🔥 Easy City Chicken Recipe – Classic Comfort Food

by | Jun 3, 2024 | Chicken Recipes, Recipes

Just picture the sweet smell of a homemade meal in your kitchen. It takes you right back to simpler times. That’s the charm of City Chicken. It was born in the early 1900s when chicken was pricey and veal was not. In cities like Michigan and Ohio, cooks threaded veal and pork on sticks to mimic chicken drumsticks. Today, this recipe is a dear memory of their clever cooking.

Chef Michael Symon shares his easy city chicken recipe with us. It features 2 pounds of ground pork, veal, or both. The meat gets seasoned, breaded, and then baked. The final product is a crunchy, savory oven-baked city chicken. It’s perfect whether you’re creating it for the first time or reliving old memories. You get that warm, familiar taste with each mouthful.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • City Chicken is a nostalgic dish that dates back to the early 1900s.
  • The recipe typically uses 2 pounds of ground pork, veal, or a combination.
  • Each skewer is baked to a crispy finish, embodying classic comfort food.
  • Popular in the eastern parts of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Upstate New York.
  • The technique originally emerged to offer a budget-friendly alternative to chicken during an era when it was considered a luxury.

What is City Chicken?

City Chicken is a unique dish known for its special way of being made. Even though its name suggests it’s made of chicken, it isn’t. It’s actually a dish where cubes of pork, veal, or both are used. These cubes are shaped to look like a chicken leg. They are then cooked until they are crispy.

The Origin of City Chicken

City Chicken’s story goes back to the early 1900s. At that time, chicken was very expensive. So, people used other meats, like veal and pork. This was a cheaper way to make a dish that looked like chicken. It became very popular during hard times, like the Great Depression.

The dish is thought to have started with people from Poland and Ukraine. They lived around the Great Lakes before the Great Depression. But, soon, it was enjoyed by many, especially in places like Cleveland and Pittsburgh. This made it a favorite in American homes.

Why It’s Called City Chicken

The reason it’s called City Chicken is interesting. Even if it doesn’t have any chicken, its history does. Back when fresh chicken was hard to get and costly, people found another way. They started making this dish with pork or veal. This made it look like they were eating chicken.

As the chicken industry got bigger around the 1920s and 1930s, this dish’s name stayed. Now, it’s mostly made with pork because veal is getting expensive. But, City Chicken still means comfort and good taste to many.

Ingredients for Easy City Chicken Recipe

city chicken ingredients

The city chicken ingredients are key to making a tasty and nostalgic meal.

  • 2 pounds of pork tenderloin or a mixture of ground pork and ground veal
  • All-purpose flour
  • Bread crumbs or cracker meal
  • Large eggs
  • Milk
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Crumbled sage leaf
  • Melted butter or margarine
  • Skewers

These ingredients help get a crunchy outside and a moist, tasty inside. If you want to save money, using just pork works well too.

This recipe is great because you can change it to fit different diets. For a version that’s low-carb and gluten-free, you can use almond flour instead of regular bread crumbs. This makes it healthier but just as good to eat.

The secret to great city chicken is using high-quality ingredients and preparing them right. Each skewer, when breaded and seasoned perfectly, tastes like a bite of home.

Below is a list showing the usual ingredients and new, healthier options:

Traditional Ingredients Low Carb/Gluten-Free Alternatives
All-purpose flour Almond flour
Bread crumbs Crushed pork rinds
Kosher salt Sea salt
Vegetable oil (for frying) Olive oil spray (for air frying)

These easy city chicken recipes stay true to the classic flavors while fitting into modern diets. This helps keep the dish a favorite among families for a long time.

Step-by-Step Cooking Instructions

The city chicken recipe is a cherished classic known for its rich flavor and crispy texture. Follow these steps for a great dish every time.

Marinating the Meat

Start by marinating the meat to lock in flavor. Coat the pork cubes with seasoned flour. This lets the seasoning stick, forming a tasty foundation for more coating.

Veal and pork are usually used. But, because veal is less popular now, many use just pork.

Preparing the Skewers

Now, let’s make the skewers ready. City chicken skewers are typically 4-5 inches long. Thread the pork onto them, leaving space between each piece. This way, they cook evenly and get a good coat later.

Breading Process

The last prep step is the breading process. First, dip the pork in an egg wash with paprika. Then, coat in seasoned breadcrumbs or cracker meal.

This coating is key for the crispy outside that makes city chicken so delicious. You can fry them quickly or bake for a healthier choice. Frying at 350 degrees for 1-5 minutes makes them extra crisp. Baking at the same temperature for 20-25 minutes is the healthier option.

Marinating, skewering, and breading lead to a wonderful dish, great for any family meal. Serve with sides like cheesy scalloped potatoes or mac and cheese. Also, offer sauces like ketchup, honey mustard, or gravy.

How to Achieve Perfectly Crispy City Chicken

To make perfectly crispy city chicken, focus on the breading and cooking steps. You’ll need 3 pounds of Swift Meats Boneless Pork Loin, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes. Also, have 20-24 6″ wooden skewers ready. Begin by dipping the pork skewers in a mix of beaten eggs and milk. Then, coat them in a flour-breadcrumb mix seasoned with 1 Tablespoon of Italian seasoning.

perfectly crispy city chicken

Fry the skewers in vegetable or canola oil at 350°F. Cook each side for 3-6 minutes to get them crispy. Fry in batches to avoid overcrowding. After frying, put the skewers on a rack in a dish with water. This will help steam cook them.

Then, bake the skewers at 145°F for 18 minutes. Next, take off the lid or foil and bake for 10 more minutes. This makes sure every skewer is golden and crunchy on the outside, with tender meat inside.

Cooking Techniques: Oven Baking vs. Frying

When it comes to cooking city chicken, home chefs love debating oven baking versus frying. Each method offers its own special benefits, resulting in tasty dishes.

Oven Baking Method

Oven baking is a top choice for those looking to eat healthier. Start by preheating your oven to 375°F (190°C). Then, put the breaded skewers on a baking sheet. After 25-30 minutes, the chicken will be juicy inside and the outside crunchy and golden. This way, less oil is used, making it a lighter option than frying.

Frying Method

Do you prefer a more indulgent meal? Frying city chicken might be the way to go. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet until it shimmers. Add the chicken and cook until it’s crispy and golden. Frying uses more oil but gives you a crusty outer layer that pairs perfectly with the tender meat.

Both oven baked city chicken and frying city chicken have their own charm, creating unique textures and tastes. It all comes down to what you enjoy. Making sure to use the best ingredients and honing your cooking skills leads to a great meal every time.

Homemade City Chicken: Tips & Tricks

Making a tasty homemade city chicken means focusing on a few key tips. Seasoning the meat well is vital. Mix garlic powder, paprika, and black pepper for tasty results. Don’t forget to let the flavors soak in by marinating the meat overnight.

homemade city chicken tips

When frying, keep the oil at the right temperature, around 350°F. This helps the chicken cook perfectly on the outside. To make sure it’s done, the meat’s inside must reach 145°F, which you can check with a meat thermometer.

A good breading mix is also important. The usual way is to coat the meat in seasoned flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs give a nice crisp.

You can also bake or air-fry city chicken for a lighter twist. For baking, cover the skewers at first, then uncover them to get a nice crust. Air frying is a healthy, gluten-free option.

It’s easy to find the right materials for city chicken, like wooden skewers and pork loin ribs. This makes cooking this dish simple and fun.

Tweak the recipe by trying different breading and spice combinations. This way, you can make city chicken that’s all your own. Enjoy the process and your tasty homemade city chicken.

The History of City Chicken

The history of city chicken is a story of creativity during tough times. In the early 1900s, many families couldn’t afford chicken. So, they used pork and veal to create a dish that looked and tasted like real chicken.

City Chicken during the Great Depression

The Great Depression city chicken was a clever dish. Since beef was too expensive, people turned to veal. It was affordable and the government even supported its sale. This support helped many families.

City chicken was made by skewering chunks of pork or veal. It was then cooked until tender. This method served as a smart, budget-friendly way to eat like you had chicken without the heavy cost.

Regional Variations

City chicken’s recipe varied across the U.S. In Pittsburgh, it was often breaded and baked. But in places like Binghamton, NY, it got deep-fried after being marinated and battered. This way of cooking caught the eye of a local newspaper in 1926, making the dish more famous.

Variations in the preparation and ways of serving showed up all across the country. Some places liked their city chicken with Sunday sauce or brown gravy. It became popular in the northeast and the Great Lakes regions, passed down from generation to generation. Everywhere it went, it carried a bit of local flavor.

The dish still stands as a fine example of making the most of what you have. Its diversity in recipes helped it win hearts and stomachs across the U.S. Today, city chicken recognizes the creativity and taste our ancestors cherished.

City Preparation Method Common Ingredients
Pittsburgh Breaded and Baked Pork, breadcrumbs, eggs, seasoning
Binghamton, NY Marinated, Battered, and Deep-Fried Veal, pork, marinade, batter
Detroit Breaded and Baked Pork, breadcrumbs, eggs, seasoning

The way city chicken’s recipe has changed and spread shows its lasting impact. Originally made by many through necessity, it is now a dish that signifies both resourcefulness and taste.

Traditional City Chicken Recipe vs. Modern Versions

City chicken is not real chicken. It’s actually cubes of pork and veal called “mock” chicken. Over the years, the recipe has changed a lot. The original version used cuts like pork tenderloin or loin, breadcrumbs, oil, flour, eggs, and spices.

During hard times, like in the Great Depression, chicken was scarce and expensive. So, people started using veal and pork. Now, it’s harder to find veal, making the classic recipe less common.

The traditional and modern ways to make city chicken are very different. The old way was to fry it quickly in hot oil. Then, it was baked to make sure it was crunchy outside and cooked inside. This method shows the heart of the traditional recipe.

Modern recipes, however, use new ingredients and styles. These can include different spices and types of meat. Some people like to pair their city chicken with unique sauces like honey mustard or bacon horseradish dip.

When it comes to side dishes, there’s a wide range to pick from now. You can have mac and cheese, scalloped potatoes, or more globally inspired dishes. This change highlights how versatile city chicken has become.

Today, we can look at data to see how recipes have changed over time. Social media, like Pinterest and Facebook, is buzzing about modern twists on city chicken. It’s clear that both old and new versions have their fans, creating a lively food scene.

Popular City Chicken Recipe Adaptations

City Chicken recipes started showing up in newspapers in the late 1920s. They’ve changed a lot since then. Back in the 1930s Depression, veal and pork were used in place of chicken. This was because chicken was hard to find and expensive in many cities. The 1950s made chicken more available because of large coop chicken farms. Still, the use of different meats carried on.

Now, popular city chicken recipe changes often mean using ground pork, turkey, or chicken. One recipe, by Glenna Snow, mixes ground turkey or chicken with crushed pineapple. Many seasonings are added, showing how flexible the dish is. A similar recipe was published in 1936 by the Joy of Cooking, proving it’s still loved today.

Different areas have added their own twists to city chicken. For example, a Depression-era California chicken dish used ground veal and pork. This mixture was then shaped and labeled “Chicken sans volatile,” highlighting its unique pineapple taste. While that version was from California, places like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago still enjoy City Chicken in their own way.

Today, people like to tweak city chicken recipes by playing with spices and breading. They might even use beef or a different cut of pork to fit modern diets. Options like air frying or grilling are also popular among adventurous cooks.

City Chicken is now seen as a comforting yet economical meal. The breading can be changed up. The University of Maine Extension Center even suggests wallet-friendly alternatives to traditional breading mixes.

Some stick to the classic, while others add their own flare. But, both approaches highlight the rich history and ongoing innovation of City Chicken in American cooking.

Serving Suggestions for Classic City Chicken

City Chicken is a famous dish from Pittsburgh. It first appeared in the 1930s. This was during the Great Depression, when chicken was expensive. People started using pork and veal instead.

The dish became popular because of its many ways to serve. This makes it a hit among many people even today.

classic city chicken serving suggestions

Side Dishes to Pair With

Pairing city chicken with the right side dishes can make your meal even better. Some common choices for side dishes are:

  • Baked cheesy scalloped potatoes gratin
  • Mac and cheese
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Rice pilaf
  • Coleslaw

These sides add a mix of textures and tastes. They go well with the flavor of the City Chicken.

Perfect Sauces

Choosing the best sauce is key to making City Chicken delicious. Here are some good sauce options:

  • Traditional gravy
  • Spiced ketchup
  • Creamy mustard sauce
  • Bacon horseradish dip
  • Dill dip

Each sauce brings a different taste. You can choose what you like best to go with the City Chicken.

You can serve City Chicken in a simple way or more fancy. Adding the right sides and sauces will make your meal memorable.

Delicious City Chicken: Enhancing Flavors

Improving the taste of city chicken can make it stand out. Use spices like sage, paprika, or garlic powder in the breading or marinade. These add a special touch to flavorful city chicken recipes. They make the dish a blend of traditional and new flavors.

Change things up with various types of breadings, like seasoned breadcrumbs or cracker meals. This adds more to the taste. Also, cooking with herbs in the oil can make the dish juicy and flavorful. It’s a simple way to make every part of the meat tasty.

Delicious city chicken doesn’t just taste good. It also keeps up with new cooking styles. Old recipes shared secrets to keep the meat moist, like adding water or broth when baking. Making a gravy from the pan drippings was common. It made the meat flavorful and soft.

Adding to the delight:

  1. Use a variety of spices in the marinade to create distinctive taste layers.
  2. Try different breading types to achieve the desired texture and flavor combination.
  3. Incorporate herbs into the cooking oil for an aromatic cooking process.

Following these hints will make your flavorful city chicken recipes top-notch. They guarantee a tasty and enjoyable meal.

Health Benefits of City Chicken

City chicken is a dish that harks back to the Great Depression. It’s known for its rich flavors and boosts of nutrition when cooked right. This favorite comfort food in areas like the Coal Region of Northeastern PA and the Midwest is packed with health benefits city chicken.

This meal swaps out fatty cuts for lean ones. It also skips the deep fryer, often baked instead, which lowers how much oil is used. These changes make it a protein that’s good for you, known as a nutritious city chicken dish.

Key to making city chicken healthy is using whole-grain breading. Doing so adds more fiber and increases its nutritional content. Serving it with veggie sides, such as roasted Brussels sprouts or a fresh salad, makes the dish even more nutrient-dense and fulfilling.

Here’s a nutritional breakdown for a typical serving of city chicken:

Nutrient Amount
Sugar 7g
Calcium 238mg
Calories 744kcal
Carbohydrates 70g
Cholesterol 248mg
Fat 34g
Fiber 5g
Iron 6mg
Monounsaturated Fat 13g
Polyunsaturated Fat 5g
Potassium 663mg
Protein 38g
Saturated Fat 12g
Sodium 1319mg
Trans Fat 1g
Vitamin A 766IU
Vitamin C 1mg

Looking at the nutritious side and the health benefits city chicken brings, it’s a great dish for a health-focused lifestyle.

Storing and Reheating City Chicken

To keep city chicken fresh and safe, store it right. This ensures it tastes good and keeps its texture. Always use these tips with any leftovers.

Best Practices for Storage

For the fridge, city chicken should go in an airtight container. This keeps it from drying out and the outer breading stays crispy. It’s good in the fridge for 3-4 days. City chicken skewers can last longer if you freeze them first for 1-2 hours. Then, put them in a freezer bag for up to a month.

Reheating Tips

Reaching the correct temperature when reheating city chicken is very important. Here’s how to do it right:

  1. Oven Method: Turn on your oven to 350°F. Lay the city chicken skewers on a baking sheet and cover with foil. Heat for 15-20 minutes or until it’s 145°F inside.
  2. Pan-Frying Method: Warm a bit of oil in a skillet over medium. Put the chicken skewers in and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Make sure it reaches 145°F and gets crispy outside.
Storage Method Duration Temperature Notes
Refrigerator 3-4 days Below 40°F Use airtight container
Freezer Up to 1 month 0°F or lower Wrap in freezer-safe bags

By using the proper storing city chicken and reheating city chicken tips, this meal will stay delicious for days.


City Chicken is a favorite comfort food rooted in American culinary history. It started in the early 20th century, born out of the Great Depression. With chicken expensive and scarce, cooks turned to pork or veal. This dish became beloved, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, with cities like Pittsburgh embracing it.

The key ingredients for city chicken are pork or veal cubes, eggs, breadcrumbs, and spices. A good recipe suggests baking at 375°F for 25-30 minutes. You can add paprika, garlic or onion powder for more flavor. Serve it with mashed potatoes, veggies, coleslaw, or salads, and sauces like honey mustard, barbecue, or ranch.

This recipe showcases how home cooks can be creative and resilient. They made a delicious meal despite tough times. City chicken’s popularity continues because of its great taste and a sense of comfort. It shows the true power of cooking to bring people joy and unity.


What is City Chicken?

City Chicken is a comforting dish. It’s made by putting cubed pork tenderloin on skewers. It’s seasoned, breaded, and cooked until crispy. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have chicken in it often.

What are the origins of City Chicken?

This dish started as a clever idea to use up meat scraps. Back then, around the early 1900s, pork or veal was shaped into drumsticks on skewers. This idea became popular in the Midwest and Southern United States.

Why is it called City Chicken?

It got its name when chicken was too expensive for most people. Cheaper meats like pork or veal were made to look like chicken. This way, everyone could enjoy a “chicken” meal.

What ingredients do I need for an easy City Chicken recipe?

You’ll need pork tenderloin or a mix of ground pork and veal. Also, flour, breadcrumbs, eggs, milk, salt, pepper, sage, butter, and skewers are needed.

How do you marinate the meat for City Chicken?

Start by marinating the pork in seasoned flour. This step makes sure the meat is tasty before you add the breaded coating.

What is the breading process for City Chicken?

The meat is coated in an egg wash with paprika. Then, it’s covered in breadcrumbs before cooking.

How do you cook City Chicken to make it perfectly crispy?

Make sure you bread it well and cook it at the right heat. Frying or baking works. Just don’t cook too many at once. This way, they’ll all turn out crispy and golden.

What are the cooking techniques for City Chicken, and how do they differ?

You can cook City Chicken by either baking it in the oven or frying it. Baking is healthier. Frying makes it extra crispy. Both ways are good, but they have different textures.

Are there any tips or tricks for making homemade City Chicken?

Season the meat carefully and fry it at the right temperature. Use the correct amount of breading and let it cook slowly. This makes sure it’s safe to eat and doesn’t burn.

How did City Chicken become popular during the Great Depression?

City Chicken became a hit during the Great Depression. It used pork and veal instead of expensive chicken. This made it a budget-friendly meal and many people liked it.

How do traditional City Chicken recipes compare to modern versions?

The old recipes use ground meats and cracker meal for breading. Today, people use a variety of meats and spices. They also cook it in new ways, like air frying or grilling.

What are some popular adaptations of the City Chicken recipe?

People like to change the spices and breading. They might use panko breadcrumbs or try different meats. They also explore new cooking methods to fit their diets.

What are good side dishes and sauces to serve with Classic City Chicken?

Mashed potatoes, coleslaw, or rice pilaf go well with City Chicken. You can also serve it with gravy, spiced ketchup, or a creamy mustard sauce.

How can I enhance the flavors of City Chicken?

Use spices like sage, paprika, or garlic in the breading. You can also try different breading ingredients or add herbs to the oil when cooking.

What are the health benefits of City Chicken?

Making it with lean pork or veal lowers the fat. Baking it also means using less oil. Adding whole grains and veggies makes it healthier.

What are the best practices for storing and reheating City Chicken?

Keep leftover City Chicken in the fridge in a sealed container. Reheat in the oven or by pan-frying to keep it crispy. Make sure it’s hot all the way through.