This cornmeal-crusted fried chicken from Sydney Meers, thanks to a quick brine and an easy dredge in flour and cornmeal, turns out tender, juicy meat, and shatteringly crisp skin. Here’s how to make it.
Nearly 10 years ago, when Sydney Meers, owner and chef of the quaint, quirky, aptly named Stove restaurant in Portsmouth, Virginia, said he’d indulge us and show us his grandmother’s approach to fried chicken, we of course said yes. 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.–Renee Schettler Rossi
☞ READ THE ESSAY: THE FRIED CHICKEN EVANGELIST
Cornmeal Crusted Fried Chicken
For the brine
- 1 1/2 gallons cool water
- 1 cup salt
- 5 dried bay leaves crushed
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 (3-to 4 -pound) whole chicken
Brine the chicken
- 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
- Sift the flour and cornmeal together in a shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- 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.
- Heat about a 1/2 inch (12 mm) 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 too quickly. Fry the chicken for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, until all the chicken pieces are a shimmering golden brown.
- Remove the chicken from the skillet and let rest a spell on paper towels before diving in.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
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 2 batches and found that putting the first batch in a 325°F 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.
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. 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 was also surprised that the brine wasn’t rinsed off and there was a difference of opinion 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. 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.
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.
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.
Originally published July 05, 2020