CHICK-FIL-A CHICKEN SANDWICH

Pickle juice, huh? I think not. While researching this recipe I came across several unusual formulas on the Internet that claim the secret to the great taste of the chicken fillet in this sandwich comes from marinating it in pickle juice. I can only guess that this odd hack originated when someone sampled the fillet removed from a sandwich and detected the distinct taste of pickles, most likely because there are pickles stacked on the sandwich directly under the chicken so the pickle flavor had transferred to the fillet. But we don’t need to do any guesswork to disqualify the ingredient. This widespread pickle juice theory is easily debunked by simply checking out the list of ingredients posted on the Chick-fil-A website. Not a speck of pickle juice in there, nor any other unusual ingredients. I did discover that marinating the chicken before breading is a big part of the secret to its flavor and juiciness. In this case, though, we’ll just be using a common brine containing salt, sugar, and MSG, a natural flavor enhancer.

I first cloned this signature sandwich from the growing chain way back in the ‘90s, but over the years I have learned new secrets for making fantastic fried chicken fillets that look and taste exactly like those you’ll find at the famous food chains. In addition to the 2-hour brining process, another big change to this recipe includes adding baking powder to the breading to make it perfectly crispy and a beautiful golden brown color. Thanks to these changes and a few other tweaks, this is probably the best chicken breading secret formula that I have come up with, and it makes a far better clone for this famous chicken sandwich than any recipe you will find—with or without pickle juice.

BRINE
4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons MSG (such as Accent seasoning)
2 cups water
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon white pepper

4 small skinless chicken breast fillets or 2 large skinless chicken breast fillets
4 to 8 cups peanut oil
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup milk

BREADING
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon MSG
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder

¼ cup margarine, melted
4 plain white hamburger buns
8 dill pickle hamburger slices


Cooking method

1-Make the brine for the chicken by dissolving the salt, sugar, and MSG in the water in a medium bowl. Add the other ingredients.

2-If using large chicken breasts, slice them in half. Cover the chicken breast fillets with plastic wrap and pound them to between ¼ inch and ½ inch thick using a kitchen mallet, then place them into the bowl of brine and marinate for 2 hours in your refrigerator.

3-When the chicken has “brinerated” for 2 hours, remove it from the brine and rinse off each fillet. Blot them dry with paper towels.

4-Preheat the oil in a deep fryer or a large saucepan (the oil should be at least 3 to 4 inches deep) to 325 degrees F.

5-Combine the beaten egg with the milk in a medium bowl. Combine all of the breading ingredients in a shallow bowl or pie pan.

6-Bread each chicken fillet by first adding a light coating of the dry ingredients. Submerge the fillet into the egg/milk mixture, let some of the liquid drip off, then place it back into the dry blend. Gently coat the fillet with the egg/milk one more time, then bring it back over to the dry stuff for a final breading. Let the fillets sit for a bit in the dry ingredients so that the breading sticks to the chicken. Arrange all of the coated fillets on a small baking sheet or a plate and let them sit for 5 minutes before frying so that the breading sticks to the chicken.

7-
Gently drop each fillet (if your fryer is big enough you can cook two at a time) into the hot oil and fry for 5 to 7 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown. Drain the fillets on a plate lined with paper towels.

8-
As the fillets are frying, preheat a skillet over medium heat. Brush a little of the melted margarine on the faces of the hamburger buns and place them face-down in the hot pan until light brown.

9-Build each sandwich by placing two pickle slices on the face of the heel (bottom bun). Place a chicken fillet on top of the pickles and then top off the sandwich with the crown (top bun).

In 2012 KFC closed 77 units and Chick-fil-A opened 77 units. That made Chick-fil- A the No. 1 highest-grossing chicken chain in the U.S. for the first time ever, according to QSR Magazine.
MSG is monosodium glutamate, an amino salt. It can usually be found where herbs and spices are stocked in your market. Accent Flavor Enhancer is one popular brand.

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