Bon Ton Style Fried Chicken

Total Time
1hr 10mins
Prep 45 mins
Cook 25 mins

From Bilko's spice mix is a closely guarded secret, but Donna King, the restaurants cook, shared with us its fundamental ingredients as well as the basic technique — a long marination, at least 24 hours. This results in some of the juiciest chicken we've ever eaten. The chicken must also rest five or ten minutes after being dredged in the seasoned flour to, as King told us, "get doughy." The Bon Ton recipe calls for Ac'cent (monosodium glutamate) in both the marinade and the dredging mixture. We tested it with and without, and the chicken mainly tasted saltier with the Ac'cent, which some people preferred. The formula for this amazing dish dates back to the 1950s and a restaurant in Henderson known as The Colonel’s Lair. It was a favorite haunt of local high school students and it was run by a man named Bill Koch, whom the kids called Bilko because that’s the way he pronounced it. All who remember The Colonel’s Lair agree that Bilko made the best fried chicken anywhere. In the state where Harland Sanders began a fried-chicken empire based on the secret recipe he used in the kitchen of his service station/café, such judgments are not made lightly. Bilko is gone, but Bon Ton proprietor George Markham and his former cook, Donna King, managed to get the recipe for the amazing chicken; and now it is served every day

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Whisk together all marinade ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Add chicken, making sure it is covered with marinade. Chill, covered, stirring twice, about 24 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together all dredging ingredients in a large bowl. Drain chicken, discarding marinade. Dredge each piece of chicken in seasoned flour and put on a large baking sheet. Let stand about 10 minutes.
  4. Heat 2 inches oil in a wide 8- to 9 1/2-quart pot over moderately high heat until a deep-fat thermometer registers 365 to 375°F (Our pot was 12 inches wide and 5 inches deep; if you don’t have that wide a pot, you can fry the chicken in two batches.).
  5. Fry chicken, turning a few times, 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown, then drain on a rack.


Most Helpful

I've been frying chicken for 40 years and have eaten chicken by others in that time, but THIS... this is the best fried chicken in the world! I can't begin to tell you how good it is. It MUST be made exactly as written. I can't stress that enough. Once you have tried it, you'll never make fried chicken any other way.

mahubbard November 09, 2014

Ok! I am from North carolina so I should know something about fried chicken and I DO:) this is the best! I have fried this chicken for many friends and family. Old family recipe for sure! goes way back. Everyone says I make the best. It really is good. Sometimes I ramp it up with spices to make it more cajun. OK ,I eventually come clean
on where I got the recipe. Enjoy November 03, 2011

I too got this recipe out of Gourmet years ago, I still have the magazine (somewhere). This is a recipe you'll want to save. I have increased this recipe to serve as many as 20 people and there every time I serve it everyone just raves about it being the best chicken they have ever had! In fact, I am going to make it again today. If you are going to go to the trouble to make fried chicken, you may as well take a few extra steps to ensure it is delicious.

rickinthekitchen July 17, 2011

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