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Dec 27, 2010 08:35 PM

Fried Chicken in the Fireplace

So tonight I made chicken and vegetables, sauteed in a cast iron skillet, in the fireplace.
Nothing fancy, just salt and pepper, olive oil and a bit of lemon juice at the end.

It was sooooooo flavorful, and moist that I started thinking about doing real fried chicken over the fire, maybe fry it in lard. Try to get as close as possible to the genesis of the dish.

Anyone done this?

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  1. Fried chicken, as in a pot of fat hung on a moveable crane with a trammel to lower or raise the pot, over a wood fire? If you don't have that type of equipment in your fireplace, I'd be somewhat concerned about the safety of a large deep pot of hot fat over a fire, even set on a grill. Reminds me of the dangers of deep frying turkeys, or something similar. It's also some work maintaining a steady frying temperature over a wood burning fire; that's why the colonial types developed the ability to raise or lower the pots of soup or stew closer of further from the heat source. Shallow frying your chicken might be the way to go; maybe that's what you had in mind. How did you cook your chicken and vegetables, in a cast iron pan set on a fireplace grate or grill or right on the coals? Shallow fat frying chicken might work out well set on a grill over coals.

    Anyway, we used to put cast iron pans directly onto the hot coals and wait for the pan to get ashy, then throw a well seasoned steak or a few pork chops in it. That works out very nicely, but the amount of fat was very limited in that case.

    We had a kitchen fireplace, that had been used for cooking, in a ancient colonial house I lived in in CT many years ago, with the crane and various hooks for holding pots. My mom never used it for cooking; it's really an lost art form and lot's of work tending the fire. We did roast marshmallows, though.

    Here's a book you might want to check out; maybe your local library has it, to help you get started:

    I wish you the best with this, it can be fun, and be safe.

    1. What are you placing the skillet on?
      All kinds of meats are terrific surrounded by open fire and hot coals. I built a complete outdoor kitchen because I loved it so much! I cook everything outside in a wood fire oven on weekends.
      Check out this website :
      You can purchase grills for open fires and all kinds of specialty gadgets for open fire cooking. They have meat charts and recipes too.

      14 Replies
      1. re: sedimental

        Thanks bushwickgirl and sedimental!
        I have been cooking from Open Hearth for a couple of years now. My fireplace is about 5ft x 5ft has two cranes with chains, I have three cooking trivets of varying height, a Tuscan Grill and a lovely 18th century pan for catching fat and cooking delish potatoes and things, a few dutch ovens, a toasting fork and various other fireplace cooking items.
        I love cooking and baking in the fireplace, I find that I am doing about 50% of our cooking there now.
        I sauteed the chicken and veggies in a cast iron pan on a trivet. The fireplace is big in enough for me to build me fire on one side to make my coals, and shovel them in and out under my cookware as needed.

        When I fry chicken on the stove, I do it in a cast iron pan with about three inches of fat. I was thinking of doing that in the fireplace on a trivet, but hanging a dutch oven might give me more control.
        Thanks. It is really hard to find resources about fireplace cooking. Open hearth is great, and I get campfire cookbooks and adapt them to the fireplace as well. But cooking in the fireplace has such staggering results, it just blows my mind. This morning it was breakfast sausage, nothing unusual, just cooked over the fire. It was like a new food! Tonight I grilled an appetizer pizza over the coals, amazing. Right now an apple crisp is bubbling away.

        I think I may just have to try fried chicken!
        I can't figure out exactly what the difference is, maybe the enclosed space of the fireplace?

        1. re: mendogurl

          I am not sure either, but I am also a "believer"! Everything tastes better! LOL.
          I really love roasted potatoes and roasted eggplant over coals. Nothing compares. I think it has to do with the dryness of the heat mixed with the Smokey flavor of charred wood. Very different from grilling with your weber charcoal or gas grill!

          1. re: mendogurl

            Wow, ok, you're in very good shape! I'm just a little jealous! I don't know what the difference is in cooking in a fireplace, either, but it certainly exists. Maybe sedimental has it right, dry heat mixed with smokiness of charred wood.

            Let us know how the fried chicken turns out.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              A little jealous? Hah! I'm green with envy! I have the outdoor version of mendogurl's setup, which evolved from collecting for the practically walk-in fireplace in my first house, got partially stored and used for regular camping after moving to my second house (woodstove heated, cooked a lot on that), went totally into storage but for camping at my third house (electric heat, annoying neighbors). Now in this house (which I'm NOT moving from. Ever.) we have two beautiful fireplaces but, they're FAKE! There's even a chimney on the house but it's solid block. So along with the future cold cellar and greenhouse, I'm hoping to build a killer outdoor hearth and oven so I can use all my wonderful fireplace tools and cookware someday.

              1. re: morwen

                It's the reason I got the house, well not the ONLY reason, but the fireplace is so big I can almost stand inside it, and it was built to cook in. We have a picture of the man who built the house sitting on the built in bench while a tea kettle hangs over the fire. It is almost unheard of for a house built in 1920 to have a cooking fireplace, in California.

                I've been collecting antique fireplace cooking tools for a couple of years. The only thing I have left to get is a rotating spit. They have electric ones, I know, but I have visions of torturing myself and my kids by turning a spit with a leg of roasting lamb.

                The most interesting thing I have done is roasting meat on a string. You truss the meat with cooking twine, and hang it in front of the fire. The physics of the whole thing spins the meat slowly in front of the flame. The most perfect roast chicken or leg of lamb you've ever eaten. You put the drip pan underneath and cut up potatoes into it, the dripping fat from the meat and the heat from the fire cook the most insane roast potatoes.
                Asparagus roasted in a dutch oven??? Orgasmic.
                You barely have to season things, the flavor is so incredible.

                Morwen, what kind of equipment do you have, and where did you get it?

                If I could find enough posters, it would be cool to have a fireplace cooking thread.
                Is the heat dryer in the fireplace than in an oven?

                1. re: mendogurl

                  Most everything I have I collected over time at garage sales, flea markets, classified ads, etc. That was way before the advent of EBay. I've got several round-bellied footed pots of various sizes, the largest of which have a ring on the side for attaching a hook for lifting and pouring. A large and a small spider. A big dutch oven and several tiny single serving size dutch ovens, all footed. Some skillets. An outdoor version of a crane with chains and this ring thing that I can set pots into and adjust up and down that a friend made for me. He also made a vertical "spit" that works like your twine trussing idea but I haven't got the chance to use it yet. And of course multiple trivets and utensils. Oh, and a dough raiser. Everything is iron except the dough raiser. Now it's all packed away in oiled cloths. We use to do historical re-enactment sometimes for two weeks at a stretch which was always a good reason to break it all out but we haven't done that since our last move.

                  I don't know that the heat is dryer but the air circulation is definitely better.
                  I've done pan fried chicken in the big spider with no problem. Because it's raised it's easy to adjust the coals beneath it.

                  1. re: morwen

                    Okay wait, so you have done fried chicken in the fireplace ????
                    Anything to note?

                    What is a dough raiser?

                    Don't you love collecting these things?
                    When you do reenectments, what kind of cooking do you do?

                    1. re: mendogurl

                      Fried chicken in a skillet with legs. Just like making it on the stovetop. You just have to be diligent in keeping the embers beneath the pan raked for the proper temperature. Other wise there's no difference. If you have a tall enough trivet(s) or can rig up something level with bricks or rocks you can do it in a regular skillet. In fact, raising the pan on bricks would probably be even better because it would contain and focus the heat.

                      A dough raiser is a big metal bowl that sits on a rim that raises it up a little. It has a domed lid with a few perforations in for circulation. You sit it near the hearth in a warm place and the metal warms a bit to encourage rising while the enclosed dough is protected from cold drafts. I'm not sure what metal mine is. Tin I think.

                      Re-enactment cooking is really no different from any other hearth cooking other than I'm doing it outdoors using a firepit. When the public is there to observe, I usually have a soup going in a kettle, bread in the riser, and maybe a cobbler in a dutch oven. Stuff that looks like period recipes but that doesn't require attention while I'm answering questions. The rest of the time anything goes. I've done Asian food in a wok set in the adjustable ring to pizzas in the large dutch oven. If it's a lengthy encampment someone might get ambitious and dig a pit or set up a stone or brick oven.

                      At this point my collecting days are over unless I come across something cheap and unique. Or until the day comes that we build that outdoor kitchen.

                      1. re: morwen

                        My tallest trivet is about 10 inches above the floor of fireplace. It is huge.
                        But the brick idea seems like a good one, it would also help contain flying embers.

                        Love the dough raiser idea.

                        I cooked the entire past week on the hearth, three meals a day. Never turned on the stove. It was fantastic, and somehow felt more efficient.
                        Not sure why...

                  2. re: mendogurl

                    mendogurl: I, too, am envious of your cooking hearth. Do you get good quantities of hardwoods there?

                    "The only thing I have left to get is a rotating spit. They have electric ones, I know, but I have visions of torturing myself and my kids by turning a spit with a leg of roasting lamb."

                    There are cool, old clockwork spitjacks that take the torture out of it. I have seen one in operation in Tuscany. You raise a heavy counterweight, and the gear reduction will turn the spit for a good, long time before the weight hits the floor. It was at the Avignonese winery east of Montepulciano. If you call or email them, they may be able to help you find one. Ask for Tamara, her English is excellent.

                    And PLEASE DO start an open hearth thread, if the pooh-bahs will let you.

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      I have seen those clockwork spits. Need to do a Google search.
                      The string works really well though.

                      I will start a thread, but everyone needs to promise to post !!!!!

                      And yes we get good hardwoods, but I usually just cook over oak.

                      1. re: mendogurl

                        mendogurl: I would encourage you to start your thread on the Cookware board, because THIS one is so active with recipes that it will quickly be lost and buried. It would do some of the technophiles over there to learn a little about open hearth cooking.

                          1. re: mendogurl

                            Please include camp or open fire cooking with that thread. It's not all that different and lots of the techniques transfer to the other.