City chicken is an American entrée consisting of cubes of meat, which have been placed on a wooden skewer (approximately 4–5 inches long), then fried and/or baked. Depending on the recipe, they may be breaded. Despite the name of the dish, city chicken almost never contains chicken.
City Chicken Ingredients
2 pounds boneless pork, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Seasoned salt, to taste
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
2 cups water
2 cups vegetable oil, for frying
- Thread 2 to 3 pork cubes onto the skewers. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and seasoned salt on all sides. Set skewers aside.
- In a shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. In a separate shallow bowl, pour in the seasoned bread crumbs. Set a wire rack in the baking dish. Pour water into the dish, making sure it doesn’t touch the wire rack.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Preheat vegetable oil in a deep-fryer or large, heavy-bottom saucepan to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Dip the skewers into the egg mixture, then in the bread crumbs. Repeat the step so each skewer gets coated twice.
- Gently lay the skewers into the deep-fryer and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.
- Place cooked skewers on the wire rack. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.
- Bake the dish for 20 minutes, or until the pork is no longer pink in the center. Remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes to crisp up the crumb coating. Serve and enjoy!
What Exactly Is City Chicken?
Also called mock chicken, city chicken does not contain an ounce of chicken in it. Instead, it’s a battered deep-fried dish made of… wait for it… pork.
Cubes of pork are threaded into skewers, seasoned, dredged in eggs and bread crumbs, flash-fried, and baked.
The result is a beautifully golden treat that, if you maybe squint your eyes, looks somewhat like a fried chicken leg.
Why Do They Call It City Chicken?
During the Depression Era, many immigrants moved to big cities where job opportunities were abundant.
With the lack of rural farms nearby, there was a scarcity of fresh meat in the cities. During this time, mass-produced frozen meat was yet to be a thing.
Since fresh chicken was hard to come by and super expensive, people turned to much more affordable pork and veal scraps to imitate the protein.
The scraps looked nowhere near as appetizing, so they decided to thread them onto skewers, coat them in batter, and deep-fry until golden.
Tips for Making The Best Chicken
- Roll skewers with ease with shallow bowls. Place the egg mixture and bread crumbs in shallow bowls so you can easily roll the skewers in.
- Use 4 to 6 inches of wooden skewers. Don’t use toothpicks, as they’re too short. Also, don’t attempt to use wooden skewers broken in half – these are prone to splintering.
- Soak skewers in cold water. Let them sit there for 15 minutes to help keep them from burning while cooking.
- Dredge the meat skewers in flour. This’ll keep the breadcrumbs from falling off. Dip the skewers in the egg mixture first, followed by the flour. Repeat the step to double coat the skewers, then finally, dip them in bread crumbs.
- Give veal a try. The recipe calls for pork, but classic city chicken also sometimes contains veal. Feel free to use either or both.
- Use pork chops for extra juicy city chicken.
- Try other protein options. You can’t go wrong with chicken breasts, thighs, and tenderloin.
- Get creative with seasonings. For more flavor, toss the meat with a blend of salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and chili powder.
- Swap out breadcrumbs for Ritz.
- Low-carb alternative: Use a blend of almond flour and parmesan cheese instead of bread crumbs. Some also use crushed pork rind.
- Flash-fry for crispy outer coating. This technique involves submerging the meat in very hot oil to create a crunchy sear on the crust. Don’t go beyond 6 minutes, and stop as soon as all the sides are golden.
- Bake it up for a crispy crumb coating. Instead of the water bath technique, an easier approach is to bake the meat skewers for 15 minutes per side.
What to Serve with City Chicken?
City chicken makes for a delicious entree no matter the occasion. Pair this delectable dish with any of these sides for a substantial and satisfying meal.
Coleslaw, Broccoli Salad, Green Salad
Just like other battered and deep-fried meats, it’s nice to pair city chicken with something light and refreshing to counterbalance the richness.
For this, you can’t go wrong with cool coleslaw or a healthy broccoli salad. Any garden salad will be great with this dish, as well.
Amish Macaroni Salad, Chicken Salad
These cream-based salads pair perfectly with city chicken, as well.
Veggie dishes also go with city chicken quite well. I like to serve simple oven-roasted veggies or Brussels sprouts, so I won’t feel so guilty about serving seconds of this addictive, deep-fried treat.
Mashed Potatoes and Mac and Cheese
If you’re looking for a hearty side dish to make your meal more filling, go for these starchy sides.
I like to end a meal with something light and fruity, such as this creamy grape salad and fruit salad.
If you’re serving city salad on its own as an appetizer or snack, don’t forget about the dipping sauces! The classic ketchup won’t disappoint.
For a sweet contrast, dip it in honey mustard or BBQ sauce. Something creamy such as ranch or aioli will also make the finger food an even bigger hit.