kimchi juice has the same composition as pickle juice, except the spices are different, and instead of vinegar, the acid is lactic acid that develops during fermentation. The biggest difference is the flavor. Both are tangy because of the acid, but while pickle juice is usually flavored with coriander, peppercorn, dill, and fennel (per Quartz), kimchi gets its taste from garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and Korean chili flakes.

If you want your fried chicken to be infused with more heat and zest, a kimchi brine is the better option.

How to brine your fried chicken in kimchi

Unless you're willing to wait at least five to seven days to let homemade kimchi ferment, it's best to use the store bought kind when brining fried chicken. To make kimchi brine, according to Mike's City Diner (via Food Network), you'll need to puree one cup of kimchi before combining it with double the amount of buttermilk and one egg. Soak the chicken in the resulting mixture overnight.

Keep in mind that kimchi also has cabbage in it. So when you purée kimchi, per Mike's City Diner's instructions, it's similar to blending a jar pickle juice with the actual pickles. 

According to Serious Eats, you could just as easily make the brine with the liquid drained from a jar of kimchi instead. If you'd rather go that route, the ratio is slightly different. You'll need half cup of kimchi juice, one cup of buttermilk, and one egg. After an overnight brine (or at least four hours of soaking), you can batter and fry your chicken as normal. The resulting fried chicken will be perfectly juicy with a delicious kick.