At first glance, fried chicken can seem pretty straightforward: take chicken, add batter or breading, fry. But the classic dish is so versatile, a quality being celebrated by chefs at restaurants — both fancy and humble — and home cooks around the country. Here are 4 cool ways you can take your fried chicken to the Next Level.

Though it's a relatively recent addition to the Great American Recipe Book, Nashville hot chicken has swept the nation over the past decade thanks to its intense spice level — and the dedication of foodies and chefs who love to one-up each other in trying not to succumb to the dish's serious heat. The chicken itself is fairly traditional, though there's a bit of hot sauce in the marinade, but the whole thing gets glazed in a fiery concoction heavy on the cayenne pepper and rich with paprika, brown sugar and black pepper. Adjust the heat as you like, but the spicier the better, many believe. It's traditionally served with white bread and bread-and-butter pickles, though you might want to keep a glass of milk — or a fire extinguisher — handy.

Many hip restaurants around the country are using the cheeky abbreviation "KFC", not to indicate some adherence to a fast-food icon, but rather to the chicken-frying prowess found in Korea. What makes Korean fried chicken so addictive is its high crunch level — there are two separate frying steps to the recipe, done first at a more moderate temperature and then increased for maximum crunch. Just the right amount of seasoning and a little bit of sugar in the batter make for a rich caramelized color, too. Feeling ambitious? Check out this recipe for Korean fried chicken sauce for a sweet, sour and spicy condiment.

korean fried chicken
Korean Fried Chicken is super crispy, thanks to rice flour.

This unique recipe looks to Northern India for inspiration, taking that region's love of bold spice and infusing rich flavors into the chicken itself. The chicken's marinated in dry spices for several hours, and a last-minute addition of coconut milk to the cooking process makes sure the chicken's moist but remains crisp. Here's a tip — if you don't want to create the spice mixture yourself as per the recipe, you can substitute a pre-portioned Indian spice mix like garam masala in the same total amount.

curry fried chicken
Photo by Chilledmimosa

While some fried chicken recipes work their flavors into the batter, this karaage fried chicken out of Japan — a late-night item popular at pubs called izakaya — gets its unique flavor from a marinade made from ginger, garlic, sake rice wine and soy sauce. The boneless chunks of chicken are irresistible snackable. And a bonus? The Japanese fried chicken method coats the chicken pieces in cornstarch rather than wheat flour, which means it's a gluten-free fried chicken.

studio shot of Karaage Japanese fried chicken
Japanese Fried Chicken is traditionally served with mayo on the side.

Check out our collection of Fried Chicken Recipes.