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Is it better to use bleached or unbleached flour for chicken?

When it comes to cooking chicken, choosing the right flour can make all the difference in texture, flavor, and appearance. Two of the most common types of flour for breading and frying chicken are bleached and unbleached flour. But is one better than the other? Let’s take a closer look at the key differences between bleached and unbleached flour to determine which may be better suited for making crispy, juicy fried chicken.

What is Bleached Flour?

Bleached flour refers to white flour that has undergone a chemical bleaching process. This process uses chemicals like benzoyl peroxide, chlorine, and/or azodicarbonamide to whiten the flour and speed up the aging process. Bleaching makes the flour finer in texture and lighter in color. It also improves the flour’s ability to hold water and develop gluten, creating a softer texture in baked goods.

In addition to whitening, bleaching also improves the shelf stability of flour. It helps prevent off flavors and odors from developing over time. Bleached flour can be stored unrefrigerated for 6-12 months without spoiling.

Advantages of Bleached Flour

  • Whitens and lightens appearance
  • Softens texture in baked goods
  • Improves ability to hold water and develop gluten
  • Prevents rancidity and extends shelf life

Disadvantages of Bleached Flour

  • Chemical bleaching strips some nutrients like protein, fiber, and vitamins
  • May contain trace amounts of chemical residues
  • Less “natural” than unbleached flour

What is Unbleached Flour?

Unbleached flour refers to flour that has not undergone any chemical bleaching or whitening process. It is milled from naturally aged wheat and retains more of the original wheat color, ranging from creamy white to yellowish. Unbleached flour has a shorter shelf life than bleached flour, lasting 2-4 months at room temperature before going rancid.

Since it skips the bleaching process, unbleached flour contains more vitamin E, vitamin B complex, fiber, and fatty acids than bleached varieties. The extra vitamins and minerals provide some additional nutritional benefits.

Advantages of Unbleached Flour

  • No chemical bleaching used
  • Retains more B vitamins, vitamin E, and fatty acids
  • Short ingredient list (just wheat flour)
  • Perceived as more “natural”

Disadvantages of Unbleached Flour

  • Shorter shelf life of 2-4 months
  • Slightly coarser texture
  • Can have off-white or yellowish color

Comparing Bleached vs. Unbleached Flour for Chicken

When deciding between bleached or unbleached flour for breading and frying chicken, there are a few key factors to consider:

Texture

Bleached flour creates a lighter, softer, and more tender coating on fried chicken. The finer texture also absorbs less oil during frying. Unbleached flour has a slightly coarser texture that can create a heartier, crunchier breading.

Flavor

Unbleached flour has a richer wheat flavor while bleached flour has a milder taste. If you want more pronounced wheat notes, unbleached brings more flavor. Bleached lets the chicken flavor shine through more.

Appearance

Bleached flour will give your fried chicken a bright, white and golden breading. Unbleached flour has a slightly yellow or beige breading. If you prefer traditional golden fried chicken, bleached flour delivers.

Shelf Life

Bleached flour lasts much longer in the pantry, so you can keep it on hand for months. Unbleached flour should be used within 2-4 months before it spoils.

Nutrition

Unbleached flour contains more B vitamins, vitamin E, fiber, and healthy fats. Bleached flour has fewer nutrients due to the bleaching process. But both still provide nutrients like protein, iron, and calcium.

Best Uses for Each Type of Flour

Based on their differing properties, here are some recommendations for the best uses of bleached and unbleached flour:

Bleached Flour

  • Frying chicken – Crisp, golden, tender breading
  • Baking cakes, cookies, pie crusts – Soft and tender texture
  • Thickening sauces and gravies – Smooth consistency
  • Recipes like pasta, pizza dough – Develops stretchy gluten

Unbleached Flour

  • Frying fish – Heartier breading stands up to moisture
  • Baking bread – Boosts nutrition and wheaty flavor
  • Coating vegetables – Adds crunchy texture
  • Recipes where you want whole grain benefits

Converting Between Bleached and Unbleached Flour

Bleached and unbleached flour can typically be used interchangeably in recipes, but here are some tips for converting:

  • Reduce unbleached flour by 1 tablespoon per cup to account for moisture absorption
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice or vinegar per cup of unbleached flour to replicate acidity of bleached
  • Adjust baking time and temperature to account for coarser texture of unbleached
  • Add a bit more leavener like baking powder to unbleached to lighten texture

Storing Bleached vs Unbleached Flour

Proper storage is important to preserve freshness and prevent rancidity:

Bleached Flour Storage

  • Store in airtight container in cool, dry place
  • Keeps 6-12 months at room temperature
  • For longer storage, refrigerate up to 2 years
  • Freeze for 5+ years to extend shelf life

Unbleached Flour Storage

  • Store in airtight container in fridge or freezer
  • Keeps 2-4 months at room temperature
  • Refrigerate up to 6 months
  • Freeze for 1-2 years for best quality

Nutritional Comparison

Here is a nutritional comparison of bleached and unbleached all-purpose flour:

Nutrient Bleached Flour Unbleached Flour
Calories 455kcal (100g) 364kcal (100g)
Fat 1.2g 1.5g
Carbs 76g 76g
Protein 10.3g 13.4g
Fiber 2.7g 3.8g
Thiamine 0.4mg 0.5mg
Riboflavin 0.09mg 0.11mg
Niacin 1.9mg 5.4mg
Folate 44mcg 46mcg

As shown, unbleached flour contains slightly higher amounts of protein, fiber, B vitamins, and minerals. But both can provide nutrients when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to choosing between bleached or unbleached flour for making fried chicken, both have their merits. Here are some final tips:

  • For juicy, tender chicken with a light golden crust, use bleached flour
  • For added crunch and nutty wheat flavor, go with unbleached
  • Adjust baking times and measurements when swapping flours
  • Properly store bleached and unbleached flours to maximize freshness
  • Enjoy fried chicken as an occasional treat alongside plenty of fruits and veggies

The most important thing is picking a flour that suits your preferences and the recipe. So give both bleached and unbleached flours a try in your chicken dishes to see which you like best!