There are many ways to cook chicken. You can boil or poach it, sauté it, bake or roast it, grill it, smoke it, cook it on a rotisserie or in a clay pot. Once it’s cooked, you can pull or shred it, make it into soup or salad, add it to enchiladas or pasta.…But let’s face it: The best, most delicious, most irresistible thing you can do with chicken is to fry it — and then gnaw it off the bone or put it boneless into a sandwich.
Almost every cuisine in the world seems to have its favorite chicken dishes. Chicken shows up as everything from the most casual possible street food to the truffle-stuffed centerpiece at some over-the-top gastronomic feast. But with the possible exception of Australia, no other nation eats more chicken than the U.S.A. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that our per capita consumption of the bird in 2018 was about 93 pounds per person. Other estimates put the number at more than twice that.
It’s impossible to determine exactly how much fried chicken is included in our annual intake of this most popular bird, but it’s got to be a lot, considering the ubiquity of fried chicken sandwiches in restaurants of all kinds and the current nationwide popularity of both Nashville-style hot (read “very spicy”) and super-crispy Korean fried chicken — the latter with a coating that is sometimes almost brittle — not to mention the continuing success of all those fast-food fried chicken chains. (These are the top 10 chicken chains in America.)
In fact, when 24/7 Tempo sought out the 35 best fried chicken places around the country according to Yelp reviewers, a surprising number of them fell into one of the latter two categories. Good old-fashioned Southern-style fried chicken, with a breading or batter flavored with not much more than salt and pepper, seems to be on the decline — or at least doesn’t please diners as much these days as some other fried chicken variations. These, nonetheless, are the best chicken dishes in America.