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Jul 21, 2008 11:38 AM

What do you think fried chicken is?

Sounds like a stupid question, but I am beginning to doubt my definition. I consider "Fried Chicken" to be a cut up chicken, bones and all, that is then battered/breaded and fried. Right? Well on my local board I am asking for recs for the best fried chicken, but I keep getting responses that refer me to chicken fried chicken. I don't consider that, or fried chicken tenders, chicken crisps or chicken planks, to be in the same ballpark. But I could be wrong. So what do y'all say?

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  1. Living in a county that is known as the fried chicken capital of Illinois I think I know a little about fried chicken. Out here it is served/ordered the following ways:

    1/4 dark
    1/4 light
    1/2 dark
    1/2 light
    1/2 mixed

    2 Replies
    1. re: swsidejim

      Which county is that? I might like to visit next time I go to IL.

      1. re: racer x

        LaSalle County about 70 miles sw of Chicago. Pretty much every bar and restaurant has fried chicken on the menu.

    2. Hi danhole!

      First - what's chicken fried chicken? I know what chicken fried steak is...

      To me, fried chicken is just like yours - cut up chicken, with skin and bones, battered and fried in oil/bacon grease till crispy and done. O'course then you gotta make gravy with the crispy bits in the skillet, and mashed potatoes, and green beans with a ham hock...

      5 Replies
      1. re: Cookiefiend

        Hey cookie,

        Chicken fried chicken is a thin boneless chicken breast battered and fried. So think of a chicken fried steak that substitutes chicken for beef. Not fried chicken in my opinion.

        And you are so right, got to have gravy and mashed potatoes! Fry that chicken up and make gravy. Good stuff.

        1. re: danhole

          I think I see fried chicken in my future...

          1. re: danhole

            Make sure that you realize that chicken fried chicken has the same coating as chicken fried steak -- which is NOT your usual flour/egg/breadcrumb thing. That would be chicken cutlet, perhaps Milanese, but I'll call is plain.

            Fried chicken is definitely something cooked with bone-in pieces. No confusion should be possible.

          2. re: Cookiefiend

            When you fry your chicken in bacon grease, how much bacon grease do you use? I've never made chicken this way and would love to try it.

            1. re: ChrissyMc

              ChrissyMc -

              Just enough to flavor the oil - if I can smell it, it's enough.


          3. Fried chicken is a whole bone-in chicken that has been cut into 6-7 pieces, and it dipped in a egg wash and then battered, and then fried in hot fat. It should be served with mashed or french friend potatoes, and slaw.

            23 Replies
              1. re: mickandnolly

                You must have some sort of liquid to keep the breading to stick, so buttermilk can substitute.

                1. re: Kelli2006

                  Rather than a messy egg wash, I like to marinade my chicken in messy buttermilk for fifteen minutes to half an hour, then dredge in seasoned flour and fry. The buttermilk tenderizes it a bit (not that a young chicken needs tenderizing, but it does taste nice!), then dredging it in flour makes for a really crispy crunchy crust. If you enjoy extremes, dip it in the buttermilk and dredge a second time for a really thick crunchy yet tender crust. I like it better than egg wash.

                  The same method using evaporated milk instead of buttermilk also works. And both milks with the dredging method make fantastic onion rings!

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    I don't like using an egg wash because the breading seems to be tougher when I do. I want tender, crispy coating. I haven't used the buttermilk, yet, but I do use plain old milk.

                    1. re: danhole

                      I think you'll be very pleasantly surprised by the buttermilk. Really good fried chicken!

                    2. re: Caroline1

                      I agree with using buttermilk, however I put the chicken into the buttermilk in the fridge the night before, so it gets almost 24 hours to soak in it. It gives the chicken an excellent flavor. Then I mix into the flour a bit of black pepper, chipotle powder and garlic powder before I dredge the chicken in it.

                      1. re: cigarmedic4

                        For me, I don't plan that far ahead too often. Well, unless I'm entertaining, and I can't remember how many decades since I've served fried chicken to guests. Who needs a grease spattered kitchen with guests due any minute, right? What Ihave discovered is that taking a piece of chicken, the thigh for instance, and boning it, laying it out flat, then accordion cutting it so you can stretch it out in the buttermilk will tenderize it as much or more than a 24 hour soak, then I stick it back together with a toothpick or bamboo skewer, dip it in seasoned flour, again in buttermilk, then seasoned flour and into the hot peanut oil she goes! Pull out the toothpick/skewer and introduce your mouth to a celebration!

                        Oh. For an "acordion cut," you cut it almost through on one side, then turn it over and cut it almost through on the other side, but with the cuts going in between those of the first side. You could fry it without folding it back up, but I like the flavor and texture you get when the chicken cooks with buttermilk in between the cuts.

                        And while I have the buttermilk and seasoned flour at the ready, I do onion rings. Incredible onion rings! They go really well with the chicken.

                        1. re: cigarmedic4

                          Another positive is that some buttermilk has active bacteria (real, old-fashioned buttermilk most likely), that helps break down the tissue, as well as flavoring the chicken - double bonus in my book.

                          Recipe sounds good too,


                  2. re: Kelli2006

                    OK jfood will do you cut a chicken into 7 pieces? :-))

                    1. re: jfood

                      The bird can be cut into 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs, plus the back, or the legs and thighs can be kept whole and the winglet can be included.

                      1. re: Kelli2006

                        Thanks K. It was the back that was the missing link that does not come as a pair.

                        Jfood does 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 wing sets, and each breast quarter cut into 2 pieces for a 10-piece complete set.

                        1. re: jfood

                          Same here. With these new monster sized- birds, the breasts are so large that you need to cut them in half. It used to be that you could cut a three pounder into eight pieces and avoid splitting the breast, but with todays 4 1/2-5 lb. average, you need to split the breast pieces. BTW, I only use the backs for chicken stock.

                          1. re: RGC1982

                            I'm originally from Illinois, too - downstate, Clark County - and we always not only cooked the back, we did it in two pieces, rib end and tail end. The thighs were always cut off at the pelvic joint. The breast was also cut in two laterally, the front wishbone piece and the rear portion with the large chunks either side of the keelbone/cartilage.

                            My mother's family were mostly German Mennonites, and fried their chicken with a very crisp coating. My paternal grandma's chicken, though, was always a bit on the soggy side, because she never made it to be eaten hot at the table, but always lukewarm at a picnic. So it went into a covered basket immediately. I adored it, however - there was always a little bacon grease in her frying fat, and the coating had a wonderful black-pepper flavor. I've been trying to duplicate it ever since, without much luck.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              Thanks guys. Jfood has never heard of fryingthe back as a separate piece. He usually uses with the "inner bag" to make a gravy.

                              1. re: jfood

                                Well, the great thing about frying the backs is then you get to enjoy the 'oysters," those little round tender morsels that sit in a bone pocket right next to the ball joint of the hip. Boiling is the worst way to cook them!

                          2. re: jfood

                            Instead of cutting the breasts across, I remove the supremes and save them for a dish in which they''re poached in butter or another cooking method that won't dry them out the way frying does. Fried supremes of chicken are lke a mouth full of crackers with no soup!

                            The thing I miss most about store bought chickens (besides not getting the giblets most of the time) is no necks...! I LOVE fried chicken necks. My mother and I used to share it in the kitchen before the meal went to the dining room. DEEEEElicious!

                          3. re: Kelli2006

                            There was a time before chickens were commercialized that chickens were small, were allowed to run free, at green grass and bugs and breathed fresh air and drank clean water. They grew slowly and had a lot of flavor. The size for frying, called "fryers," were 1 1/2 to 2 pounds. Most homes didn't own a band saw so they did not start out by running a band saw down the back of the chicken. Instead, they first cut out the wish bone, then cut off the wings, then the drum sticks, then the thighs. Then they cut the breasts (already smaller by removal of the wishbone) into 4 pieces. That totaled 11 pieces without using the backbone. By today's standards, that chicken was expensive. It began to change after World War II, with mass production of chickens, hormones to speed up growth, and early to market made them less expensive (farmers don't have to feed them as long to reach maturity.) In the process, they lost taste. It's faster to cut them into 8 standard pieces, but you get bigger breasts and no wishbone. And the chickens are much bigger. They're also a lot less expensive. Cook's Illustrated a few years ago (May, 1994 issue) illustrated how in an article called "Cutting up a bird, country stye.")

                            1. re: Potomac Bob

                              Potomac Bob,

                              I just had a real AHA moment reading your post. My DH goes on and on about how delicious his grandma's fried chicken was. I never had a chance to learn her technique, but she did teach me how to make killer gravy before she passed on. So over the years his mother tried to replicate this recipe and never did. I got close because of the seasoned flour and double dipping technique that I described elsewhere in this thread, but now I think you have found the answer.

                              When they were little grandma and grandpa raised their own chickens, in the backyard, and when it was time for chicken, well, you just went outside and got one! That is probably the "secret" ingredient! Fresh, untouched meat. No wonder nothing else tastes the same. Maybe it's time to get a few chickens!

                              1. re: danhole

                                Danhole, I thought I was being pretty hardcore when we decided to render our own lard to fry our chicken - if you get a few chickens, you win the hardcore award! I wonder what our downtown Montreal neighbours will think if we start raising chickens on our rooftop terrace....

                                1. re: danhole

                                  grandma's fried chicken wasn't complicated. it didn't need countless herbs and spices. The absolute must is a good tender, tasteful chicken to start with. When you eat it, it should taste of chicken, not spices. Most restaurant chicken is deep-fried at a high temperature, which gives it a crisp, hard crust and dry meat. If fried in shallow fat (my grandma used pure lard flavored with a spoonful of bacon fat, but the type of fat is less important than the method) in a heavy cast-iron skillet, tightly covered so the juices stay in the meat, you can get a crisp crust that becomes so tender it'll almost melt when it gets in your mouth. It takes time. About 30 to 35 minutes of frying. (gives you enough time to make a salad - and batch of biscuits you can smother in gravy). This chicken requires a final crisping. Do that by taking the lid off the chicken and let it cook in the open for a few minutes after the chicken is done. Serve it straight from the skillet. Grandma used lard flavored with bacon. My mother used melted vegetable shortening. My wife uses canola oil. On occasion, once every cupla years, we buy one of those expensive little chickens they sell at fancy food stores and fry it using pure lard flavored with bacon fat. It's really good, but not as good as grandma's, probably because grandma's chicken was really, really fresh, and the freshest chicken you could possibly buy at a store is, by the time it's processed, packaged and shipped, at least a few days old.

                                  1. re: Potomac Bob

                                    Bob, thanks for the advice. I do use a cast iron skillet and the flour is seasoned with plain old salt and pepper, because he swears that what grandma did. Not too much, just a bit. Do you turn it over halfway through? That's what I do. I need to do the bacon fat addition to the oil. Maybe that's part of her magic. Unfortunately I never even got to taste her fried chicken, but it must have been something very special, because the whole family still talks about it after 30+ years. I do think the fresh, fresh, chicken is a big part.

                            2. re: jfood

                              With a very shap knife and a good eye for portions...

                              I *think* I'm with you on this one. Fried chicken is chicken that is fried. The exact portions and cuts and batters/dips are the chef's choice. Still, it seems that many folk are a bit anal on what parts are required to be "fried chicken." Guess I have never had "fried chicken," by many standards.


                          4. Fried chicken are pieces of chicken, skin on and on the bone that are dredged and fried. One whole chicken will be broken down will yield 2 breasts, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs and 2 wings.

                            The dredging/battering and method of frying whether deep fried or pan fried are subject to local interpretations. Anything not resembling one of the 4 types of pieces listed above or are boneless or skinless should not be referred to as "fried chicken" rather fried chicken cutlets, nuggets, tenders, etc.

                            1. Four basic must haves:

                              1 - Cut chicken with bne still attached
                              2 - Binding ingredient (buttermilk/egg/flour, etc)
                              3 - Breading
                              4 - Oil

                              Fried chicken is not baked, not grilled, not braised, not poached. Please see first word of name.

                              Like jfood's philosophy on pizza, please leave tradition in this dish.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: jfood

                                You mean you never subscribed to Shake N Bake as an alternative? Just kidding. I agree. Leave it alone. And for goodness' sake, leave the skin on and the bones in.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  I agree. For me the key is soaking in buttermilk then dredging in flour. Kinda sad that people would consider chicken tenders real fried chicken.

                                  1. re: Docsknotinn

                                    I agree....the key is to soak the chicken pcs. in buttermilk, and use a paper bag to coat the chicken.