Adrie’s & Mom’s Fried Chicken

This recipie is the same as my mother learned from Adrie Jefferson who learned it from her mother who had been a slave in Virginia.  Traditionally, this  chicken was fried in an iron skillet using a mixture of chicken flavored fat from previous batches and fresh oil or lard.  I kept a bottle of my mother’s chicken fat in the refrigerator for 10 years after her death.   I was taught to think of this fat as a starter analagous to starters used in sourdough bread or vinegars.  I have never heard of anyone getting sick from cooking fried chicken in fat with a history.  So if you want to fry chicken with Penache save your  seasoned fat.

Remember this chicken was made by people with he most basic ingredients. They didn’t have fancy stoves or designer pots.  They had love!


  • A frying chicken:  Frying chickens are NOT roasters. They tend to be smaller with smaller breasts. Roasters a meant to be carved, friersare meant to be finger food

  • Salt and Pepper

  • Oil and starter if you have it.

  • Flour

  •  Ice Water



  • A large deep bowl for holding the chicken.
  • A large plate for flouring.
  • Tongs and a long-handle fork
  • A deep saute pan or skillet (depth lessens oil splatter which will happen)
  • A platter for the cooked chicken
  • Paper towels.


Place the cut up fryer in the large bowl and add lots of ice cubes and water to cover the chicken.  The ice water will tighten the chicken’s skin which is essential.  It would tighten your skin too.

Place about two cups of flour on a large plate.  Add about a table spoon of salt and a teaspoon of finely ground pepper (from the can not the mill). Mix the salt and flour together and taste. by wetting your fingertip and sticking it in the flour.   It must be obvioulsy salty and quite peppery — subtlety is not the name of the game.

Pour oil in a cold pan.  About 1/2 inch deep is fine

Heat the oil and test by dropping a piece of bread into it. When it sizzles and starts to brown you are ready.

TIP  Throughout the cooking process you will be adjusting the heat because cold chicken will alter it.

Floured Chicken Ready for the Pan
Floured Chicken Ready for the Pan

Take a your split chichen breasts from the ice water. Shake off excess water (not all water) and immediately place them in the flour mixture.  The water will make the flour adhere the the skin of the chicken.  Using your hands and fingers make sure flour gets into all the crevices.  Shake off the excess flour and using your thongs lower it skin down into the hot oil.   If you have done your job coating the breast with flour, you will not have the oil and water flare up.  Repeat this with the other breasts followed by thighs, then legs then wings.

TIP You are starting pieces that take the longest to cook and moving down to shorter cooking times.

Notice the oil level

Breasts cooking
Breasts cooking

You must watch the chicken to make sure that it is not burning. You do this by using youtr  tongs and long handle fork to peek at the cooking side.  When the skin side is browned turn the breast ove to the rib side. This side is more forgiving,  so you can make it browner.   You will probably need to stand a breast on its to get even brownness.

Test for Donness. This is an art.  There are three ways that I know of.

The primitive way is to remove a breast and cut into its thickest part.   If it is not rosy pink, it is done.

An instant meat thermometer may be your best bet.  It should read  185F when inserted into the thickest part of the breast or thigh.

Then there is the finger poking  test.  Please see the techniques section “Braising” for a discussion of testing doneness using your finger.  This requires practice.  If Chefs can do this, so can you.


When your chicken pieces are done place them on a platter on paper towels . Gently pat the cooked chicken with a towel.  Thise will absorb the excess fat.  Place the platter in a warming oven (the lowest heat level). Do not cover the chicken with foil or anything as this will make the skin/breading soggy.

This chicken is best served warm enough so people can pick pieces up with their fingers.

I love to serve Adrie’s fried chicken with candied or mashed yams and greens like collards or kale.   I am sure recipes for these sides will appear at some point.