We know, you think your mom makes the best fried chicken out there. Nostalgia and hometown bias aside, though, many of us are also very opinionated about our favorite fried chicken joints outside of our own childhood kitchens.
Fried chicken is a quintessential American dish, along with hamburgers, hot dogs, apple pie, barbecue, peanut butter, and casseroles. It’s cheap, relatively easy to prepare (although some obviously do it better than others), and is a great equalizer: no matter who you are or where you’re from, you’re expected to eat it with your hands.
Fried chicken may have a particularly strong association with the Southeast, but its roots belong to many immigrant populations who settled in all corners of the country. People from West African, European, and Asian ethnicities can all take some credit for both introducing and continuing the fried chicken tradition stateside. And just how important is this dish to Americans today? Well, it has its own national holiday: July 6.
Last year, we brought you an extensive roadmap of the country’s best places for fried chicken. So how did we come up for additions to this year’s roadmap? We considered reader feedback while also consulting our staff and several national experts. Along with some necessary Midwest mentions (such as a couple of infamous dueling restaurants in Pittsburg, Kan.), we’ve included a unique venue that feeds its scraps to local raccoons, as well as a North Carolina church kitchen turned popular local restaurant.
Flour, water, salt, chicken, and lard are just the beginning when it comes to fried chicken. These basic ingredients lay the foundation for customization — whether it’s a vinegar-based marinade, cayenne, or even maple-honey butter. The possibilities are (actually) endless. Everyone’s got their favorite, so if your preferred establishment didn’t make this year’s cut, let us know by leaving a comment.
We’ve listed the best of the best here, so be sure to consult our slideshow for the next time that you stray from your mom’s recipe.
Additional writing and research was provided by Molly Aronica, Emily Rothkrug, Meredith Whitman, and Emily Kolars.