The Surprising Tool That Makes the Best Chicken, According to Paula Deen

John Alexander
John Alexander

When it comes to comfort food, Paula Deen's proven herself to be an expert. I spoke to the Southern cook about her kitchen product line, the most surprising recipe she's made with her air fryer, the recipe she swears by on Thanksgiving, and many more cooking tips you'll want to steal!

POPSUGAR: Of the kitchen products featured on Evine, what are your favorites? And which would make a great holiday gift for Christmas?
Paula Dean: Anna, so many of them! I'll go in, and I'll say "Oh, this is my favorite!" Then say, "No, this is my favorite!" [I have] so much say over the design and products themselves, so naturally they're just things that I love. My kitchen products would make a great gift. My Air Fryer ($145) . . . My Multi Cooker ($160) is the bomb. It goes from warm to slow cook to stove top, three different stove-top temperatures. Then you take it to an oven . . . .

John Alexander

[My] induction cookers ($88) have beautiful patterns. I have four or five patterns — one peaches, one chicken, and one is hearts. So you can stick it up in your kitchen, and it actually looks like a picture that you have on display in your kitchen.

John Alexander

PS: With the multi cooker, what's a go-to recipe to make during the holiday season?
PD: Well, you can do anything in it. One day last week, I cooked a big pot of chili in it. There's nothing I can't cook in it. Nothing. It's incredible how it adds to your functions on a big holiday when you don't have enough oven space, you don't have enough refrigerator space, and so on. It extends your kitchen so much.

John Alexander

PS: You just came out with an Air Fryer cookbook. What surprising and unexpected things did you discover you can air-fry?
PD: I think the biggest surprise was that you can really cook fried chicken in there, and it's delicious. Classic fried chicken that you would put in your deep fryer . . . You spritz it with a little of your favorite oil, whatever you happen to like. Coconut — any of the oils. It's crispy on the outside, and so moist and juicy on the inside. You wouldn't believe it. When I first saw [an air fryer], I kind of waltzed around it like it was a rattlesnake. I said, "There ain't no way that this thing can fry chicken. No way."

I am amazed the way a chicken breast comes out. You know, most the time they're kind of dry? Not in this air fryer. They're so juicy.

John Alexander

PS: On your cable show, Positively Paula, you're going back to your classics. What show and recipes did you enjoy shooting most from that first season?
PD: One of my favorite shows was with my daughter-in-law, who is from Venezuela, and she cooked for me. I didn't know it, but she was doing a vegan meal. I was surprised at how good it was. She's a good little cook.

PS: Would you mind sharing your go-to method for scrambling eggs?
PD: We can't operate without Vidalia onions out here. I like to fry the onions and mix with my scrambled eggs. I use water instead of milk. Water makes them lighter. Water doesn't make it as tough as milk. I cook them on low, and use half bacon drippings and half butter, so you have the best of both worlds. I like to put a lid on my scrambled eggs, turning them all at once. If you cook them too fast, it makes them not so good.

PS: What about chicken breasts?
PD: Chicken breast is the driest, [most] tasteless part of the chicken as far as I'm concerned. I like to beat my chicken breast. If they're boneless, I like to beat them down, so it helps cook them even faster and you don't have an opportunity to overcook them, as you would if you just put the chicken breast in the pan. I like to do them scaloppini.

PS: You're so famous for your mac and cheese and cornbread. What, from all these years, is your greatest Thanksgiving dish that you've developed?
PD: Without a doubt, it was the Southern cornbread dressing that my grandmother taught me how to make 50 years ago. The cornbread is so important that you make for your dressing. It is important that it be a nice, eggy cornbread that doesn't have any sugar in it. You can't make stuffing with sweet cornbread. It is absolutely important that you have a savory cornbread. I almost never make [this] dressing excerpt at Thanksgiving. My family loves it so much. I don't know why I wait until Thanksgiving to make it. It's so, so good. It's in my very first cookbook, [Paula Deen and Friends]. If you go buy that, you'll have a wonderful dish.

John Alexander

PS: What else do you have going on for the rest of the year and into 2017?
PD: I'm so busy. My furniture line and my magazine [Cooking With Paula Deen] continues to thrive. I'm so thankful. God has been so good and generous. I'm getting ready for our sixth grandson to be born at Thanksgiving. There's so much going on. I almost never have a moment. Possibly, I don't know if I can say this yet, but there might be a third show in the works.