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For the fried chicken brine
1 quart (4 cups) cold water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
(halve each breast crosswise and separate leg quarters into thighs and drumsticks)
For the fried chicken batter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornstarch
2 to 5 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 3/4 cups cold water
3 quarts (12 cups) peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
Make the fried chicken brine
In a large bowl, whisk or stir together the water, salt, and sugar until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the chicken and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
Make the fried chicken batter
While the chicken is brining, in a large bowl, whisk or stir together the flour, cornstarch, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, baking powder, salt, and water until smooth. Cover and refrigerate the batter while the chicken is brining.
Make the fried chicken
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or other deep-sided pot over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F (176°C). Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.
Pour the brine from the chicken down the sink and pat the chicken pieces completely dry with paper towels. Whisk the batter to recombine. (If the batter seems too thick, add some cold water, no more than 1 tablespoon at a time, until the batter becomes the consistency of pancake batter.) Place half the chicken pieces in the batter and turn to coat. Remove the chicken from the batter, allowing any excess to drip back into the bowl, and carefully place it in the oil. Fry the chicken and keep your attention on the oil temperature, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the oil between 300°F and 325°F (149°C and 163°C). Cook the fried chicken until deep golden brown and the white meat registers 160°F (71°C) or 175°F (79°C) for dark meat, 12 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces and the exact temperature of your oil. Place the fried chicken on the wire rack to drain. Bring the oil back to 350°F (176°C) and repeat with the remaining chicken. Serve the fried chicken hot, warm, at room temperature, even cold if there are any leftovers (hah!).