Fried chicken is hot.

As evidenced by last summer’s
chicken-sandwich war between Chick-fil-A and Popeyes, the battle has elements
of the Trojan War. Popeyes is the face that launched a million tweets (adjusted
for 2019 inflation). Sparks of outrage, prohibitive lines around the block,
connection to a murder, dozens of fights, Tik Tok videos — the modern-day history
of fried chicken as we know it is changed. Fried chicken has become the great
equalizer. Tradition has given way to style and it’s trendy again to eat fried bird.
Even non-chicken eaters will look to a chicken-fried steak or a chicken-fried
mushroom with comfort and joy.

What people don’t know is that the best fried chicken, on a sandwich or not, is skillet-fried chicken.

Oil, vegetable shortening or
lard, the yard bird is best seasoned, floured and slowly lowered into hot oil
that bubbles and sputters with delight as the chicken cooks. Cast iron heats
evenly, retains heat and actually imparts a miniscule amount of the iron to the
food cooked in it. Roman enemies boiled in oil never had it so good.

In the Triad, we are lucky to
have three longstanding restaurants where diners can find the golden truth
every day of the week.

Sundays and Tuesdays are skillet-fried
chicken nights at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen in Greensboro. Rendered lard is
blessed with wings, legs and breasts. The crust has a light coating and the
tender meat is juicy. Served with mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, collard greens
and a hunk of cornbread, you can switch up the sides if you like, but Lucky
knows best how its fried chicken should be served. And I agree.

Lucky 32’s skillet fried chicken comes with collard greens and a hunk of cornbread. (courtesy image)

Smith Street Diner has fried
chicken night on Thursdays including extended hours for diners craving the cozy
atmosphere alongside the greasy spoon’s menu. A whole fried chicken, two sides (I
highly recommend the rice and gravy and collard greens) with your choice of
bread (cornbread, roll or a giant biscuit). Cut into quarters, the chicken has
nooks and crannies and a crisp crust that begs for the skin to be peeled off
and eaten separately.

Miss Ora’s Kitchen in
Winston-Salem has skillet fried chicken Tuesday through Saturday. Not only can
you get chicken by the piece, but tenders, livers, gizzards and wings are
available every day too. It’s served with a fluffy sweet-potato biscuit (a
small nod to its sister restaurant, Sweet Potatoes), but the secret is in the
oil. Fried with pieces of pork fatback, not only does the chicken hum while
it’s cooking, it sings when it’s done and you get to eat the crispy fatback as
a prize.

Miss Ora’s fried chicken is cooked with pork fatback. (courtesy image)

“It’s cheap flavor,” says
executive chef and owner Stephanie Tyson. “And you can eat it.”

When asked about the lure of
the fried chicken frenzy of 2019, Tyson and partner Vivian Joiner of Miss Ora’s
Kitchen both agree: It’s a personal thing.

“Why eat chicken with hate
when you can come here and eat chicken with love?”

Everyone has a special
relationship to fried chicken. Whether you’re cooking it or eating it, it
evokes emotions and memories in all of us.

Want to go?

Lucky 32
Southern Kitchen Skillet Fried Chicken

Serves 4

  • 3 – 3/12-pound cut-up fryer chicken
  • 1 1/4 cups oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp minced garlic (optional)
  • 4 tbsp minced parsley (optional)
  1. Heat oil in cast iron skillet to 350 degrees. The oil should come about halfway up the sides of the skillet (adjust amount to skillet size).
  2. Combine garlic and parsley in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Wash chicken pieces in cool water, pat dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk egg, evaporated milk and water. Season with salt and pepper. Place flour in a separate bowl.
  5. One piece at a time (starting with heaviest pieces) dip chicken into egg wash, squeeze, dip into flour and place gently in skillet. Do not overcrowd skillet.
  6. Maintain temperature of 350. Use tongs and fork to turn chicken often for 7-8 minutes. Remove chicken from oil, pierce with fork and squeeze. Return chicken to skillet for approximately 7-8 minutes.
  7. Chicken is done when no longer hissing and juices run clear. Remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain. Immediately top with a sprinkle of garlic and parsley mixture.

Reprinted with permission.

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