Porter's Chicken is a Family Business

Porter's Fried Chicken makes mouths water from miles around.

There are some things in life that just never get old, and one of them is fried chicken. 

In order to get that perfectly crisp skin with juicy interior, I headed to in Maplewood where I was met by new co-owner Steve Johnson.

Johnson's lips were sealed tight when asked to divulge even a portion of Porter's famous fried chicken recipe, though given the restaurant's history, that's understandable.

The location on Big Bend Boulevard has always been a chicken joint—no pun intended—since it began 35 years ago. Originally named Charlie's Chicken, it was bought by a man named Dean Porter, who then sold it to the Johnson family 20 years ago.

Randy Johnson, Steve's dad, has run the place the entire time, using the same recipes from day one on his menu. And people absolutely love it.

From the small amount of information Steve was willing to divulge, the cooks at Porter's use a combination wet and dry batter for their chicken and other fried items. 

Dry and wet batter fried chicken ingredients usually call for flour, various spices, and buttermilk. Porter's website reveals they double-coat their chicken, meaning they dip it twice each in the dry and wet mix.

The result? Perfectly cooked chicken, with no grease, just flavor. And other menu items are just as good.

The secret to Porter's fried catfish, which Steve Johnson says is by far the most popular fish in house, is the type of fish they use. 

"We use a type of catfish called pangasius. It's not a bottom-feeder catfish, which will give you that really fishy taste and smell. It's a cleaner, whiter fish," he said.

Another widely popular dish is the house-made coleslaw.

"People walk in and will just buy that," Johnson said. If you're in the mood for some serious southern-style cooking, try the livers and gizzards.

"It's not my thing, but people come all the way from places like North County and Jefferson County to get them. It's not something you can get at many places," he said. The livers and gizzards are cooked the same way as the fried chicken.

Steve came to work at Porter's this past year after leaving a career as a college baseball coach. He will be taking over the business for his dad, who wants to retire.

"He does very well here," Johnson said. "Once he's left the business he won't be involved anymore, but I have an opportunity keep the family business going."

Still want to know more?

Here's a great fried chicken recipe, taken from The Professional Chef , the textbook at The Culinary Institute of America.

Southern Fried Chicken

Makes 8 portions

4 fryer chickens
salt, as needed
pepper, as needed
1 qt
4 oz
1 T
tarragon leaves

Cut the chicken into eighths. Trim the chicken pieces and season well with salt and pepper. Combine the buttermilk, mustard and tarragon. Add the chicken pieces and turn until coated evenly. Let marinate under refrigeration for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.

Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and let it drain. Dredge the chicken in flour until well coated. Writer's note: While this recipe doesn't call for it, at this point you can use the double-coating method if you want. Also, at this point, add in any other herbs, spices or hot sauce to your wet or dry batter if desired.

Heat about 1/2 inch of oil to about 350 degrees over medium heat. Add the chicken and pan fry on the first side for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Turn once, and finish pan frying on the second side, 7 to 8 minutes more or to an internal temperature of 170 degrees for breast portions, 180 degrees for thigh and leg portions. 

Optional: Finish cooking in a 350 degree oven if preferred.


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