The History of Fried Chicken & The Chicken Sandwich Wars


A joyous family gathering, church potluck gatherings, or bustling county fairs. What do they all have in common? Fried chicken! The crispy, crunchy, handheld meal makes an appearance at many American summertime events.

But this juicy fried favorite isn’t only enjoyed by Americans. July 6th is International Fried Chicken Day, so it’s a meal now celebrated around the world.

Taking a Bite Out of Fried Chicken History

The fried chicken we know and love today is a fusion of Scottish and African cooking. Scots perfected frying chicken in fat in the Middle Ages. Then immigrants brought the technique with them when they settled in the American South. Unfortunately, their version of fried chicken was bland. African culture brought over with the enslaved people soon changed the Scots’ bland but crunchy chicken into the more flavorful dish that we enjoy today.

Fried chicken wasn’t always something people enjoyed regularly. Hens produced eggs, so fried chicken was for special occasions. That changed during World War II when Victory Gardens and chicken coops sprouted everywhere. Homegrown chicken often replaced rationed beef and pork, and the chicken-eating habit was born.

Fried Chicken Goes International

However, fried chicken didn’t stop there. The cooking method came from Europe, the seasoning techniques from Africa, and it achieved perfection in 19th century America. Yet so many choices of marinades, rubs, seasonings, dredges, batters, and frying methods have encouraged plenty of kitchen experimentation worldwide. Is it any wonder that fried chicken has become a universal favorite?

Surprisingly, General Tso’s chicken didn’t originate in the Hunan province in China, and it doesn’t date back to the Qing Dynasty. Taiwanese chefs in 1970s New York first created these famous sweet and spicy fried chicken nuggets. In Korea, chicken is twice-fried to ensure extra crispiness and then coated with spicy-sweet gochujang sauce. Central American pollo frito marinates in citrus juices before frying. Austrians like their chicken schnitzel breaded with a mixture of lightly seasoned flour and breadcrumbs, fried until golden, and served with fresh parsley and lemon slices. India’s Kerala fried chicken features the intense flavors of chile, coriander, garam masala, garlic, ginger, and turmeric.

Any way you spice, slice, dredge or cook it, fried chicken is a universal favorite.

The Chicken Sandwich Wars

Advances in chicken raising and processing, plus new equipment like industrial kitchen fryers, eventually led to chicken becoming a fast-food staple. Today we enjoy many varieties of fried chicken including fried wings, chicken biscuits, chicken nuggets or tenders, chicken filet sandwiches, chicken and waffles, and even Nashville hot chicken.

Fast-food entrepreneurs have hatched enough variations on fried chicken to satisfy anyone looking for some crispy chicken. However, that didn’t stop the chicken sandwich wars that began when Popeyes launched their hugely popular new chicken sandwich. Others soon followed suit, vying for their own share of the feast. Burger King, Chick-fil-A, KFC, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and even Taco Bell have all introduced a new chicken sandwich over the last year or so. Luckily, the customers will be the ultimate victors!

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