Chicken Mull - Gastro Obscura
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Prepared Foods

Chicken Mull

A buttery Southern specialty inspired by 19th-century seaside cookouts.

Nineteenth-century fishermen along the Atlantic coast slow-cooked bass on the shore, boiling them down into a savory mush with potatoes, onions, and spices. Locals referred to these briny affairs as “fish muddles.” Farther inland, Southerners took a hint from coastal dwellers and developed their own version using more readily available meat.

Farmers replaced bass with chicken, threw a Southern drawl on “muddle,” and made a rich poultry stew inspired by its fishy predecessor. To this day, it’s known as “chicken mull.” A century ago, the slow-cooked bird in an iron pot was common at outdoor social gatherings across the Deep South. Today, Southerners in select pockets of Georgia and the Carolinas still prepare this dish. They add finely chopped chicken to a buttery, creamy broth seasoned with salt, pepper, and chili flakes. To thicken the soup, diners crumble in Saltines, giving the dish a texture reminiscent of oatmeal.

Chicken mull is rooted in community events, such as barbecues and fundraisers, and designed for serving in large quantities. Many cooks still prepare the soup outdoors in a large pot. Mull has also become a popular side at BBQ restaurants in Athens, Georgia, and cooks in the tiny town of Bear Grass, North Carolina, hold a festival in its honor every year.

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