September 18, 2010

Cooking Fried Chicken...Simple, Right?

Today you can buy fried chicken in minutes at a fast food drive-thru or pick up some Shake-n-Bake mix to dump over the chicken before tossing it in the fryer. But in the 1800s, you had to slaughter, pluck, and cook the bird herself to serve chicken for dinner.

I recently fried up some chicken using a family recipe for the breading, and that got me thinking about how easy it is today. Our ancestors didn't have it so good. Here's a sneak peek into what they had to do. Think about this the next time you get impatient for a meal to be finished cooking. *grins*

Step One: Catch the Chicken

This part can be rather tricky. If you've never caught a chicken before, the easiest way is to catch them off guard in the coop. Just grab the chicken by the legs and lift it off the ground holding the chicken upside down by the legs. The chicken may flap around a bit, but if you're careful, and have a good grip on the legs the chicken won't get away. The important thing to remember is not to let the chicken go, because its going to be really hard to catch it again now that its on its guard.

Step two: Kill the Chicken

There are two methods to kill a chicken. One is to simply lie the chicken on a chopping block and cut off its head. This can be rather bloody, but it's a sure way to be positive that the chicken is dead.

The second method is to wring the chicken's neck. If this is done correctly it's a lot less messy.

So, take your chicken by the legs (you are still holding it right?). In your other hand pull down on the neck and then bend it upward very quickly. If you've done it correctly, then you will feel a snap, and the chicken will reflexively begin to flap its wings. At this point you can drop the chicken and let it run around the yard until it's body finished dying (hence the term "run around like a chicken with its head cut off).

If you've broken the neck, the next step is to drain out some of the blood. Hang the chicken upside down over a bucket. Then with a sharp knife reach into the mouth slightly down the throat and cut across cutting the jugular. Be very careful not to cut through the back of the neck.

Step Three: Pluck the Chicken

This step can be quite time consuming, but it's quite simple. Hang the chicken (preferably over something to catch the feathers). It's best to begin with the larger wing feathers, and simply pull in a downward motion. Take care not to try pulling in large clumps, if you try to pull too many at a time, then you risk tearing the skin. Be sure to get all the large feathers and as many of the small ones from the areas of the chicken that you plan to eat.

After you've plucked as much as you can stand, singe off the remaining feathers. Simply hold the chicken over an open flame.

Step Four: Dressing the Chicken

This step is not for the weak of stomach.

With a sharp knife, cut around the anus. Take care not to cut the intestines. Once you've cut all the way around the anus and freed the intestines from its connecting membranes move to the head of the chicken.

At this point you'll need a heavy knife or a pair of clippers. Cut off the head at the base of the neck. Reach your hand into the chicken from the neck, and try to loosen as many of the internal organs as possible. Now simply remove the internals from the anus end. If necessary reach inside the chicken to be certain that you've removed all the insides.

Step Five: Finishing up

Cut off the feet, and pull out any remaining feathers. If you so desire, now is the time to skin the chicken. If not, you're ready to cut.

1. Remove the legs
Place the chicken breast side up on a solid cutting board. Pull one leg away from the body and cut through the skin between the body and both sides of the thigh. Bend the whole leg firmly away from the body until the ball of the thighbone pops from the hip socket. Cut between the ball and the socket to separate the leg. Repeat with the other leg.

2. Divide The Legs
Place the chicken leg skin side down on the cutting board. Cut down firmly through the joint between the drumstick and the thigh.

3. Remove The Wings
With chicken on it's back, remove wing by cutting inside of wing just over joint. Pull wing away from body and cut from down through the skin and the joint. Repeat with the other wing.

4. Cut Carcass in Half
Cut through the cavity of the bird from the tail end and slice through the thin area around the shoulder joint.Cut parallel to the backbone and slice the bones of the rib cage. Repeat on the opposite side of the backbone.

5. Remove The Breast
Pull apart the breast and the back. Cut down trough the shoulder bones to detach the breast from the back. Cut the back into two pieces by cutting across the backbone where the ribs end.

6. Cut Breast In Half
You may leave the breast whole if so desired. To cut in in half, use a strong, steady pressure and cut downward along the length of the breastbone to separate the breast into two pieces.

REMEMBER, wash the chicken thoroughly before preparing.

Step Six: Preparing to Fry

You'll need:
Lard or oil for frying
3 Eggs, beaten
flour or cracker crumbs

Salt each piece, then dip it in beaten egg. Dredge each piece in flour or cracker crumbs.

Step Seven: Frying the Chicken

Pour lard or oil into a cast iron skillet on the cookstove. Heat until a pinch of flour instantly sizzles in the lard or oil and browns within 60 seconds. When the oil is ready, place each coated piece of chicken in the skillet (you will likely only be able to fry 3-4 pieces at a time) and fry until golden brown. Dark meat takes longer than white meat, so each side should be fried for 8-12 minutes.

When done, place chicken on a serving platter or move to the warmer in the cookstove if you have one.

WARNING: Be careful of splattering lard or oil, as fires can occur.

* * * * *

And there you have it. Catching, plucking, dressing, and frying a chicken from start to finish.

Now, aren't you thankful for frozen or refrigerated chicken already cut and ready for the breading? *winks*

Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood. Today, she is an author, online marketing specialist and freelance web site designer who lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have 1 daughter so far and a border collie.

She has sold eight books so far to Barbour Publishing, is a columnist for the ACFW e-zine, AFictionado, and writes other articles as well. Read more about her at her web site:


Linda said...

That is pretty close to how we did it on the farm! Made for GOOD eating!

Pepper Basham said...

Thanks so much. WOW! What a process. I've seen the cut-up-and-fry side of the fried chicken, but didn't have a chance to watch the wring-and-pluck side :-)

I'm not complainin', btw.

Thanks so much.
Blessings and enjoy that chicken.

GinnyAiken said...

Just read your description. Got stopped by the dressing part. And I'm cooking chicken as I type. Don't know if I'm going to be able to eat it :/

Patti Shene said...

Wow, Tiff, I got tired just reading all this! LOL! Makes me kind of thankful I have an easy supper planned for supper - leftovers i can throw in the microwave! I must admit, though, you sure whetted my taste buds for fried chicken. Hmmm....maybe tomorrow!

Bev Bender said...

Great post, Tiff. I'm so glad I don't have to do this today but I remember my mother and grandmother doing it many years ago. Plucking the feathers from the chicken is made much easier if the bird is dipped in boiling water before plucking. The smell is awful but it's an effective method. I always made myself scarce when chicken plucking time came around!

Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

Hmm, seems we've got some experienced chicken pluckers among our family members. But I'm with all y'all. SO glad we don't have to do this today. Thank God for grocery stores and other people to do this for us!