Zesty za'atar spice adds extra depth to this already spicy and crispy fried chicken.
- 1 whole chicken or 10 pieces bone-in chicken
- 1 quart plus 1 cup water, divided
- 1/2 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 5 cups ice water
- 2 to 3 quarts canola oil
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/3 cup za'atar
1. If you're using a whole chicken, break it down so that the rib bones and first wing joint stay attached to the breast. Cut each breast in half crosswise, leaving you with two drumsticks, two thighs, four breast halves, and two wings. Place all the pieces in an airtight container or zip-top bag.
2. Combine 1 quart water, 1/2 cup salt, and the sugar in a saucepan, and cook over high heat until everything dissolves. Remove from the heat, stir in the ice water, and pour it into the ziplock bag to submerge the chicken. Refrigerate overnight.
3. Pull the chicken out of the brine, and set it on plates or a rimmed sheet to warm up slightly while you heat the oil and prepare the batter.
4. Fill a large heavy-bottomed pot about halfway with canola oil (for a 5-quart Dutch oven you'll want about 2½ quarts). Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot, and bring the oil to 375°F over medium-high heat (the oil's temperature is important not just for cooking but also for safety, so keep an eye on it). Meanwhile, heat the oven to 175°F and line an ovenproof plate or cooling rack with paper towels, to keep the chicken warm as it comes out of the fryer.
5. Make the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, paprika, cayenne, and allspice. Add 1 cup water and thoroughly combine.
6. Use tongs to coat the chicken thoroughly with batter, one piece at a time, and let any excess drip off. Carefully lower it into the oil, making sure you don't overcrowd the pot (I like to cook the dark meat all at once, so it cooks evenly, then do the same with the white meat).
7. Flip each piece after a minute or two-make sure you don't beat up the crust-and periodically check the oil's temperature to make sure it doesn't dip below 350°F; adjust the heat on your stove as needed. Fry the chicken until its skin is a deep, even golden brown and its internal temperature is 160°F. Depending on the size, this will take 10-15 minutes.
8. With your tongs, move the chicken to the prepared plate or rack. Generously sprinkle it all over with the za'atar, roughly 1/2 tablespoon per piece.
9. Let the oil come back up to 350°F, then continue to fry the rest of the chicken. Serve it right away, or keep it warm in the oven until you're ready to eat.