06 September, 2009

Vintage Sunday: The Wearever Chicken Bucket

About ten years ago or so, I came across a recipe online for fried chicken that was supposed to duplicate the Kentucky Fried Chicken method of pressure frying. Using a standard pressure cooker, the recipe called for heating a few inches of oil to 400 degrees F, plunging in the chicken, sealing the lid, and cooking for some amount of time. I'm deliberately being vague because the recipe was unworkable and even somewhat dangerous - the times and temperatures given in that recipe would ruin the gaskets and perhaps the emergency valves in your pressure cooker. You can find it by Googling if you really want to, but I'm not going to help you spray hot oil all over your kitchen and waste a perfectly good frying chicken.

As it happens, though, there really is a home gadget you can use to pressure fry foods - not just chicken, but whatever else you'd like. It's called the Wearever Chicken Bucket, and it was produced in the early 1970's by the Wearever Aluminum Company. The principal is the same as the dangerous recipe, but more refined and thought-out. A few inches of oil is added to the pot and brought to a temperature of 350 degrees F. The chicken - only a few pieces at a time - is added and allowed to brown in the oil for a few minutes. Finally, the lid is placed on the pot and secured with the big central knob and brace assembly, and the pressure jiggler is placed on the valve stem. A few minutes later...Fried Chicken!

When I saw the pot at a local thrift store, I knew immediately what it was, and checked to make sure all the parts were there before I bought it. It was only later (after I got it home) that I realized there were no instructions included. Luckily, a man named Tom W, in Alabama, scanned a copy of the instructions and placed them on his website a few years ago, in PDF format, for anyone to download and use. I downloaded the manual and printed it out, but haven't tried any of the recipes yet. When the weather gets a little bit cooler, I'll be more in the mood for home-fried chicken, and then I plan to give the pot a try.


Tom W's Wearever Chicken Bucket instruction and recipe booklet.

Tom's old webpage (no longer updated, but still online) where the booklet resides, along with a story about how he got involved with pressure-fried chicken and the trials and errors of getting it just right.

Tom's latest blog, Adventures of a Curious Fellow.

Yes, I am giving Tom W quite a few links here. It's because he's made it possible for me to use my pressure fryer without having to worry (too much) about killing myself in a shower of molten poressure cookers and scalding oil. And also because his blogs make him sound like a pretty cool guy.


TomW said...

Actually, I am more curious than cool. But thanks for the high regard!

I'm glad you enjoyed my web site, and hope your readers will too.


AlanInMo said...

Just want to thank you both for the bucket information.. I purchased one from a Goodwill store without the instructions and was hesitant about using it.. As of tonight I just finished an awesome bucket of chicken with the texture and taste of KFCs but without the $25 price.. Now if I can only figure out how to make their slaw!! :-D

Thanks Dave for the link and Thank You Tom for the owners manual!

Eric M said...

I wanted to say thanks for pointing this out on your blog - before I read this article I'd never seen nor heard of this blast from the past, but because I'd read this post, I was able to identify a barely used one at a local estate sale, and pick one up for the bargain price of four dollars. Fried up some chicken the next day.

Anonymous said...

thanks for adding about the bucketi just got one from a yard sale although thereis instuctions on it they are about wore off. otherwise its in exallent shape. now i just hope i can download and print he instructions. thanks again. cherylB MO

Anonymous said...

I just bought a BRAND NEW 4qt Chicken Bucket at a local thrift store, complete with the booklet and extra gasket for 20$

I remember my grandmother having one and growing up on all the wonderful things she cooked in it, I can't wait to break it in and make some childhood favourites

If all goes well, I might just have to start a cooking blog with all the great things it can do... thanks to both Dave & Tom

Anonymous said...


Many thanks to you, and to Tom! I too have a Wearever Chicken Bucket sans instructions, and you guys just saved me from having to pay some shyster on eBay for a xerox of one. Well done, sir. Now, if I could just find a spare gasket...

Anonymous said...

I have a chicken bucket that my kids gave me for Christmas many years ago and I really need a new gasket for it to work properly. I have not fried any chicken in it in recent history but the last time I tried it did not seem to seal properly. Does anybody know where to get just a gasket that might fit it?

bob McManaway said...

We first bought one of the Wearever Chicken Buckets from the warehouse in Chillicothe, OH. I believe the store there is now closed. However, this item can do the job and is fantastic, having provided our large family a lot of fried chicken. The chicken works best if you fry the chicken for about 4 minutes and then another 12-15 [based on the size of the item cooked] and it is fantastic. We use a little sage and curry in our flour breading for an Eastern flavor you can't get anywhere else. I have the original receipe book. Unfortunately, over time the base warps and it doesn't sit flat on the stove [flat top] limiting its use to a gas stove, and we've misplaced the pressure rocker. We'd love to buy another.


Vance Jensen said...

To AlanInMo:

I have the KFC slaw recipe any many other KFC recipes. If email address are allowed on here mine is majik01@live.com


JT said...

I'm a longtime user of the Chicken Bucket and swear by it...makes the best tasting Fried Chicken ever. My experience has been that I can usually do about 3 legs or 2 legs and 2 wings in about 10 min at about 350-360 degrees; thighs need about 12 min. I don't brown it; just toss the chicken in and cover it up. The only caveat is that your chicken has been coated and resting to room temp, so that it doesn't cool off the oil too much when it goes in.

Just noticed that someone is now selling replacement silicone gaskets on Ebay, in case your gasket has gone bad.

watcher_inthewoods said...

I used the 4 qt Chicken bucket in the 70 and 80's to feed our family of 6 and sometimes for company. I loved it. I followed the directions and never had any burns (I used a long handled carving fork to lift the edge of the giggler, never removed it. be sure to do this away from the stove.)

Jo-jo potatoes in the same coating cooked following the chicken are also excellent!!!! (I would cook all the chicken and keep warm in the oven while "bucketing" the tators.

Cooking that much, I have already replaced the gasket once (wish I could remember now where I found it) but I have not used it in years and would like to know if anyone else finds a replacement gasket for it. If I find one, I will let you know also.

Pam said...

I have a Wearever 4 quart Chicken Bucket Pressure Cooker. I miss using it but the seal/gasket that goes under the lid broke in half. Does anyone know where I can get a replacement part or can I get a universal/aftermarket one? Thanks.