For the Crispiest Chicken (and Turkey) Skin, Grab the Baking Powder

Add baking salt to your dry-brine for the crispiest, juiciest turkey and chicken.

A top-down tablescape of a roasted turkey with crisp skin on a wooden cutting board, surrounded by utensils and fall-themed props.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Over the years, our recipe development team has spent a lot of time tackling the best ways to cook poultry. Want the fastest and most evenly cooked whole bird? Spatchcock that baby. Looking for the juiciest, most tender boneless, skinless grilled breasts? We've got a technique for that, too. Not sure whether brining your turkey is worth the fuss? Here's everything you need to know. What's that? You want to get into the sous vide chicken game? Look no further than our complete guide.

But of all the handy tips and methods I've learned over my years at Serious Eats, there's one poultry-related trick that I turn to more than any other. In fact, I use it literally every single time I cook skin-on chicken, turkey, duck, or goose. That trick is a sprinkling of baking powder, and it'll get you the crispiest, crackliest bites of fatty, salty skin imaginable, whether you're cooking just one thigh, a plate of wings, or an entire bird.

Baking powder, it turns out, is good for quite a lot more than baking. The slightly alkaline mixture raises the skin's pH levels, which allows proteins to break down more efficiently, giving you crisper, more evenly browned results.* Simultaneously, it combines with the bird's natural juices, forming carbon dioxide gas that leaves you with a layer of tiny bubbles. It's these bubbles that increase the skin's surface area, allowing it to develop a crunchy texture once cooked.

*It's worth noting here that while baking soda will produce a similar texture, it also adds an unpleasant metallic flavor to the skin, so I wouldn't advise substituting one for the other.

To reap those benefits, simply combine one part baking powder with three to four parts kosher salt (about a teaspoon of baking powder per tablespoon of kosher salt will work), add some black pepper to taste, then sprinkle it evenly over the surface of the skin. Then—and this is key—let it rest, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. This resting period doesn't just give the baking powder time to form all those little bubbles; it also lets the salt do its thing, dry-brining the meat for more intensely flavored, better-seasoned results. It's a whole lot of bang for very little buck, and all it really requires is a bit of advance planning and some space in the fridge. Put the method to work on our classic roast chicken, your Thanksgiving turkey, a Christmas goose, these baked Buffalo chicken wings (that really taste fried), or pretty much any skin-on poultry preparation you please. Oh yeah, and while we're at it, it'll totally work on pork skin, too. You're welcome.

October 2016