When we first moved to Oak Park in the final decades of the twentieth century, George’s Family Restaurant had painted on their awning the words “Broasted Food.” At that time, we weren’t sure what that meant. More recently, when I called George’s to ask if they still had Broasted food on the menu, the person who answered the phone seemed not to know what the heck I was asking about.
Broasting is pressurized frying. Frying food under pressure accelerates the cooking process, provides more even heat distribution, and may reduce oil absorption while yielding meat that retains moisture (no one wants dry meat).
In the mid-1950s, the words “Broaster” and “Broasted” were trademarked by the Broaster Company of Beloit, Wisconsin. The Broaster Company manufactures equipment to fry food under pressure (which you do *not* want to try at home). Also around the mid-century, not-yet-so-termed “Colonel” Harlan Sanders modified a pressure cooker to quickly cook the chicken for which he would later become famous, as would his restaurant empire, Kentucky Fried Chicken. Broasting itself is very popular all over the world, including India, Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Peru. To whatever extent possible, the Broaster Company attempts to ensure only those who use authorized Broaster equipment can call their food Broasted (though they don’t own the concept of pressurized frying).
Recently, I sat down to lunch with a friend at The Great Escape in Schiller Park, an old-timey restaurant with a one-hundred-year-old bar and some recognizable favorites on the menu: breaded pork tenderloin, fried shrimp…and Broasted chicken with wedge potatoes.
When my half-chicken arrived all glistening yellowish brown and crisp, I wasn’t sure I could finish it. I did. It was very, very good. The fried crust on the chicken was so thin, I asked the server if they’d removed the skin before frying, but they had not.
Broasted in vegetable oil, the pressure-fried chicken at The Great Escape had paper-thin shell, much preferable (from a health and gustatory perspective) to the thicker fried-on crust that we’ve had at KFC, which still does pressure-fry their chicken.
The Great Escape does Broasting right. The meat was moist and flavorful, due in part to 24-hour marination. The Broaster Company claims that Broasting “seals in natural juices,” and there are many sites that claim Broasted chicken is the healthier and juicier option. Broasting, in the right hands, is undeniably delicious, and for that reason alone, we’ll return to The Great Escape. Next time, though, I plan to sidle up to their time-worn bar and enjoy a beer before launching into this very satisfying platter of fried chicken and wedge potatoes, a classic Midwestern combo.
As I was finishing this article, a friend alerted me that “all you can eat” Broasted chicken is offered every day at Crandall’s in Hebron,“ which claims to offer “World Famous Broasted Chicken,” a boast probably on par with cafes that offer “World’s Best Coffee.” Still, as I’m now a Broaster booster, it might be worth the 70-mile drive.