Cast Iron

Big Mama's Fried Chicken

April 30, 2014
9 Ratings
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

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.

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. —GrandbabyCakes

What You'll Need
  • 8 pieces chicken
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons seasoned salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together eggs, hot sauce and worcestershire and set aside.
  2. Next add flour, cornstarch, seasoned salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder to a paper bag and shake to mix well.
  3. Dip each piece of chicken into egg wash coating both sides then dip into seasoned flour thoroughly coating each piece. Then add piece to baking sheet to rest.
  4. Finish coating all chicken and let sit for 10-15 minutes until coating has set.
  5. While coating sets, add 1-1/2 inches of oil to a cast iron skillet or heavy bottom skillet and heat over medium high heat. Also turn on oven to 275 degrees.
  6. This is my test for knowing when the oil is ready: Big Mama always tossed a tiny bit of flour in the oil and if it began to fry and sizzle, the oil was ready.
  7. Fry four pieces at a time on each side starting with dark meat since it takes longer. Make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan. After each side has turned slightly golden, put the top on the skillet to steam the inside of the chicken ensuring doneness. After a couple of minutes, remove the top and continue to fry until the crust is crispy again and completely golden brown.
  8. Remove chicken from oil and place on paper towels or rack to drain. Place chicken on a baking sheet covered with parchment and add to warmed oven while finishing the other chicken pieces.
  9. Fry the remaining chicken pieces and drain and add to oven. Add the remaining chicken to the oven.
  10. Serve chicken when ready.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Jocelyn Delk Adams is the founder of Grandbaby Cakes, a food blog inspired by her grandmother devoted to classic desserts, modern trends and showcasing the pastry field in an accessible way. Jocelyn’s blog has has won multiple awards, including Yahoo! Shine’s "Best Holiday Recipes" and a nominee for "Best Food Blog" from The Kitchn Homies. She has been featured by The New York Times Online, Ebony Magazine,, Refinery 29, Cupcakes and Cashmere, Fox News, the Chicago Sun-Times and Splash Magazine, among others. Jocelyn hopes Grandbaby Cakes inspires a new generation of dessert enthusiasts to learn to bake and not feel guilty about enjoying dessert.

55 Reviews

Denisious January 30, 2022
This was the best! The crust is just like KFC only better. I seasoned the flour aggressively (same spices half the flour for less chicken) and it worked out great. Hope we can have some more of Big Mama's recipes please
Justin L. October 26, 2020
I'm making this right now and omg my house smells like heaven!!! Thank you for sharing Big Mama's recipe! ❤❤
Justin L. October 26, 2020
Im making this right now and omg my house smells like heaven!!! Thank you for sharing Big Mama's recipe! ❤❤
Blackmajic July 7, 2020
The skin was a perfect crisp but it was flavorless. I had to go back and sprinkle it with more seasoning salt🙁
Foodiegirl June 8, 2020
It was really good and I put extra Canye Pepper in the batter by accident but it added a nice kick but it wasn’t spicy at all
Frank February 6, 2017
I'm a guy and I'd like to ask just how do I make a good gravy for this? I love Chicken with gravy and rice or mashed potatoes.
John W. October 15, 2018
@Frank, I made an amazing gravy with this. The old fashioned gravy you make in the skillet you fried the chicken in. After finishing the chicken, pour out all but a small amount of the grease. Maybe 2-3 tablespoons. Heat the pan to medium to medium-high and take that lovely flour mixture you made in the recipe, and sprinkle it in the pan. It will start to sizzle. How much you add will depend on how much you want to make. This is sort of a "trial and error" thing. You cook the flour for a few moments, then you take milk or half & half and slowly add it to the pan while stirring. It will start to thicken. If it starts to get too thick, add a bit more milk but a little at a time. At this point don't try to add more flour or you'll have an icky mess. Keep stirring, don't leave it alone or it will burn. Once you get the amount and consistancy, turn off the heat, check to see if you need salt and pepper then get it out of that pan into a gravy boat or bowl. Should be yummy!
Marcelete June 26, 2016
Awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Thank you for sharing your Big Mama's recipe. Reminded me so much of my Grandmom's chicken. I cooked this today and my family LOVED it. Thanks again! All the Best.
Khalid B. May 18, 2016
My mama made this chicken
Jon C. April 17, 2016
Since I stumbled upon this recipe, the requests from friends and family for my fried chicken has increased exponentially. I absolutely love this. I use it for wings also.
Laurie December 29, 2018
Cool! I also made "Big Mama's" fried chicken and my husband and friends went nuts! So....of course NO matter the type of gathering everyone ask "are you making Big Mama's chicken?"!
I love to be carrying on Big Mama's tradition. Makes me happy. ☺
Bobbi N. March 7, 2016
Is it spicy? I don't like hot, but I live flavourful. Can I omit the cayenne and hot sauce?
Laurie December 29, 2018
You can BUT you'll regret it! It isn't hot to the tongue. It's just full of delicious flavor! If my two year old likes it, then it's not too hot for you. Enjoy!
AKEEM W. March 6, 2016
What can I substitute the cornstarch with?
Jocelyn D. March 6, 2016
Hi Akeem, you can't really sub it for anything. You can eliminate it but it won't make the chicken as crispy.
Laurie December 29, 2018
Cornstarch, as it turns out, is great as a "crispant", if that's a word! You wouldn't want to eliminate anything in this recipe. (Unless you're allergic). Notice how Big Mama puts the lid on the chicken to "steam" the insides? Well the cornstarch is what helps it to be able to crisp up again!
Julie January 5, 2016
Without question - one of the best Fried Chicken recipes. Tweaked it a little bit and only shallow fried it ( finished off for 10 mins in teh oven) My partner said it was better than KFC
Thanks for the recipe
linda December 20, 2015
Can I cook this in a presurer cooker ?
Linda F. November 8, 2015
What kind of sauce did u used can u post a picture of it. Thanks I'll precIate it alot.
Love L. June 16, 2015
Can I just say 'Wow!'? That is an easy, amazingly delicious recipe! Now if only I could say it was neat and clean in the kitchen when I was done. Best recipe ever but do you have ANY tips on how to cook fried chicken without making a mess?! Ha, you're a wizard if you do, but I'll settle for the best darned fried chicken recipe I've ever tried. Thanks!
Love L. June 16, 2015
Also, since I was out of cayenne and paprika, I used Old Bay Cajun seasoning. (It has both in it soooo...)Turned out spicy but fabulous!
Jocelyn D. June 17, 2015
That sounds incredible. I am so glad it turned out so well for you. I try to keep the flour in a big bag that doesn't spray flour everywhere. Also frying chicken can get a bit messy with the oil which I find I can't totally escape but I can keep it down by making sure my pan is pretty tall along the sides so the oil doesn't splatter everywhere. I hope that helps!
becca September 26, 2014
I wish there were cooking times in this recipe. We cooked till brown & crispy, but the insides weren't done...
la May 26, 2014
I made this recipe with additional of coriander and white pepper powder, delicioso
GrandbabyCakes June 7, 2014
Sounds wonderful!
J C. May 23, 2014
Smack my face and call me colonel,..i made this and it knocked my socks off,...cleaned it to the bone too!!!
GrandbabyCakes June 7, 2014
So glad you enjoyed it!
thirteenJ May 21, 2014
procrastibaker May 20, 2014
Oh no! Posted this comment on the wrong chicken recipe, how embarrassing. This is next on my list to try!