Max's fried chicken is so iconic, you can recognize it at first glance. It looks like an American roast chicken dinner with Filipino sensibilities: kamote (sweet potato) fries instead of roast potatoes; banana ketchup instead of gravy; and a bronze, crispy whole chicken that's been deep-fried, not baked.
What makes Max's chicken special is its lack of batter or breading—it's deep-fried dry, with just a coat of patis for flavor and color. The skin emerges crisp and beautifully browned, paired with a succulent interior.
Sadly, those who grew up with Max's might find something amiss with their chicken today. If you share the same sentiments, this recipe brings back the Max's chicken you know and love. No dry, bland birds here—just juicy, flavorful chicken with that familiar salty, crispy skin.
Prep Your Chicken a Day in Advance
To make Max’s-style fried chicken at home, you need to butterfly, poach, and dry your chicken a day before frying.
Butterflied Chicken = Easy, Even Cooking
To butterfly or spatchcock your chicken means to remove the backbone and press the bird flat. You’ll often find this technique in grilled and roasted chicken recipes.
Max's doesn't butterfly their bird, but it will make cooking at home a lot easier. By flattening the chicken, you’re laying the meat out in an even layer, allowing it to cook more evenly. It’s much easier to handle while frying than a whole chicken, too.
Poached Chicken = Flavorful, Properly Cooked Meat
Poaching does three wonderful things for your fried chicken:
- Evenly cooked chicken: Poaching par-cooks the chicken and reduces the risk of undercooked meat while frying—a common problem with fried chicken.
- Juicy, flavorful meat: Pumped with salt and aromatics, the poaching liquid seasons the chicken, gives it color, and keeps it moist.
- Crispier skin: Poaching tightens the skin around the chicken while rendering out some of its fat, which can get in the way of crispy skin.
Air-Dried Chicken = Crispy Skin
This step is super important! To achieve crispy chicken, you want as little moisture as possible on the skin. The best way to thoroughly dry out a chicken is to let it sit overnight, uncovered, in the fridge.
After blanching your chicken, brush the surface down with patis and finish with a rub of salt, pepper, and garlic powder (if using). Set the chicken on a tray and place it on your fridge’s bottom shelf, uncovered. Your chicken should be darker in color and dry to the touch the next day.
Serve with Banana Ketchup
The one thing as important as the chicken itself is the banana ketchup—it’s not Max’s-style fried chicken without it. The restaurants use Jufran, and so should you.
Real Max’s fans will customize their banana ketchup with Worcestershire sauce for tang, and a bit of Knorr liquid seasoning for that distinct Pinoy umami.
Once you have your chicken and ketchup, all that's left to do is eat. Enjoy your Max's-style fried chicken with steamed rice, kamote fries, or both.
- 1–2 whole chickens, 900g–1kg each
- 3–4 cups water
- cloves from 2 heads garlic, smashed
- 1–2 medium-sized red onions, quartered
- ⅓–¼ cup fish sauce
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp iodized salt
- bay leaves
- whole black peppercorns
- parsley stalks, optional
- salt & pepper
- garlic powder, optional
- neutral oil, for deep frying
- banana ketchup
- kamote (sweet potato) fries, optional
Remove backbone: Place chicken on a cutting board breast side down. Using a pair of kitchen shears (it's faster and safer than a knife), cut out the backbone by cutting along each side of the spine. You can keep the backbone in the freezer to boil for stocks.
Flatten chicken: Flip chicken so it is skin side up. Using the base of your palm, gently press down on the breastbone to flatten the chicken. You should hear a crack if you did it correctly.
Clean chicken: Rinse flattened chicken with water to remove impurities. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.
Poach and Dry Chicken
Prepare poaching liquid: Fill wok or deep pot with water. Add garlic cloves, red onions, fish sauce, soy sauce, salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, and parsley stalks (if using). Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.
Poach chicken: Add chicken, skin side up, to the poaching liquid. Cook partially for 1 minute. Flip chicken and cook for 2 minutes. Baste chicken by pouring poaching liquid over the meat with a ladle. Flip chicken again, then cook and baste for another 2 minutes.
Season and dry chicken: Remove chicken from poaching liquid and set skin side up on a metal rack fitted over a tray. Brush fish sauce all over the chicken. Sprinkle salt, black pepper, and garlic powder (if using) all over the skin, rubbing it all over the surface of the chicken with clean hands. Store in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hours, uncovered, until chicken is dry to the touch.
Prepare for frying: Add oil deep enough to go halfway up the chicken to a wok, Dutch oven, or heavy-bottomed pot. Heat oil over medium high to 340–350°F. Remove chicken from the fridge and pat dry with a paper towel.
Fry chicken: Add chicken skin side down to the hot oil. Fry until light golden brown, using a ladle to baste the chicken with hot oil to cook it evenly, about 3–5 minutes. Halfway through cooking, carefully flip the chicken using tongs and a spider strainer to avoid splashing. Remove from heat and set on a metal rack or heatproof plate lined with paper towels. Let rest for at least 15 minutes—you want the chicken's interior to cool down before frying again.
Serve: Place fried chicken on a chopping board and let rest. Either slice and divide into smaller pieces, or serve chicken whole on a serving plate. Serve with kamote fries and banana ketchup.