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Delaware Fried Chicken

Zach Pagano / TODAY


Fried Chicken
  • 1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning, or to taste
  • 2-3 cups peanut, canola or grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 cup bacon drippings or 2 slices bacon
Red Pepper Honey
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Crushed red pepper flakes

Chef notes

This fried chicken is crusted in a seasoned flour and fried in a bath of peanut oil scented with bacon. I think of it as a taste of beachside living along the Delaware shore because that's where I learned to cook it, and it's how I still make it. Covering the frying pan for a time while the chicken is cooking may be controversial to some, but it really concentrates the crunch of the skin. The chicken is just as good cold or at room temperature the following day. 

Technique tip: Don't worry about all the oil left over when you're done. Let it cool in the pot, then drain it into an old milk container and discard.


For the fried chicken:


Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels.


In a large, sealable plastic bag or paper supermarket sack, combine the flour, salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning, and shake to mix. Add 2 pieces of the chicken to the bag at a time and shake to coat. Remove them, shaking each piece to remove excess flour, and set aside on a baking sheet or wire rack. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.


Place a large cast-iron skillet on the stove and add in the oil and bacon drippings. Heat over medium heat for 5 minutes. If you don't have bacon drippings, add the bacon slices. Continue to heat the pan until a candy thermometer carefully inserted into the oil reads 360°F to 365°F. Remove the bacon when it's crisp and set aside.


Using kitchen tongs, add the chicken pieces, skin-side down, to the pan. Work in batches so as not to crowd them. The temperature of the oil will dip, to between 320°F and 325°F. Adjust the heat so that the oil bubbles gently around the chicken. Cover the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, then uncover the pan and cook for an additional 10 minutes. There will be some spatter, but nothing you can't swipe away with a kitchen towel. Turn the chicken pieces and cover the pan again, then cook for 5 minutes. Uncover the pan and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally, until the chicken is golden brown and cooked all the way through.


Drain the chicken on a wire rack or paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. 

For the red pepper honey:

Pour the honey into a small bowl and whisk in red pepper flakes to taste. Drizzle on fried chicken or serve on the side.