Sydney Meers’ Fried Chicken

It’s not every day that a born-and-bred Southerner will take the time to walk you through his grandmother’s recipe for foolproof fried chicken. Which is why we fell all over ourselves saying yes when Sydney Meers, owner and chef of the quaint, quirky, aptly named Stove restaurant in Portsmouth,Virginia, said he’d indulge us. Syd, we’d write you a proper thank you, but our gratitude upon tasting this is rendering us wordless.–Renee Schettler Rossi

LC Saying Grace Note

We know it’s tradition to say grace before a meal. But we think this fried chicken will make you want to say grace after as well, regardless of whether you consider yourself religious.

Sydney Meers' Fried Chicken Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • For the brine
  • 1 1/2 gallons cool water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 5 dried bay leaves, crushed
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • One whole 3- to 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • For the fry
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup stone-ground cornmeal (it doesn’t matter if it’s yellow or white)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (no prejudices here, either black or white is fine)
  • Lard or bacon drippings, for frying

Directions

  • Brine the chicken
  • 1. In a large bowl, combine the water, salt, bay leaves, and rosemary, and stir until the salt is dissolved. Pat the chicken dry. Place the chicken pieces in the brine and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes but no more than 1 hour.
  • Fry the chicken
  • 2. Sift the flour and cornmeal together in a shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • 3. Remove the chicken pieces from the brine, flicking off any pieces of herbs that may cling to the skin. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, flipping and flouring the meat until it’s completely coated.
  • 4. Heat about a 1/2 inch of lard or bacon drippings in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-highish heat until it bubbles and the sound it makes shifts from a sizzle to a gurgle. If you want a more foolproof indicator, it’s ready when you drop a pinch of flour in the oil and it hisses. Using tongs, snuggle the chicken, skin side up, into the skillet, being careful to handle only the big ends of the bones. You may need to work in batches and adjust the heat slightly so the chicken doesn’t brown to quickly. Fry the chicken for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, until all the chicken pieces are a shimmering golden brown. Remove them from the pan and let rest a spell on paper towels before diving in.
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Testers Choice
Anna Scott

Jun 26, 2011

A fried chicken recipe with ingredients we already had in the house! This was really delicious fried chicken. It was very crisp and even more flavorful than it was crisp. We served it alongside some buttermilk mashed potatoes and sautéed cabbage to round out a completely southern dinner. I was skeptical whether leaving it in the brine for only 30 minutes would impart any flavor to the chicken, but you could really taste a hint of rosemary and bay leaves in each bite. I fried it in two batches and found that putting the first batch in a 325-degree oven while the second batch fried kept it warm and finished off the cooking process nicely. Overall this was a wonderful recipe! I would love to try adding either hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne pepper to the brine or dredge mix next time to make it a bit spicy.

Testers Choice
Cindi Kruth

Jun 26, 2011

This recipe was pretty simple and surprisingly successful. Surprising to me because the seasonings were so basic and so few. If you like rosemary and bay you will like this chicken. I was also surprised that the brine was not rinsed off and there was a difference of opionion as to whether this made the chicken too salty. Three tasters said it was salty but not too much so, one said it was fine but would be better just a bit less salty, and two said definitely too salty. I noticed, however, that every single taster finished his or her serving, and a couple went back for seconds. The seasonings were enjoyed by all as was the very crispy and flavorful (from the bacon drippings) crust. (I fried it in a combination of bacon fat and lard. I don’t know anyone who actually has enough bacon drippings to fry chicken.) I used thighs and they cooked completely through but still very juicy by the time the outside browned beautifully, about 25 minutes total. Having no thermometer, I followed the hint about sizzling flour, which I believe meant the oil was about 350°F, and it was just right. Next time I would probably rinse the brine off. Other than that this fried chicken recipe worked well exactly as written and was simple and delicious.

Testers Choice
Sofia Reino

Jun 26, 2011

I had never made fried chicken before, therefore I was anxious to try this recipe. Also, I had some collard greens at home and right away thought of frying them in the leftover fat from frying the chicken. It came out FANTASTIC! Juicy, tender, and very tasty. One thing to remember is to keep a good eye on the chicken during frying it as I ALMOST burned one of the sides of the chicken. I had to reduce the heat a tad. Also, the only other thing is that the flour mix seemed to be too much for just one chicken. This will be a repeat in our household.

Testers Choice
Dan Kraan

Jun 26, 2011

I love how a brine can bring out the best in poultry. This recipe is no exception. The pieces of chicken were very tender and juicy, although I would add at least one more rosemary sprig to the brine. Bruising the rosemary will increase the intensity, too. The coating produced a wonderfully crisp, lightly spiced crust. The majority of my cooking medium was bacon drippings and I’m sure that enhanced the flavour of the chicken. I will always think twice about takeout fried chicken from now on.

Notes:
1. The herbal flavours were somewhat tame. I’d recommend using a least twice as much rosemary and bruising it before tossing into the brine.

2. I used a run-of-the-mill sea salt and regular black pepper for the seasoning. Considering that there are 4 cups of combined flour and cornmeal, I was rather generous with the seasoning. About three tablespoons of sea salt and two tablespoons of black pepper seemed to disappear into the flour mix.

3. I’m not in the habit of deep frying too often, so I had to combine mostly bacon fat, a few ounces of lard and then canola oil to get the required 1/2-inch in my 12-inch, 6-quart pot. I think the bacon fat adds a degree of flavour you won’t get with plain lard.

4. The oil registered around 310°F when a pinch of flour sizzled. Adding the meat, it took two batches in my 6-quart pot, the temperature dropped to around 280°F, but climbed quickly back and settled around 350°F. I kept a close eye on the heat and regulated accordingly. Since this is a relatively small batch of oil for deep frying, temperatures can be expected to fluctuate with every addition or change. Careful monitoring and regulation is recommended.

5. Since my bird was on the 4-pound side, I needed around 9 minutes per side to ensure doneness – the drumsticks came out a minute or two sooner. Again, I regulated the heat to keep the temperature from climbing past 350°F.

Comments
Comments
  1. sydney meers says:

    Sydney here, on the flour dredge, it’s important to have more than enough flour as you need to toss in a bag and get it coated, with a smaller amount it will not coat as well. When finished just sift out lumps and store till next use.

  2. sydney meers says:

    Cindi, glade you like it, the salt is correct in this formula and will be salty for some and not so for other because we all like salt different ways, this is the way i like it but by all means on any recipe anyone write one should always adjust seasonings but I feel only after you try the original way first of course. We also used a free ranging bug eaten chicken from my friends farm and the bird was just wonderful and that may also have a touch to do with the taste as well. I find that most Store bought birds have been injected with a saline solution to help the shelf life and that will certainly affect the brining of this bird. Anyway come on down and eat some chicken with me, xo sydney

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