So I figured it out! What always made my grandma's fried chicken taste the best...it was her iron skillet. Tonight I did a little experiment...because I was making a casserole and forgot to cook my chicken beforehand. And what do you do with 3 large chicken breasts all cut up into small bite sized pieces...well, you make fried chicken, of course. I made one big pan (my non-stick pan) of fried chicken and realized that I had enough for a small pan and low and behold I found a medium sized iron skillet in my pan drawer gathering dust. Now, don't believe what you hear about not using iron skillets (or even using a pressure canner) on a flat top--you can...just be careful not to move it around on the flat top stove or it may scratch.
After the chicken was done, I tried a bite of each--one piece from the iron skillet and one from the regular non-stick pan. There was no comparison. They both were well cooked, well browned on both sides with a crunch as you bite into them, but there was something about how the butter browned in that skillet. As I am sure most cooks know, that overtime the iron skillet only gets better. I believe this skillet in particular is the same skillet my grandma would make her cornbread (it is after all perfect cornbread size) and I only wish I knew how to make her cornbread to this day! However, as I am writing this I am realizing that my current cornbread-sized skillet may have been her sister Sue's skillet and could have very well been her mother's, my great-grandmother's skillet.
All this talk about the iron skillet brought me back to my time with my grandparents, one week, every summer from second grade to senior year in Wartburg, TN (yea, you've never heard of it)...it's definitely off the beaten path, but it was like a second home, or a summer home. I loved that time with my grandparents. I really knew them, I got to spend time with them and I miss it! Sometimes when you are going through things in life, why do we not appreciate them until that part of your life is over? O I long for the day when I could come back from my great-aunt Sue's house to find my grandma cooking in that little trailer kitchen her fried chicken, greasy beans with red potatoes on top, creamed corn and cornbread. And I think we had that almost everyday, since most of the times that we were there was during the bean-picking time. I never cared, I love that meal and no one could make it like she could, not even me.
Isn't funny how a little household item can bring your memories back to a sweet time. O how I miss my grandma today. I will again be cooking using my large iron skillet any time that I am making my grandma's fried chicken!