Why Use Cast Iron To Make Chicken Bog
When Elliott Moss left his hometown at the age of 20, he made one simple declaration:
“I’m never eating rice again.”
The Buxton Hall Barbecue chef had grown up in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, which, like much of the state’s eastern seaboard, was once riddled with rice plantations, with the grain irrevocably rooting itself into the local cuisine to this day. And few rice dishes, particularly in this neck of the woods, are more underdoggedly iconic than that of chicken bog.
“Chicken what?,” you might ask. We know (especially because our founder grew up here, too). But it’s simple, really, like it sounds—a rich pot of long grain white rice, whatever chicken and stock you’ve got, cooked together into a not-quite-stew that’s been around for centuries.
It’s a distant cousin to purloo and pilaf, but more, well, boggier, possibly named for its thick, wet consistency, or the region from which it came, with a namesake river speckled with floodplain forests and wetlands. It’s the epitome of comfort food—a one-pot Southern staple. Which is ultimately what caused Moss, years later, to eventually eat his words.
“I remember chicken bog from very early on . . . and the older I got, the more I started missing it,” he says, adding a whole special section of Carolina rice dishes to the menu at Buxton Hall, including, of course, chicken bog. “Most of the food that I cook or eat these days comes from this place of nostalgia from my childhood.”
Before he was even six years old, Moss’s earliest memories of chicken bog were Saturdays spent with his grandfather, who every weekend cooked a pot outside on a propane-fueled turkey fryer, sending leftovers home with his staff and kids. Moss’s mother would carry on the tradition in a saucepot on the stove, serving hers with a side of peas, which now accompany the dish at her son’s restaurant.
“With my family, you used any pot you could get your hands on,” says Moss, pointing to the dish’s everyman ethos, which also appears in its ability to stretch out just a few affordable ingredients. “My grandma taught me to not waste food. At the restaurant, I knew there was always going to be leftover chicken throughout the week, and using nicer quality meat that costs us more, we had to find creative ways to use everything. Chicken bog was that vehicle.”
Today, Moss makes his Buxton bog with nods to his family, as well as his own new flourishes, such as adding smoked kielbasa made with pork from local farmers, and cooking in cast iron since day one, having won a vintage pot in a cooking competition just before opening his restaurant. He points to the medium’s myriad benefits when it comes to cooking rice, which we all know is an ever-loving pain in the neck.
“Rice is a pretty hard dish to master,” says Moss. “I’m still learning how to cook it, and I’m 41 years old."
A few ways cast iron comes in handy: One, its well-seasoned surface, which through polymerization naturally prevents the rice from sticking. Two, its thicker bottom, which helps evenly radiate heat to keep the rice from burning. Three, the material’s high emissivity, or ability to maintain constant heat, which, with the help of a lid, enables the efficient production of steam for thoroughly cooked rice.
And last but not least, four, cast iron doubles as the perfect serving vessel.
Because nobody wants cold bog.
“It’s a simple, humble dish,” says Moss. “I eat it just about every day.”
About Chef Elliott Moss
Growing up in Florence, South Carolina, where mom and pop 'cue joints reigned supreme, Moss gained a deep appreciation of the art of smoke. His roots for southern food and culture run deep as he spent his younger years playing with pigs and chickens on his grandparents' family farm.
He has vivid memories of his grandfather setting up block pits to feed the neighborhood whole hog on special occasions, while helping his grandmother stir kettles of chicken bog and his father saucing barbecued chicken and hogs on the family smoker. It's no wonder this son of the south has vinegar mop running in his veins.
Moss moved to Asheville in 2007 to help open The Admiral Restaurant, garnering acclaim throughout the South for his creative & eclectic fare. After being nominated for Best Chef Southeast through the James Beard Foundation in 2013, he left to chase his barbecue dreams.
(Photos and Bio courtesy of Buxton Hall)