Years ago, I would pick the boys up from school and announce, “We’re going to Granny’s for the weekend!”
And it never failed, their response would be, “Can we have fried chicken?” [pullquote]”Can we have fried chicken?”[/pullquote]And it also never failed, that, in fact, we did. Every time. Along with mashed potatoes, butterbeans, creamed corn, hot biscuits and chocolate cake. Everybody’s favorites would be on the table whenever we visited. In our family, food is love and we always had lots of love at Granny’s house.
Fried chicken is an event at my house. It’s messy and fattening and just not something I make very often. But growing up, we had it at least once a week. Granny and Mama would even get up early on Sunday mornings and make fried chicken if we were having Family Dinner at church that day. I’m doing good to get myself to church before the preaching starts, so I can’t imagine cooking fried chicken beforehand.
I called Granny when I was putting this chicken together, just because I still like to call and make sure I’m doing it correctly. My grandmother lives about three hours south of us, so it’s long distance to call back and forth. The funny thing about calling her is that when you call on your dime, she will talk forever. But if she calls for something, she says what she needs to say and gets off the phone quickly. So, the photos in this post are probably not the best as I was balancing the phone on my shoulder the whole time I was making fried chicken and trying to hold the camera at the same time, because she was in a talking mood.
Granny has an old wooden bowl for flour, which I imagine many old Southern cooks have. I have one though mine is not as old. My grandfather carved it out for me twenty years ago. I don’t use it for flour, but keep it on a coffee table as decoration.
I remember Granny flouring her chicken or pork chops or cubed steak or whatever in that old bowl and then pushing it back under the counter where she kept it. The next morning she would pull it out, use the rest of the flour, and make biscuits. I asked her about this practice of reusing the old flour.
“Oh, sure I did,” she said. “But I sifted it first to get any lumps out.”
I told her that I throw away my leftover flour and she said that’s wasteful. Hard to argue too much, since three generations have now been raised on chicken and biscuits and whatever else came out of her kitchen with never a problem. Note to family and friends who will eat at my house: I promise to throw away my used chicken flour.
For this chicken, you can use a whole chicken already cut up or you can cut your own. I like to cut my own because the ones that are already cut in the store are way too big. If you buy a smaller, young and usually organic chicken, it hasn’t been on chicken steroids and therefore is a more reasonable size to deal with. You can also just use your favorite pieces, such as all breasts or all legs.
Salt and pepper all the pieces before you flour them.
Some of these pieces may appear unrecognizable. This is not the fault of the chicken but rather of the chicken-cutter who has yet to learn how to do it properly. Next, season your flour with a little salt and pepper and then dredge the chicken pieces.
Granny lets the chicken rest while the grease is getting hot, then just before dropping the chicken into the skillet she dredges it one more time through the flour. Then place a few pieces in the hot grease and let them cook. Dark meat —legs, thighs — takes longer than breasts and wings so I usually start with those.
You need to stay close by and keep an eye on your chicken. After a few minutes, turn it and cook for another couple of minutes. At this point, I usually cover it, leaving the edge open, and let it cook a bit longer, then turn again and cover again. Covering helps with browning. It will take anywhere from 15-20 minutes for the legs to get done. I still have to cut into mine once I take them out, just to make sure they are done. You can use a thermometer and check the temperature of the grease to maintain and you can check the temperature of your chicken, which should be 170° to make sure it’s done, but I never do this. Too much trouble.
You want to get a nice, deep golden brown and then you’ll know it’s done. The photo above is not quite there and will need to be turned a couple more times. If you keep the grease hot enough but not too hot, turn the chicken frequently enough but not too frequently and take it out at the right time, you’ll have chicken that’s crispy and juicy but not greasy or dry. It sounds complicated but after making it a couple of times you’ll find that it’s really easy.
- 1 small chicken cut into pieces
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- 2 cups Crisco or peanut oil may need more
- Line a large platter with paper towels or brown paper bags.
Season both sides of chicken with 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add remaining salt and pepper to the flour in a large bowl and dredge the chicken pieces through the flour, then set chicken aside.
Heat the shortening or oil in a large, deep skillet on medium-high until it sizzles when a drop of water is added. This would be about 375.
- Just before adding chicken, dredge each piece through the flour again, shaking slightly to remove excess, then place each piece one at a time in the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the skillet.
- Cook, turning about every three minutes until chicken is brown on all sides. This will probably take about ten minutes.
Then cover the skillet, leaving one side open slightly to vent, and turn heat down to medium. Cook another 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until chicken is deep, golden brown.
- Dark meat may take a little longer and should be 170 when done.
- Place chicken pieces on the lined platter and cover with aluminum foil until ready to eat.