Vinegar Chicken: Seeking Crispy Greatness

My Dad spent formative years on his grandparents’ farm in New Jersey and one of his chores was to feed the chickens. He also was called upon to help prepare them for dinner and, as a result, grew disinterested in eating them.

After all, familiarity breeds contempt or at least, boredom. When my parents married, my mom was stumped: how was she going to cook without chicken in the menu mix?

Sauteed chicken with vinegar.

Dad changed his mind about chicken in the ’80s, when he became a devotee of Marcella Hazan’s Italian cookbooks and discovered there are ways to bring variety to chicken dishes. The preparation is key too.

I’m more of an ad-libber when it comes to cooking. Yes, I follow recipes, but I also go my own way. For chicken breasts, I usually buy the big pack of breast with rib meat and trim it with shears. Usually, I place the trimmed meat in a gallon Ziplock with flour and spices, seal it and shake it all around.Chicken after flour dredge

For vinegar chicken, I placed the meat in a large bowl and nearly covered it with white vinegar (buy the big jug of supermarket brand white vinegar). I added water and about an 1/8th of a cup each of Kosher salt and white sugar. Put it in the fridge for about a half hour.

After the brine, place the chicken on a cushion of paper towels and pat dry. Then, coat them with the flour and spices in the plastic bag.

In a large skillet or pan, heat the oil. Use two kinds; I used vegetable oil and olive oil. Once hot (medium to medium-high or 6 on my dial on a gas range), place the chicken pieces in the skillet and cover. Walk away for at least 10 minutes. It is not helpful to fuss over meat while it is cooking. Turn once browned and lower the heat to medium.

Add fresh ground pepper. Walk away again. You want the meat to really cook through.

The chicken should have a nice crispy finish. This was served with sauteed cauliflower and a salad.


  • Chicken breasts
  • White vinegar, water
  • Kosher salt
  • White sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil (basic, not the fancy unfiltered olive oil for salads)