Southern fried chicken, also known simply as fried chicken, is a dish consisting of chicken pieces that have been coated with seasoned flour or batter and pan-fried, deep fried, pressure fried, or air fried. The breading adds a crisp coating or crust to the exterior of the chicken while retaining juices in the meat. Broiler chickens are most commonly used.
|Place of origin||United States|
|Region or state||American South|
|Serving temperature||Hot or cold|
|Main ingredients||Chicken, batter or seasoned flour|
The first dish known to have been deep fried was fritters, which were popular in the European Middle Ages. However, it was the Scottish who were the first Europeans to deep fry their chicken in fat (though without seasoning). Meanwhile, many West African peoples had traditions of seasoned fried chicken (though battering and cooking the chicken in palm oil). Scottish frying techniques and West African seasoning techniques were combined by enslaved Africans and African-Americans in the American South.
The American English expression "fried chicken" is first recorded in the 1830s, and frequently appears in American cookbooks of the 1860s and 1870s. The origin of fried chicken in the southern states of America has been traced to precedents in Scottish and West African cuisine. Scottish fried chicken was cooked in fat (though unseasoned) while West African fried chicken was seasoned (but battered and cooked in palm oil). Scottish frying techniques and African seasoning techniques were used in the American South by African slaves. Fried chicken provided some means of an independent economy for enslaved and segregated African-American women, who became noted sellers of poultry (live or cooked) as early as the 1730s. Because of this and the expensive nature of the ingredients, it was, despite popular belief, a rare dish in the African-American community reserved (as in Africa) for special occasions.
After the development of larger and faster-growing hogs (due to crosses between European and Asian breeds) in the 18th and 19th century, in the United States, backyard and small-scale hog production provided an inexpensive means of converting waste food, crop waste, and garbage into calories (in a relatively small space and a relatively short period). Many of those calories came in the form of fat and rendered lard. Lard was used for almost all cooking and was a fundamental component in many common homestead foods (many that today are still regarded as holiday and comfort foods) like biscuits and pies. The economic and caloric necessity of consuming lard and other saved fats may have led to the popularity of fried foods, not only in the US, but worldwide.[better source needed] In the 19th century cast iron became widely available for use in cooking. The combination of flour, lard, a chicken and a heavy pan placed over a relatively controllable flame became the beginning of today's fried chicken.
When it was introduced to the American South, fried chicken became a common staple. Later, as the slave trade led to Africans being brought to work on southern plantations, the slaves who became cooks incorporated seasonings and spices that were absent in traditional Scottish cuisine, enriching the flavor. Since most slaves were unable to raise expensive meats, but generally allowed to keep chickens, frying chicken on special occasions continued in the African American communities of the South, especially in the periods of segregation that closed off most restaurants to the black population.
American-style fried chicken gradually passed into common use as a general Southern dish, especially after the abolition of slavery, and its popularity spread. Since fried chicken traveled well in hot weather before refrigeration was commonplace, and as the growth of industry reduced its cost, it gained further favor across the South. Fried chicken continues to be among this region's top choices for "Sunday dinner". Holidays such as Independence Day and other gatherings often feature this dish. During the 20th century, chain restaurants focused on fried chicken began among the boom in the fast food industry. Brands such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeyes, and Bojangles expanded in the United States and across the world.
Before the industrialization of chicken production, and the creation of broiler breeds of chicken, only young spring chickens (pullets or cockerels) would be suitable for the higher heat and relatively fast cooking time of frying, making fried chicken a luxury of spring and summer. Older, tougher birds require longer cooking times at lower temperatures. To compensate for this, sometimes tougher birds are simmered till tender, allowed to cool and dry, and then fried.
Fried chicken has been described as being "crunchy" and "juicy", as well as "crispy". The dish has also been called "spicy" and "salty". Occasionally, fried chicken is also topped with chili like paprika, or hot sauce to give it a spicy taste. This is especially common in fast food restaurant chains such as KFC. The dish is traditionally served with mashed potatoes, gravy, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, corn or biscuits.
The dish is renowned for being greasy, especially when coming from fast food outlets. It has even been reported that some of those who enjoy eating the food limit themselves to eating it only a certain number of times a year, to keep their fat intake reasonably low. Out of the various parts of the animal used in fried chicken, the wings generally tend to contain the most fat, with almost 40 grams (1.4 oz) of fat for every 100 grams (3.5 oz). However, the average whole fried chicken contains only around 12% fat, or 12 grams (0.42 oz) per every 100 grams (3.5 oz). 100 grams (3.5 oz) of fried chicken generally contains around 240 calories of energy.
Generally, chickens are not fried whole. Instead, the chicken is divided into its constituent pieces. The white meat sections are the breast and the wings from the front of the chicken, while the dark meat sections are the thighs and legs or "drumsticks" from the rear of the chicken. The breast is typically split into two pieces, and the back is usually discarded. Chicken fingers, which are boneless pieces of chicken breast cut into long strips, are also commonly used.
To prepare the chicken pieces for frying, they are typically coated in a flour-based batter that may contain eggs or milk, or they may be dredged in flour or breadcrumbs. Seasonings such as salt, black pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, or onion powder can be mixed in with the flour. Either process may be preceded by marination or dipping in buttermilk, the acidity of which acts as a meat tenderizer. As the pieces of chicken cook, some of the moisture that exudes from the chicken is absorbed by the coating of flour and browns along with the flour, creating a flavorful crust.
Traditionally, lard is used to fry the chicken, but corn oil, peanut oil, canola oil, soybean oil, or other vegetable oils are also frequently used. The flavor of olive oil is generally considered too strong to be used for traditional fried chicken, and its low smoke point makes it unsuitable for use. There are three main techniques for frying chickens: pan frying, deep frying and broasting.
Pan frying (or shallow frying) requires a frying pan of sturdy construction and a source of fat that does not fully immerse the chicken. The chicken pieces are prepared as above, then fried. Generally, the fat is heated to a temperature hot enough to seal (without browning, at this point) the outside of the chicken pieces. Once the pieces have been added to the hot fat and sealed, the temperature is reduced. There is debate as to how often to turn the chicken pieces, with one camp arguing for often turning and even browning, and the other camp pushing for letting the pieces render skin side down and only turning when necessary. Once the chicken pieces are close to being done, the temperature is raised and the pieces are browned to the desired color (some cooks add small amounts of butter at this point to enhance browning). The moisture from the chicken that sticks and browns on the bottom of the pan becomes the fonds required to make gravy.
Deep frying requires a deep fryer or other devices in which the chicken pieces can be completely submerged in hot fat. The process of deep frying is placing food fully in oil and then cooking it at a very high temperature. The pieces are prepared as described above. The fat is heated in the deep fryer to the desired temperature. The pieces are added to the fat and a constant temperature is maintained throughout the cooking process.
Broasting uses a pressure cooker to accelerate the process. The moisture inside the chicken becomes steam and increases the pressure in the cooker, lowering the cooking temperature is needed. The steam also cooks the chicken through, but still allows the pieces to be moist and tender while maintaining a crisp coating. Fat is heated in a pressure cooker. Chicken pieces are prepared as described above and then placed in the hot fat. The lid is placed on the pressure cooker, and the chicken pieces are thus fried under pressure.
The derivative phrases "country fried" and "chicken fried" often refer to other foods prepared in the manner of fried chicken. Usually, this means a boneless, tenderized piece of meat that has been floured or battered and cooked in any of the methods described. Chicken fried steak is a common dish of that variety. Such dishes are often served with gravy.
- Barberton chicken, also known as Serbian Fried Chicken, is a version created by Serbian immigrants in Barberton, Ohio, that has been popularized throughout that state.
- Chicken and waffles, is a combination platter of foods traditionally served at breakfast and dinner in one meal, common to soul food restaurants in the American South and beyond.
- Chicken Maryland is a form of pan-fried chicken, often marinated in buttermilk, served with cream gravy and native to the state of Maryland. The recipe spread beyond the United States to the haute cuisine of Auguste Escoffier and, after heavy modification, found a place in the cuisines of Britain and Australia. The dish is made when a pan of chicken pieces and fat, as for pan frying, is placed in the oven to cook, for a majority of the overall cooking time, basically "fried in the oven".
- Hot chicken, common in the Nashville, Tennessee area, is a pan-fried variant coated with lard and cayenne pepper paste.
- Popcorn chicken, also known as chicken bites or other similar terms, are small morsels of boneless chicken, battered and fried, resulting in small pieces that resemble popcorn.
Since the American Civil War, traditional slave foods like fried chicken, watermelon, and chitterlings have suffered a strong association with African-American stereotypes and blackface minstrelsy. The reasons for this are various. Chicken dishes were popular among slaves before the Civil War, as chickens were generally the only animals slaves were allowed to raise on their own. This was commercialized for the first half of the 20th century by restaurants like Sambo's and Coon Chicken Inn, which selected exaggerated depictions of black people as mascots, implying quality by their association with the stereotype. Although also being acknowledged positively as "soul food" today, the affinity that African-American culture has for fried chicken has been considered by some to be a delicate, often pejorative issue.
On two occasions the golfer Tiger Woods has been the target of remarks regarding fried chicken. The first occurred in 1997 when golfer Fuzzy Zoeller said that Woods should avoid choosing fried chicken and collard greens for the Masters Tournament Champions' Dinner the following year; the second when golfer Sergio García was asked in a press conference in 2013 whether he would invite Woods to dinner during the U.S. Open to settle their ongoing feud. García, a Spaniard who was unaware of the existence of the stereotype in American culture, committed a gaffe saying: "We will have him round every night ... We will serve fried chicken", which Woods said was "wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate". Both Zoeller and García subsequently apologized to Woods.
In 2010, fried chicken and collard greens were served at the Universal Studios Lot commissary during Black History Month. Questlove, the drummer of the Roots, was offended by the menu choice and posted a photo of the menu on Twitter with the caption "Hmmm HR?". Many believed the choice of fried chicken and collard greens on the menu was offensive and ignorant, while others opined that the choice was a representation of historical African-American food. Chef Leslie Calhoun, an African-American chef at the Universal Studios commissary, believed that the choice was not offensive, stating that she had lobbied for a Black History Month menu for eight years and that when management finally allowed it, she was given the option to serve whatever she chose.
In 2011, a Beijing restaurant named "Obama Fried Chicken" opened in reference to then U.S. President Barack Obama. It faced legal action from KFC and was renamed soon afterwards. A restaurant in Brooklyn, New York rebranded itself as "Obama Fried Chicken" in 2009, sparking controversy.
In 2012, Burger King released a commercial that featured Mary J. Blige singing about a crispy chicken wrap. The advertisement was controversial due to the racial stereotypes surrounding fried chicken, prompting Burger King to remove the ad from YouTube and Blige to apologize for appearing in it.
In 2016, fried chicken, collard greens, mashed potatoes, and cornbread were served as part of a Black History Month menu at Wright State University. The menu, listed under photos of several prominent African-Americans, including Martin Luther King Jr., drew heavy controversy from students and alumni of the university, including Dominick Evans, a Wright University alumnus.
In 2019, Will Hurd, an African-American Congressman, appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher. There, he said that while he was in the CIA, he "was the dude in the back alleys at four o'clock in the morning collecting intelligence on threats to the homeland." Bill Maher responded by saying: "That's where you'd collect it, huh? Wow. By the Popeyes Chicken?" Maher was widely criticized for the remark.
- etymonline.com; The United States Cook Book: A Complete Manual for Ladies, Housekeepers and Cook (1865), p. 104. Marion Harland, Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery (1874), p. 90.
- Sumnu, Servet Gulum; Sahin, Serpil (December 17, 2008). Advances in Deep-Fat Frying of Foods. CRC Press. pp. 1–2. ISBN 9781420055597.
The origin of fried chicken is the southern states of America. Fried chicken had been in the diet of Scottish people for a long time, but they did not use seasoning. After African slaves had been hired as cooks, they added seasoning to the fried chicken of the Scottish people. Because slaves were allowed to feed only chickens, fried chicken became the dish that they ate on special occasions. This tradition spread to all African-American communities after the abolition of slavery.
- Mariani, John F. (1999). The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink. New York: Lebhar-Friedman. pp. 305–306.
The Scottish, who enjoyed frying their chickens rather than boiling or baking them as the English did, may have brought the method with them when they settled the South. The efficient and simple cooking process was very well adapted to the plantation life of the southern African-American slaves, who were often allowed to raise their own chickens.quoted at Olver, Lynne. "history notes-meat". The Food Timeline. Archived from the original on February 21, 2012. Retrieved June 20, 2009..
- Robinson, Kat (October 21, 2014). Classic Eateries of the Arkansas Delta. The History Press. ISBN 9781626197565.
Most settlers from Europe were accustomed to having their chicken roasted or stewed. The Scots are believed to have brought the idea of frying chicken in fat to the United States and eventually into the Arkansas Delta in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Similarly, African slaves brought to the South were sometimes allowed to keep chickens, which didn't take up much space. They flour-breaded their pieces of plucked poultry, popped it with paprika and saturated it with spices before putting it into the grease.
- Rice, Kym S.; Katz-Hyman, Martha B. (2010). World of a Slave: Encyclopedia of the Material Life of Slaves in the United States [2 volumes]: Encyclopedia of the Material Life of Slaves in the United States. ABC-CLIO. pp. 109–110. ISBN 978-0-313-34943-0.
Chickens also were considered to be a special dish in traditional West African cuisine. ... Chickens were... fried in palm oil. ... Pieces of chicken fried in oil sold on the street ... would all leave their mark on the developing cuisine of the early South.
- Kein, Sybil (2000). Creole: The History and Legacy of Louisiana's Free People of Color. LSU Press. pp. 246–247. ISBN 978-0-8071-2601-1.
Creole fried chicken is another dish that follows the African technique: "the cook prepared the poultry by dipping it in a batter and deep fat frying it
- Opie, Frederick Douglass (2013). Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America. Columbia University Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-231-51797-3.
..the African-American preference for yams and sweet potatoes, pork, chicken, and fried foods also originated in certain West African culinary traditions
- Worral, Simon (December 21, 2014) "The Surprising Ways That Chickens Changed the World" Archived December 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. National Geographic: "When slaves were brought here from West Africa, they came with a deep knowledge of the chicken, because in West Africa the chicken was a common farm animal and also a very sacred animal. The knowledge that African-Americans brought served them very well, because white plantation owners for the most part didn't care much about chicken. In colonial times there were so many other things to eat that chicken was not high on the list."
- Opie, Frederick Douglass (2013). Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America. Columbia University Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-231-51797-3.
West African women batter dipped and fried chicken" and "The African-American practice of eating chicken on special occasions is also a West Africanism that survived the slave trade. Among the Igbo, Hausa, and Mande, poultry was eaten on special occasions as part of religious ceremonies.
- Rice, Kym S.; Katz-Hyman, Martha B. (December 13, 2010). World of a Slave: Encyclopedia of the Material Life of Slaves in the United States [2 volumes]: Encyclopedia of the Material Life of Slaves in the United States. ABC-CLIO. p. 109. ISBN 9780313349430. Archived from the original on May 3, 2016. Retrieved August 6, 2016.
- Graham, Tyler; Ramsey, Drew (April 26, 2012). "How Vegetable Oils Replaced Animal Fats in the American Diet". The Atlantic.com. The Atlantic Monthly Group. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
- "10 Reasons You Should Be Cooking With Lard". The Huffington Post Australia. Archived from the original on June 3, 2016. Retrieved June 3, 2016.
- "The TOP 3 reasons why YOU should be eating LARD". Weed 'em & Reap. Archived from the original on August 12, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
- History of Fried Chicken through the Ages Archived November 12, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Southernfriedchickenrecipe.com. Retrieved on January 30, 2012.
- History of Fried Chicken : I Am Welcoming You to Kik Culinary Corner and History of Some Story & Experience Archived December 26, 2017, at the Wayback Machine. Experienceproject.com (August 19, 2008). Retrieved on January 30, 2012.
- "Southern Living's Best Fried Chicken Recipe". NYT Cooking. Archived from the original on May 22, 2016. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- "Adobo-Fried Chicken Recipe". NYT Cooking. Archived from the original on May 16, 2016. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- "The Food Lab: The Best Southern Fried Chicken". www.seriouseats.com. Archived from the original on May 31, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
- "Spicy Fried Chicken With Honey and Pickles". Wall Street Journal. January 9, 2014. ISSN 0099-9660. Archived from the original on June 16, 2016. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- Waxman, Olivia B. "KFC Introduces Nashville Hot Chicken". TIME.com. Archived from the original on May 20, 2016. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- Bruno, Pat (January 3, 1986). "Fried chicken worth clucking about". Chicago Sun-Times – via HighBeam (subscription required). Archived from the original on October 8, 2016. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
- Galarneau, Andrew Z. (March 9, 2011). "Chicken fried right; When it's time to splurge, Buffalo has its share of restaurants serving crispy fried chicken". The Buffalo News – via HighBeam (subscription required). Archived from the original on October 8, 2016. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
- "Moisture and fat content Moisture and fat content of extra crispy fried of extra crispy fried chicken skin from breast, thigh, drum and wing" (PDF). ars.usda.gov. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 11, 2016. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- "Chicken, broilers or fryers, light meat, meat and skin, cooked, fried, flour". ndb.nal.usda.gov. Archived from the original on June 25, 2016. Retrieved June 3, 2016.
- "How to Make the Best Fried Chicken – Cooking 101 – Cook's Country". www.cookscountry.com. Archived from the original on June 28, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
- "Cutting Up Chicken – Kitchen Notes – Cooking For Engineers". www.cookingforengineers.com. Archived from the original on May 22, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
- Ramzy, Austin (May 5, 2016). "KFC, With New Nail Polish, Redefines Chicken Fingers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on May 9, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- "The Science of Frying – FineCooking.com". FineCooking.com. Archived from the original on June 13, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
- Pereira, Alyssa (June 22, 2016). "The internet is obsessing over this 18th century fried chicken recipe". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on June 22, 2016. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
- "Fried Chicken in the 18th Century?". YouTube. June 20, 2016. Archived from the original on June 21, 2016. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
- What is Southern Fried Chicken? Archived November 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Wisegeek.com. Retrieved on January 30, 2012.
- "Southern Pan-Fried Chicken Recipe". NYT Cooking. Archived from the original on May 24, 2016. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- "How to Make Thai-Style Deep Fried Chicken Thighs". Fox News Magazine. December 23, 2014. Archived from the original on June 16, 2016. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- "This chicken's not roasted, broiled or fried. It's BROASTED. Good luck finding it, though". Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 7, 2016. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- "Pan Frying – Food Reference Cooking Basics – Food For Thought". www.foodreference.com. Archived from the original on June 9, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
- "Deglazing: What it Is and Why Do It". The Reluctant Gourmet. September 14, 2012. Archived from the original on May 25, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
- "How to deep-fry – How To Guides – Cooking tips". Taste.com.au. Archived from the original on June 17, 2016. Retrieved June 4, 2016.
- "How to make homemade Broasted Chicken". Archived from the original on July 25, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
- Fried Chicken Recipes Archived October 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Southernfood.about.com (November 9, 2011). Retrieved on January 30, 2012.
- "From John T. Edge: Chicken Fried Steak, Steamed Sandwiches, Georgia Barbecue". Diner's Journal Blog. The New York Times. Archived from the original on December 8, 2018. Retrieved May 21, 2016.
- "Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken". Village Voice. Archived from the original on May 20, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- Edge, John T. (March 2003). "The Barberton Birds". Attaché. Archived from the original on February 16, 2006.
- Myers, Dan (October 27, 2015). "America's best chicken and waffles". Fox News. Archived from the original on June 9, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- "Maryland chicken with banana fritters and cornbread". BBC Food. Archived from the original on May 13, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- Waxman, Olivia B. "KFC Introduces Nashville Hot Chicken". TIME.com. Archived from the original on May 20, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- "Recipe: Devin Alexander's KFC's Popcorn Chicken". ABC News. April 26, 2006. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
- Bering, Jesse (November 1, 2011). "Culinary Racism". Slate. Archived from the original on November 2, 2011. Retrieved November 2, 2011.
- "Zoeller: I've 'paid my dues' for Tiger comment". ESPN.com. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- "Tiger Woods: Fried chicken jibe by Sergio Garcia 'hurtful'". BBC Sport. May 22, 2013. Archived from the original on May 22, 2013. Retrieved May 22, 2013.
- "Cook defends fried chicken choice for Black History Month menu". theGrio. Archived from the original on June 10, 2016. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
- "'Obama Fried Chicken' restaurant spotted in Beijing; KFC considering legal action". Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 12, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
- Fahim, Kareem (April 3, 2009). "Brooklyn Restaurant's Name Hits a Sour Note". The New York Times. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
- Poulos, James (April 5, 2012). "Drama and Fries: Burger King Bungles Mary J. Blige's Crispy Chicken Ad". Forbes. Archived from the original on April 7, 2012. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
- Yuhas, Alan (February 20, 2015). "Black History Month menu at university features fried chicken, collard greens". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on August 26, 2016. Retrieved August 4, 2016.
- Williams, Trey (February 2, 2019). "Bill Maher Called Out for Making Popeyes Chicken Joke to Black lawmaker". The Wrap. Archived from the original on February 2, 2019. Retrieved February 9, 2010.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Southern fried chicken.|