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July 9, 2009

What is Maryland fried chicken, anyway?

MarylandFriedChicken.jpgI was doing a little housekeeping on the blog last evening when I came upon the following e-mail, which I had stuck in an unused entry form to write a post about in the future.

I'm a little late with it; Bill sent it last July. But his question is still relevant.

While I'm at it, I'm going to ask what makes fried chicken Maryland-style? You never hear other states getting credited for fried chicken -- except, of course, Kentucky, and that's just a fast food gimmick, isn't it? ...

One thing you have to admit about crab cakes: Maryland crab cakes are unique. For some reason, no other state can make them. But really. Does Maryland fried chicken taste any different than any other kind of fried chicken?

Anyway, here's Bill:

Are there any restaurants in the area, to include outlying counties, where you can get made-to-order fried chicken? There are, of course, plenty of places with recently made chicken sitting under heating lights, but I'm looking for some sit-down places that begin the process (maybe except for soaking the raw chicken in buttermilk) when you place the order.  The problem with this is that makes for a long wait before you're served, but that's why God gave us daiquiris.  There is such a thing, I think, called "Maryland fried chicken." Where can you find the real thing. Bill

(Amy Davis/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:08 AM | | Comments (78)


Friendly Farm Restaurant in Upperco

Ethel and Ramone's in Mt. Washington

I have a confession. My favorite fried chicken is made by the fine folks at Safeway Grocery stores.

I used to live in Orlando, and always passed a Maryland fried chicken restaurant. It was literally called "Maryland Fried Chicken." It made me miss Baltimore and, at the same time, wonder what in the world Maryland fried chicken is.

The Crab Shanty along route 40 in Ellicott City has made to order fried chicken that is superb.

Every state is home to fried chicken joints named after another state. When I moved to Baltimore, I wondered about the New York Fried Chicken ... because I grew up in New York and enjoyed the Original Recipe (TM) from Kentucky while there.

We did have other options, of course: Kansas Fried Chicken, and Arkansas Fried Chicken.

Gertrude's does Maryland Pan Fried Chicken.

Excellent Maryland Fried Chicken can be found at Harrison's on Tighlman Island on the Eastern Shore.

Get the Friend Chicken and Crab Cake Combo. Two chicken breasts and two crab cakes served with green beans, mashed potatoes and yes stewed tomatoes for the excellent price of $25.

think it has to do with deep frying in clarified butter.

The Hopkins Club is famous [among its members, at least] for its fried chicken.

I have not been there in some time, but Jennings in Catonsville made excellant fried chicken. At that time, they had a very small kitchen and could only make one order at a time. If yours was the second order, you waited at least thirty minutes. It was worth it.

Holly's in Grasonville is supposed to have really good fried chicken. I haven't had fried chicken in quite a while, but I remember it being pretty tasty the last time I was there.

At Holly's on the Eastern Shore you can get cooked to order Maryland fried chicken. I think it is the best around. Unfortunately the only other place I know of to get similar is in Knoxville (in Maryland but close to Harper's Ferry). It's called the Cindie Dee Diner (and I may have the spelling wrong). The chicken is cooked when you order it. You can order hundreds of pieces too! They do a booming business with the fun seekers on the river.

To me, Maryland (aka Eastern Shore) fried chicken has a crispy but thin crust that tastes of a hint of paprika. Southern style's crust is thicker and has more crunch than Maryland style.

Now for me, the question is... "What is a broasted fried chicken?" I saw this on a menu last night. I felt silly inquiring at the establishment though.

As for the original question, my Mother made what we called Maryland Fried Chicken. It was first soaked in buttermilk and served with a milk gravy which we put over home made buttermilk biscuits and dipped our chicken pieces into. I have not had chicken like that since I was a boy and have never seen it in a restaraunt.

I think Maryland style chicken is any fried chicken that comes with a potato dinner roll and western fries (typically called a chicken box). Bair Bros. in Northeast Market by Johns Hopkins Hospital probably has the best fried chicken that is Maryland style

I wasn't gonna ask, but nestee brought it up...

I always wondered what, exactly, is a chicken box? Obviously I am not a Baltimore native.

When I lived in the UK, I used to see signs for Maryland Fried Chicken. I stopped at a couple of places, but realized that they hadn't a clue what they were doing. It was always just awful. Not crisp enough and the wrong taste. I think they would use the same oil as the fish and chips.

Maggi... A chicken box is a couple of pieces of fried chicken, a couple of pieces of bread (the squishy white kind) and a half & half (iced tea and lemonade).

Wikipedia claims that "Chicken Maryland" is fried chicken with a cream gravy, which sounds pretty close to SamD's recollection. To my knowledge, it has nothing to do with the "chicken box" that the Sandbox has discussed at length in the past.

SamD and hmpstd are correct. Maryland fried chicken is served with a gravy made from the pan drippings and cream. I don't know of any restaurants that serve it, but I've seen it in older southern cook books. For those interested in making it, has a good recipe. I've made it several times and always with great results.

I mean, seriously, fried chicken and gravy... how can you not love that combo?

There is a place in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina called, Maryland Fried Chicken. I guess they put Old Bay in the batter.

Nobody does the perfectly-crispy, delicious Md-style fried chicken like John Shields at Gertrude's at the BMA. Just like grandma used to make.
Though, I have to admit, my favorite is the spicy fried chicken at Popeye's.

My southern Maryland great-grandmother would soak chicken in buttermilk and then toss it with a mixture of flour, paprika, salt, and pepper. She would pan fry it (as opposed to deep frying), and the coating was thin and crispy, not thick and crunchy. I have her fried chicken pan: cast iron, black as sin, and about 14" in diameter and 7-8" deep. The lid has all kind of spikes on the underside - not sure the reason for that, since she didn't use the lid while cooking, in my memory, just a mesh splatter-shield, home-made from a wire hanger and some metal screen fabric. She would use some of the pan drippings to make a milk-and-flour gravy, and served the chicken pieces with Wonder Bread and the gravy. She saved the rest of the pan drippings in a jar for future use. She would do her cooking in a small, screened shed in the backyard, behind her 1920s era bungalow in St. Mary's County. She called the shed her "summer kitchen" and cooked there to keep from heating up the house.

Gertrude's does a great fried chicken, but not exactly the same style as my great-grandmother's.

Baugher's in Westminster cooks chicken dinners to order.

A chicken box is not jsut a Baltimore thing. You'll see them throught the south.

If anyone has ever seen/heard the band Southern Culture on the Skids, (They are like the B52's..very campy) They know of the song "Chicken Box". When SCOTS plays this song, they throw fried chicken into the crowd. It is not as messy as you would think, and it has a far more tidy reaction than their other song: "Banana Pudding".

A certain publication to the south just did a review of "Chick N' Friends" in the Long Reach Village Center in Columbia. They supposedly have made-to-order fried chicken. I've not been there yet, but hope to try it this weekend..

Ashland Cafe in Cockeysville has Maryland Fried Chicken on the menu.

broasted chicken

first roast in the oven, then it goes into the brioler.

It is a PA thing

broasted chicken

first roast in the oven, then it goes into the brioler.

It is a PA thing

@nestee, Maggi, RCK

EL has a separate chickenbox post here

This maryland fried chicken seems like it's a different thing.... namely southern fried chicken with a MD twist....
I always consider southern fried chicken being chicken fried in a cast iron pan (and we are in the south, no?)

I've gotten some fried chicken around eastern shore, and have made it at home, but I have no clue what makes md fried chicken md fried chicken

For me, MD chicken is that sickening smell of 7-11 chicken under heat lamps.

I don't think broasted chicken is a PA thing, as I was eating it in Michigan 40 years ago.

I've had the MD fried chicken at Gertrude's. It was ok, but the pinfeathers put me off a bit. I didn't see how it was different than regular fried chicken.

It used to be the excellent stuff available at English's. There's only one left, and their chicken is now under seasoned.

MD fried always has paprika

I always loved Roy Rogers fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy.

We were baffled on a trip to Ireland when we saw "Maryland Chicken" on a restaurant menu. It had bananas on the side. That Wikipedia entry mentions something about this, I think.

When I think of Maryland fried chicken, I definitely think of Gertrude's.

Chicken Maryland is pan-fried chicken with bananas. It's from the classic Escoffier text from 1907. Escoffier is a some kind of god for classicly trained chefs. It is odd that bananas would be part of it since there are few banana trees in Maryland.

Nobody in other countries has ever heard of Baltimore or Maryland. They only know the three major cities: New York, Hollywood and Disney World. Except in Poalmd where Chicago is well-known.

So I was talking to this Swiss chef in Panama, and I said I was from Baltimore, Maryland. He said, oh yeah, Chicken Maryland.

Biddle Street Catering and the chicken stall in Northeast Market.

a great place for a "chicken box" is at a local place in dundalk called "The Dog House" at Dundalk and Sollers Pt Rds.

I enjoy the Maryland Fried Chicken at the Maryland Fried Chicken restaurant off of 95 in South Carolina.

.....not really

I think the light breading and pan frying recipes mentioned here are closet to how my Mom made Maryland fried chicken.

The chain down south called Maryland Fried Chicken actually has nothing to do with any Maryland recipe for chicken or the Maryland Fried Chicken that you often find on the eastern shore or in the recipes mentioned here. Their only connection to Maryland was that their 1st location was near a brand new Glen L. Martin plant and had tons of transplanted Baltimoreans in the area, so they renamed an existing chicken restaurant to Maryland Fried Chicken as a gimmick and it eventually turned into a chain down south. Here's the history of the Maryland Fried Chicken chain btw ...

As for the best Maryland Fried Chicken as I remember it, the best places to find it are on the eastern shore in my opinion, particularly Hollies Restaurant on Kent Island. It's worth visiting on your way to the beaches as it is right on Rt. 50 over the bridge. They also have great Maryland crab cakes and probably the very best Maryland Crab soup I've ever had. And their prices are reasonable too, unlike some of the other places mentioned here by others.

Hey Anon, which English's is left. I remember one right over the Bay Bridge, one or two in Ocean City and one Salisbury. There also was an English's in Glen Burnie when I was a child, but, I don't remember where it was. By the way, Sunset in Glen Burnie has been serving great Maryland Fried Chicken for years.

But I still don't know what's Maryland about Maryland fried chicken. The soaked-in-buttermilk, pan fried in cast iron, topped with cream gravy made from pan drippings chicken, usually served with biscuits, described here by several people sounds just like what I ate growing up in Tennessee. (Doesn't it, EL?) So, what's unique about the Maryland kind?

And, Owl Meat, the people in the UK, at least, know all about Maryland. Several of my friends and I have observed over the course of several separate visits that they unfailing "correct" our pronunciation when we say we're from Maryland. "Oh you mean Mary Land." I know we're named for their queen, but still!

ok, so, coincidentally enough, I had lunch at M&S grill, and what do I see on the menu? MD fried chicken!

Although the burger sounded better, I figured I would take one for the team, and order it to get down to what md fried chicken really is. (plus, when I asked the waiter, the burger ONLY had 2 strips of bacon...*sigh* i miss their blt sandwich)

I order the md fried chicken, and when it comes out, the fried chicken is covered with the white gravy, a side of mashed potatoes (which had no gravy on it), and a roasted 1/2 of tomato. The white gravy itself resembled chipped beef gravy, though there were no satisfying morsels of meat in the gravy... more like bacon bits from a bottle.....

I first dipped my fork in the gravy, and it tasted like it used WAY too much buttermilk. very sour/tangy, but so much so that it just left it a bit unappetizing...wondering if they accidentally used spoilt milk. :-(

I then examine the chicken and realize they used a skinless/boneless breast (fried chicken without skin!??!!.....)

I cut a piece of the chicken and take a bit, and the texture of the chicken... it was unappetizing. it was like biting through a foam memory pillow...if you could imagine that. (that was difficult trying to think of what equated to that chicken's texture).

Anyways, this is the lengths I go through to report on md fried chicken for you guys :-P
wish i had a burger....

Our hero. :-) EL

Matt, I think you got MD murdered chicken.

My copy of the Joy Of Cooking defines Maryland Fried Chicken as being soaked in buttermilk for 24 hours then dipped in seasoned flour and pan fried (in an iron skillet) It is really, really good.
I think the gravy is optional.
I always thought broasted chicken was deep fried in pressure cookers. We used to get it at the old Towson Diner back in the '70s.

Murderland Fried Chicken

Liz, Arkansas fried chicken: That's deep fried with the feathers on, right?

I always assumed that "Maryland Fried Chicken" meant nothing more than the chickens that were fried came from MD chicken farms (mostly on the eastern shore).

Buttermilk is a natural tenderizer.

from my mom's Baltimore Sun recipe circa some time in the late 60s, the chicken parts were soaked overnight in buttermilk with some tabasco and other spices. The next day, they were dredged in a combo of flour and cornflake crumbs that were also seasoned and dipped in a couple of beaten eggs and and dredged again. Then placed into very hot oil in a cast iron skillet and fried quickly on one side, turned, covered and with low heat "steamed" until done.

My mom wasn't the worlds best cook, but that may have been the world's best chicken recipe. Wish I had it! The above is all I remember of it.

Joyce, I find it better to cover the pan for the first side, than uncover it for the second side so that the side that previously was in the oil stays crispy.

I also just coat the buttermilk-soaked chicken with seasoned flour. No egg, no cornflakes. I've also found, to my surprise, that removing the skin from the chicken before frying doesn't seem to affect the crispiness much.

Fried chicken always seemed gross to me. Tearing into the ligaments and arteries and junk. No thanks. Same with wings. And don''t even think of calling me a delicate flower, you-know-who.

The Maryland fried chicken at Dumser's restaurants in Ocean City is made when you order it. We had some last week, and it was very good and worth the wait. Not too thick on the breading, but nicely crispy and with that little kick. Tabasco? Paprika? Who knew? But tasty.

Bullock's Family Restaurant is my favorite for fried chicken. It is in Westminster about a half mile towards eldersburg at 97 and 32. The chicken dinner is just to die for, you get 4 pieces, choice of potato, dinner roll and all you can eat salad bar. Great meal for only around $12

Fried chicken always seemed gross to me. Tearing into the ligaments and arteries and junk. No thanks.

And yet, this same person wrote, on December 29, 2008 "If people ate old school and made soup from bones and ate all the animal, we would be much healthier."

I am with you. Fried chicken is not something I'd order, although as a kid I thought the skin was tasty.

Nowadays, its boneless, skinless breasts of chicken for me. But if they want to MD-erize it for me, put some Old Bay on it.

A different take on Owlie's point, I never think of cooking fried chicken. It is such a production, and when you can get really good chicken for under $10, why go to the effort.

RoCK, my partner makes me fried chicken when she wants to remind me she loves me for just that reason. Well, that and she loves fried chicken. But, still, I know when I'm being poked.

I can remember about 20+ years ago when baltimore had a number of Bojangles chaines. Not THAT was some good chicken. They all went away for some reason. Popeyes is pretty good, and similiar, but the pieces of chicken Bojangle's were enormous.

Popeyes, though good, is inconsistent from store to store. One store may have nice plump pieces, but another store''s can be tiny and small.

Lexington market and Hollins Market have great fried chicken stands./ Broadway market's Fells Point Chicken is among my favorites too, asumung it;s still there.

Just checked again on the comments. Very interesting. I'm gonna go on a hunt for that md fried chicken w/ white gravy. Sounds like Texas-style Chicken-fried steak w/ white country gravy, which is German in origin.
Historically, Baltimore and Maryland had had a sizable German immigrant communities. So that may be the reason Md-style fried chicken was served with white gravy. Did the old Hausner's serve a fried chicken w/ gravy? Sounds like a Hardy Boys mystery!

big swifty was the smartest comment; however he missed the egg mixture dip before the flour mixture.

PGN Crab House in Ocean City, 29th St. Best deep fryer in OC. We're a few streets away... but when the wind blows in our direction we can smell the chicken (or crabs) cooking and there's no question what we're having for dinner that night.
The skin is crispy and TDF!

Boone's Family Restaurant in Middletown fries chicken to order. It's worth the drive.

Loved the fried chicken at the Delmarva Chicken Festivals Giant Fry Pan a couple of weekends ago. But if you can't do 6,000 quarters in two days, check out's recipe for deviled fried chicken: Buttermilk, cayenne and mustard in the coating.

having spent some time in the culinary world, I was working in Australia and to the Aussies, chicken Maryland is a steamed chicken leg that is cooled, then dipped in egg wash and crumbs and deep fried, accompanied by a crumbed and fried pineapple ring and half a crumbed and fried banana. As for real MD fried chicken, my old granny would dip chicken pieces in milk and then seasoned flour and let it sit on the counter to dry out a bit before pan frying it in a large cast iron skillet,(not that I'd recommend that practice to anyone today, UGH!!) But it was some of the best chicken I ever remember eating.

MDtopdad, why "UGH!!!"? That's pretty much the way I make fried chicken except that I soak the chicken pieces in seasoned buttermilk rather than milk.

Broasted chicken: link

Williams-Sonoma is now marketing a Thomas Keller Fried Chicken Kit. This will give you (maybe) the fried chicken that's on the menu at his casual restaurant Ad Hoc. Keller spent part of his childhood in Southern Maryland where he learned the brown bag shake method (ditto here). I just read this in Newsweek; it's probably on their site also.

If we can't get reservations at (or afford) The French Laundry, we can try for Ad Hoc. Failing that, we can buy a kit, fry up some chicken and pretend we're in Yountville.

I'm surprised nobody's mentioned that John Shields - whose Gertrude's Maryland Pan-Fried chicken IS mentioned above - has a recipe for Maryland Fried Chicken in his cookbook "Chesapeake Bay Cookery".

As for the chicken box: based on the description offered above, just about every Royal Farms I've ever set foot in has this. I've never heard it called a "chicken box", and Royal Farms doesn't have what I would call "good" fried chicken, but it certainly fits the description. But theirs has no gravy.

I love the chicken at the Corner Stable with the BBQ sauce YUUMMMMM

I grew up in MD and every household made it the same way. Soak the chicken in milk, season it with salt, pepper and paprika (sometimes Old Bay), shake it in flour and let it sit to dry out while you heated up the pan. Fry it in a big cast iron skillet using about 1/2 inch of peanut oil. Fry it until it was crisp, about 12 minutes, skin side down, turn it and cover the pan. (the spikes on the underside of the lid of a cast iron pan were to guide the condensed steam back into the pan so it wouldn't run to the rim of the lid and down the side os the pan) Anyway, after 10 minutes of steaming, remove the lid, to let out the steam and fry for about 5 minutes more to crisp it up. Remove chicken to a platter, drain off the oil and make cream gravy from the brown bits left in the bottom of the pan with plenty of salt and pepper. It's what was for Sunday dinner along with green beans simmered with bacon, stewed tomatoes, mashed potatoes (corn on the cob in summer) and biscuits. Apple pie for dessert. My husband, a CA boy, thinks I'm the Goddess of fried chicken! If he only knew, I just do it the way everyone else always did it!

My personal favorite fried chicken was from the boardwalk at Ocean City MD. The place was right across from Thayer Bros (OMG, the fries with malt vinegar-TDF) they had fried chicken and corn on a stick. It was my favorite beach dinner! That chicken was so crisp and juicy and good. Not a lot of seasoning..mostly just salt and pepper. It was probably brined, it was so juicy.

So in 1907 when Escoffier, the father of Classic French cooking was putting together his book, Baltimore was a huge banana port- hence the addition of them Chicken Maryland. You can try Chef Jeff Smith's rendition of this classic dish at The Chameleon on Harford Rd. It's very tasty!

Oooo.. I almost wanted to cuddle with you there Brenda until you you referenced admitted pedophile Jeff Smith aka the Frugal Gourmet.

Ah, thank you for explaining the banana, Brenda. That was really confusing me.

The best fried chicken is English's Fried Chicken which has been on the Eastern Shore of Maryland since 1933. They have been voted "Best Fried Chicken" on the Delmarva peninsula for 15 years in a row by the readers of Metropolitan Magazine. They have two locations; 15th Street in Ocean City (seasonal) and their newest location called Bay Country Meals in Salisbury (410 742-8184)

We've had a Maryland Fried Chicken here in Vero Beach for as long as I lived here (since 1979). Their chicken is great and, if you like them, so are the fried livers. Very good slaw if you don't mind the finely chopped type. Our family refers to it as ABC slaw (already been chewed). Also, the corn fritters are worth the trip. Fresh made, a little powdered sugar, yum. They're busy at lunch and dinner and been in business a long time; must be doing something right.

Shills at 12:28 AM -- three of them! Believe it or not, they appear to shill a German website affiliated of the same French electronics website that keeps posting here.

Shill who can't link at 4:34.

If you're from Baltimore, you've got to know what a chicken box is!! two pieces( but the three wing box is pretty popular), some western fries and either a dinner roll or a slice of white bread.IMHO, the box has to be the ones that are printed to look like a picnic basket, lol.

The Wellwood River Shack in Charlestown (Cecil county) makes some of the best fried chicken I've ever eaten, and t osteal a coment from Larry Baxter of the Ravens, (I loves me some fried chicken". Nicely seasoned and pressure cooked. mmmm, I think I know what I'm having for dinner tonight.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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