Thursday, November 10, 2016

Top-Secret KFC Original Recipe Revealed?...

Last week, I put up a post alluding that I may have the top-secret original recipe for KFC and to stay tune for the results. I had said that with all the news going-ons of leaked information surrounding the U.S. election, did I also have in my hands leaked classified info. published this late summer? Could've Colonel Sanders' nephew accidentally reveal the long-guarded KFC's original recipe (11 secret herbs and spices) to Chicago Tribune's newspaper reporter? A spokesperson from Yum! Brands, the corporate parent of KFC says it was not. But is it? The election is finally over, and I am also happy to share my results :D.

Coming from someone who used to work at a KFC store during late high school years, and a fan of their original chicken growing up, I was more than eager to give this recipe a try!

Looks like KFC!

11 Herbs and Spices revealed in this The New York Times article.

11 Herbs and Spices 
Makes about 3 cups of breading

2/3 Tbsp. salt
1/2 Tbsp. tbsp. dried thyme
1/2 Tbsp. dried basil
1/2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. celery salt
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. dried mustard
4 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. garlic salt
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
3 Tbsp. white pepper
2 cups of white flour (all-purpose is fine)

2 eggs, beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
3 lbs. skin-on chicken pieces (I used drumsticks)
canola oil for deep-frying

NOTE: Colonel Sander's nephew Ledington says in the article their secret ingredient is white pepper. Nobody knew how to use it in the 1950s.

Mix the herbs and spices with the flour (I used 1/4 of the total breading- about 1/2 cup). Save the remaining mixture in a sealed container and place in a cool spot (good for several months).

First off, looking at the recipe, I can tell immediately that it lacked salt. 2/3 Tbsp. salt for three cups of total breading is minute. We all know KFC chicken is salty, so I was skeptical of the recipe's authenticity. Next, taking in the smell, it did have a subtle aroma of the actual breading I remembered wafting in the breading station during my KFC days. It had promise but lacked severely in potency. Although the recipe doesn't say, I believe the chicken should be rubbed with salt and refrigerated for at least an hour, better overnight before breading. I recall back at KFC, the chicken was left to marinate in a clear brine overnight. What's in that brine?-- no idea but I'm sure it was loaded with salt.

Set up a breading station with two shallow bowls: one with the beaten eggs and one with the breading. While you bread in the order of above, to keep your hands from getting messy from touching wet and the dry ingredients, use one hand only for dredging chicken in the wet egg mixture and the other for dipping into the dry breading. 

I like to use disposable gloves to keep my fingers clean.

We all know deep-frying just tastes better. However, I wanted to try oven-baking for a healthier and mess-free version but of course deep-frying a few to compare the taste and texture difference in results.

Line baking tray with slightly greased foil; place chicken at least 1/2-inch apart and bake in oven at 400F, turning once for 45 minutes, or until juice runs clear when pierced with skewer.

Baking in my handy convection oven to save energy.

Heat up a pot of oil (a couple of inches just enough to cover chicken pieces) and deep-fry in batches. Use a chopstick or wooden skewer to check if oil is hot enough. It is when bubbles form all around the stick when inserted in the centre of oil. A deep-fryer thermometer will register between 350F to 375F when ready. Deep-fry the chicken pieces for about 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Do not overcrowd the pan or chicken won't cook evenly. 

Here is a look at the oven-baked chicken. Golden brown and crispy like KFC.

And the deep-fried batch -- golden brown and a crispy but more crunchy-looking skin! The smell was intoxicating (what deep-fried foods are not), more so than the oven-baked batch. It did hint at KFC but not dominantly.

Voila! A home-made KFC meal on the table along French fries and a few sides of my own-- vegetable crudites and ranch dip, steamed corn niblets and mushroom gravy.

Appetizing! I love the specks of herbs and spices, just as it appears on KFC chicken.

The moment of truth-- TASTE! Both oven-baked and deep-fried version tasted delicious, juicy and tender with the latter having a better crunch and crispier skin. So, is it the real finger-licking good KFC recipe? Perhaps not surprisingly, I am sorry to report, NO it is definitely not! I have little doubt that the 11 herbs and spices revealed are indeed the ones in the secret spice blend, but the amounts are off. The flavour lacks salt and spices. Putting on my recipe development hat, I would significantly up the salt, increase the paprika, black pepper, celery and garlic salts. Also the dried herbs (thyme, oregano and basil) would need to be adjusted up but not too much or it'll taste too earthy and be bitter. This would obviously require a lot of tinkering and testing, time I don't have. I admit though this is a great base recipe for homemade fried chicken.

My kids agree it was yummy but the chicken does not taste like real KFC!

A few days later, I did give it another shot by adjusting the amount of herbs and spices as mentioned above in the remaining breading on chicken wings for a change. I coated the wings with buttermilk first, then the breading and oven-baked them. Since chicken wings are small, the buttermilk-breading combination would work better deep-fried to seal in the coating and crisp in the hot oil. Oven-baking created a wet result not allowing the wings to crisp up. Using larger chicken pieces such as drumsticks would have fared better. Always lessons to be learned no matter how much you work and cook with food!

So did I get the breading closer to the original KFC recipe...? I think it tastes a bit more like KFC but it still lacks their signature essence. Perhaps, it also needs to factor in the brine they use. Regardless, it looks like KFC's top-secret recipe has not been spilled after all. I can't imagine as the article explains, Sander's nephew accidentally showing the reporter a family scrapbook belonging to Sander's second wife with the real recipe handwritten in the final pages. KFC takes any threat to its secret recipe seriously and has sued to keep it under wraps. I think after this kind of claimed leaked publication, there would be more measures from the brand and Sander's family to ensure it stays classified confidential forever!

Oven-baked "KFC" chicken wings

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