Chicken

Big Mama's Fried Chicken

May  5, 2014

Every other week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.

Today: Jocelyn Delk Adams of Grandbaby Cakes brings us a timeless fried chicken recipe.


My Big Mama's (grandmother) recipes are the epitome of timeless. While growing up, I would watch in awe of everything she would prepare in her small rustic kitchen in Mississippi. From the prep work of dicing and slicing to her impressive dinner table display, there was always such an electric energy pulsing in that space that transferred to everyone around it. The charming Southern cooking and laughter from our "back in the day" conversations with my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles are the memories I cherish. Each recipe on that dining room table inspired creativity in my own cooking and baking. Each memory became part of the fabric of who I am and was the catalyst for starting Grandbaby Cakes. Even today, in her late 80's, my Big Mama is still creating the most inspired and remarkable recipes which I am proud to have in my cooking arsenal. 

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Left: My grandparents with my mom and uncle; Right: Big Mama with my brother and me

One of those recipes is my Big Mama’s fried chicken. Whenever we visited my grandparents down South, this ended up on the dinner table. It was always a fresh bird, perfectly seasoned with a juicy inside and golden brown crunchy crust on the outside. 

The “back in the day” story of Big Mama’s fried chicken is equally fetching. According to my mom, Big Mama fried chicken at least once a week when she was growing up. She would buy chickens from her neighbor Ms. Barnett’s hatchery, then they would load the chicken crates into the back of Big Daddy's pickup truck. My mom would shudder as the chicken crates were unloaded at home because she knew the inevitable was coming for these poor chickens. Big Mama would wring the chickens' necks, then drop them in scalding water so she could then pluck all of their feathers. By the time Big Daddy got home from work, a beautiful fried chicken was on the table for supper. 

Big Mama’s approach to frying chicken was quite minimalist: the chicken was coated with plain salt, pepper, and flour in a brown paper bag, then fried in a worn cast iron skillet with lard. As time went on and more ingredients became available, she would sometimes dip the chicken in eggs or buttermilk for a crispier crust texture or add different spices to her flour to vary the taste. By the time I learned to fry chicken from my mom and Big Mama, the recipe had evolved quite a bit from the original. 

This recipe honors that classic while embracing newer techniques picked up along the way. Passed down from my grandmother to my mother and aunt and eventually to me, we have all taken this recipe and created our own unique spin on it. Now I am delighted to pass this family heirloom down to you. 

Big Mama’s Fried Chicken

8-10 chicken pieces
3 large eggs, beaten  
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons seasoned salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon onion powder

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

 

36 Comments

Betty S. September 24, 2018
Reminds me of my aunt's fried chicken. I grew up in southern California, was born in Virginia. in the 60's we would drive to Virginia every summer and had the best of times and eating from the garden. I am going to try this recipe.
 
Marie April 21, 2015
Thank you so much for memories...I was born in Mississippi and we also called our grandmother Big Mama, because my mother was a short, small lady..I also remember seeing her wring the chicken's neck and having a feast with other soul food. I am 72 now and can still taste the tea cakes..God Bless You!<br /><br />
 
April B. June 16, 2014
I enjoyed your story. It brought back memories of my Alabama raised grandma in the kitchen. I'm craving fried chicken this morning now! I'm adding this recipe to my to do list. This chicken looks amazing! Beautiful Pictures. They're perfect!
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes June 16, 2014
Thank you so much April! I really appreciate your kind words!
 
Janis H. May 20, 2014
Thanks so very much for responding to my inquiry. Most people would not even<br />take the time. God bless you!
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 24, 2014
Indeed!
 
Mike &. May 19, 2014
Thank you so much! I enjoyed the story and pictures! Today I celebrate my 51st birthday and I am going to use the recr our dinner today, again thank you so much! Mike
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 24, 2014
Thank you so much!!! That really means a great deal to me!
 
Bee May 18, 2014
Just read your grandmother's recipe, wonderful. As soon as I read the beginning of the your story I could smell the chicken feathers. I'm from Wash,DC but spent some summers at my Grandfather's w/my aunt and her family in Southern Maryland I never really paid attention to the recipe but I do remember the wring of the chicken neck, the pot of boiling water and sitting at the kitchen table plucking the feathers off those chickens. Really brought back memories and I'm 64yrs old.
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 24, 2014
That is so beautiful Bee! Thank you for sharing some of your great history with me!<br />
 
Susana May 18, 2014
I am from South America (Colombia). We eat enough fried things but could never comprehend the American "thing" about fried chicken, "Whatever!" -I thought...<br />I have a friend, who was born in Sweden but raised in California. According to him, his "very white" grandmother, made the best friend chicken and he has been trying to replicate that taste in his kitchen. He was my roommate for a year and I would love to find a way to bring that taste alive to his taste buds. <br />OMG! I think this recipe is it!!! Thank you so much for sharing it. Love the pictures, too!!! Wish me luck! ;-)
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 24, 2014
Good luck Susana!!!
 
Janis H. May 16, 2014
Thanks for publishing your grandmother's recipe. However, looking at the picture,<br />it looks like there are little "green pieces" of some other spice. <br />Are there any missing ingredients, perhaps parsley or basil? Please let me know. My email is [email protected] I sure hope you answer. Thanks, J Haynes
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 17, 2014
Hi Janis, the green specs are parsley and were just for food styling purposes.
 
Barbara J. May 16, 2014
I AM SORRY FOR MY GRAMMAR. I DID NOT READ OVER IT BEFORE I SUBMITTED. AGAIN I AM SORRY..
 
Barbara J. May 16, 2014
I am from Mississippi as well and my mother was a wonderful frying chicken woman. She us to fry chicken in an iron skillet so perfect, delicious, anc crispy. She was an amazing mother, cook, and a giver who loves to feed her family, friends, and community. I was so excited when I seen this recipe online. I can not wait to try it and I hope it taste something like my mother chicken who pass away in 2012. Thank so much for the recipe.
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 17, 2014
Thank you so much Barbara!!
 
Nancy May 12, 2014
When I saw the pictures of "Big" Mama I couldn't help but chuckle. She's so tiny! My Mom was also an amazing chicken fryer. There are a few unique differences in the recipe, so I'm anxious to try this one. Thank you for the chance to smile and look back on the seemingly simpler times.
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 17, 2014
I know right? Big Mama is super tiny but totally wanted to be called that for some reason haha. Same thing with Big Daddy.
 
Dodie K. July 23, 2015
We called my tiny Grandmother Big Mama. I think it started because she was the "big" as in older mama. Love this recipe. I cannot wait to try it this!
 
M.L. May 11, 2014
Enjoyed reading this story about your Big Mama and Big Daddy. Always nice to read a story about family and the good foods/times shared by all. My Grandmother is still with us and back in the day, she was also known for her fried chicken. My family, especially my Grandfather, loved her cooking. Thanks for sharing because this brings back such good memories.
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 17, 2014
I am so glad you enjoyed the story. Thank you!
 
Jonian S. May 11, 2014
Surely a savory portrayal of timelessness in cherished family experiences, this recipe imparts distinction to an otherwise ordinary (and potentially UNsavory) favorite food. I like the "wringing" description and the "arsenal" analogy, which both add to my delight in discovering this article. Thank You.
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 24, 2014
Thank you so much Jonian for sharing this!!! Very grateful!
 
Beth May 11, 2014
Your memories brought back my own. I was born in Memphis and my grandparents lived in a small Ark town 50 miles away. Growing up we would visit on Sundays and she would always have fried chicken and gravy with the other trimings. Another aunt lived there w/my cousin. I spent summers w/my grandmother who cooked her big meal at lunch and it was always wonderful. Thanks for memories.
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 24, 2014
No thank you for your lovely memories Beth!!
 
lonewolf May 11, 2014
My mother made amazing fried chicken, and I am only now embracing the "fry".<br />This recipe looks amazing. I loved reading about your memories of simplicity and family.<br />Happy Mother's Day.
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 24, 2014
Happy Belated Mother's Day to you as well. Thank you so much!
 
Joan B. May 11, 2014
soo glad they re-sent this email as the original wouldn't open and I wanted to see this story/recipe! Sounds terrific and so does your warm family! Thanks for sharing and Happy Mother's Day to y'all Mama's!
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 24, 2014
Thank you so much!
 
Kevin B. May 11, 2014
Your family must be so nice to be around! Thanks for sharing you family heirloom. I have one on Rachael Rays site under her Family Heirlooms.... They are called Buechel Egg Pancakes. Enjoy!<br />
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 24, 2014
oh wow that sounds amazing! they are amazing to be around indeed!
 
Imani L. May 7, 2014
This looks amazing! I cannot wait to try it.
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 24, 2014
Thank you so much Imani!
 
CarlaCooks May 6, 2014
What a wonderful story (and delicious looking fried chicken). You are so lucky that you can continue to make new memories with your Big Mama. Cheers to you both!
 
Author Comment
GrandbabyCakes May 24, 2014
Yes I am very grateful to be able to still make new memories!