What Makes Country-Fried Chicken So Unique?

Of all the foods associated with the South, the most quintessential may be fried chicken. Whether served hot with mashed potatoes and gravy, buttermilk biscuits, and green beans or packed cold and taken on a picnic with potato salad and watermelon, country-fried chicken is part of Southern cuisine.

It may be surprising to some that fried chicken likely originated in lands far away from Georgia and Alabama. Adrian Miller wrote for the BBC that fried chicken has been linked to Scotland and the Scots who settled the southern part of the U.S., as well as to West Africa where it was lightly fried and then braised. Thrillest says fried chicken can be traced back to Medieval Europe where it was called fritters. While slaves in the southern United States often would make fried chicken, it was based on recipes brought to the new country by their owners, contends the BBC article. The first published recipe for fried chicken was in an 1824 book by Mary Randolph and was called, "The Virginia House-Wife."

So wherever fried chicken actually originated, it was made famous in Southern kitchens and it's that style of fried chicken that has been exported to other parts of the world.

Crispy deliciousness

Often considered a comfort food, there is no one recipe for country-fried chicken. However, traditionally, it's a simply fried piece of chicken where the flour breading is crispy when bitten into, according to Thrillest.

The Cozy Cook's recipe for country-fried chicken keeps it simple: flatten chicken breasts and then marinate them in eggs, buttermilk, and salt for hours, or even overnight, to make the chicken tender. After it has been marinated, the chicken is coated with a breading mixture made of flour, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and paprika. 

A Taste of Home recipe for country-fried chicken swaps the cayenne pepper for poultry seasoning and calls for 2% milk instead of buttermilk. While country-fried chicken can be made without the skin, Maria's Farm Country Kitchen advises against it because then some of the flavor is lost. Restaurants often offer varying levels of crispiness with their fried chicken. If you want your homemade fried chicken extra crispy, Maria's Farm Country Kitchen advises to batter it twice before frying. 

Whether you have a hand-me-down family recipe for country-fried chicken or you search online for one, enjoy the crunch as you bite into this famous Southern dish.