Pinewood Fried Chicken

You probably wouldn't expect a tiny town like Nunnelly, Tennessee, to have a dining destination that would attract folks with dietary restrictions, like celiac disease, but Pinewood Kitchen & Mercantile is just that. Chef/owner Mee McCormick and her family opened the restaurant and a biodynamic farm with the goal of serving healthy comfort food that all people can enjoy, regardless of food allergies, special diets, or health conditions. Since then, locals and out of towners have returned again and again to Pinewood not only for its good food and friendly hospitality, but because every guest can be accommodated. "Chefs should not look at food allergies as a burden but as an opportunity," she says. Her Pinewood Fried Chicken is one of the most popular dishes on the menu. Made with a crispy gluten-free cornmeal crust, the chicken is every bit as good as the traditional kind breaded in flour. The recipe, and many others from the restaurant, is available in McCormick's first cookbook My Pinewood Kitchen.

Mee McCormick’s Pinewood Fried Chicken
Photo: Johnny Autry; Prop and Food Styling: Charlotte L. Autry
Active Time:
1 hrs 20 mins
Refrigerate Time:
1 hrs
Stand Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 50 mins


  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

  • ¼ cup plus 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided

  • 3 ½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (with breasts cut in half crosswise and trimmed)

  • 1 cup cornstarch, divided

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 cup whole buttermilk

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal

  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder

  • 1 ½ teaspoons paprika

  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 3 to 4 quarts grapeseed oil or canola oil

  • Coarse sea salt, for sprinkling


  1. Whisk together 1 quart water, sugar, and ¼ cup of the kosher salt in a large bowl until dissolved. Add chicken pieces to brine mixture; cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

  2. Remove chicken from brine mixture; pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.

  3. Place ½ cup of the cornstarch in a large ziplock plastic bag. Whisk together egg, buttermilk, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Whisk together cornmeal, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, and remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ cup cornstarch in a shallow dish.

  4. Working in batches, place a few chicken pieces in plastic bag with cornstarch; seal and shake well to coat. Using tongs, remove chicken from bag, shaking off excess. Dip chicken in egg mixture. Let excess drip off, and dredge in cornmeal mixture, pressing gently to adhere. Place dredged chicken, skin side up, on a wire rack. Cover with aluminum foil or a clean kitchen towel, and let stand 30 minutes.

  5. Pour oil into a large Dutch oven; heat over medium-high until oil reaches 350°F. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200°F. Working in batches, carefully add a couple of the larger chicken pieces, skin side down, to hot oil in Dutch oven. Cover and fry, moving chicken occasionally to prevent it from sticking together, until it turns golden brown, about 12 minutes. (Adjust heat under Dutch oven as needed to maintain oil temperature between 300°F and 325°F.) Flip chicken; cook until a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of breasts registers 165°F and drumsticks and/or thighs register 175°F, about 8 minutes. Transfer cooked chicken to a clean wire rack, and sprinkle with sea salt. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, and place in oven to keep warm.

  6. Repeat Step 5 with smaller chicken pieces, cooking until meat reaches temperatures as specified, about 8 minutes per side. Remove all cooked chicken from oven, and serve.


Adapted from My Pinewood Kitchen, A Southern Culinary Cure: 130+ Crazy Delicious, Gluten-Free Recipes to Reduce Inflammation and Make Your Gut Happy by Mee McCormick (Simon & Schuster) Copyright © 2020

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