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Alex

KFC's 11 not-so-secret herbs and spices

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A secret no more, perhaps  (article in the Chicago Tribune)

 

Quote

But what I'm really interested in is the handwritten note on the back of the document. At the top of the page, in blue ink, it reads, "11 Spices — Mix With 2 Cups White Fl." That's followed by an enumerated list of herbs and spices. Eleven herbs and spices. And the measurements for each.

 

Could this be what I think it is? The 11 herbs and spices?

 

Ledington tells me, yep, this is it.

 

"That is the original 11 herbs and spices that were supposed to be so secretive," he says with conviction.

 

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21 minutes ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

Saw the same in the NY Times.

 

 

The NYT article was about the Trib's article. That's why I posted the original.


Edited by Alex (log)

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I don't know if it's the real deal or not, but I bookmarked it, and will try it next time I'm in the mood to clean up the stove after pan-frying chicken. It sounds credible to me. I am not going to worry at all about not owning a pressure fryer. This will be fun! :D

 

According to Louis Hatchett, who has written books about Duncan Hines, the truly original Kentucky Fried Chicken was skillet-fried. It only began to be marketed with special pressure cooking equipment when he and his wife launched the franchises. Duncan Hines visited and recommended the original restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky in 1939, and wrote about it in one of his travel guide books.

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The salt level seems right, what with salt and celery salt. (I spent a lot of time in the 1980s trying to make something comparable or better for a friend with a restaurant.) What I am suspicious about is the ginger.

 

Honestly, what I finally came up with with for my own copycat version, was based on looking in an older relative's spice rack and seeing an old jar of chicken bouillon cubes. The package said "XX Herbs & Spices" on it, and I realized that you could just grind the bouillon up finely and toss in some extra salt and some black pepper and be done. People seem to like my version. I don't have a pressure fryer, so I have never done a side-by-side tasting panel. (if anyone here would like to try my method, and could give me feedback it would be appreciated -it's about 10g of crushed chicken bouillon, 1g black pepper,  2g salt, to 300g AP or pastry flour used as the final part of a 3-part breading station)

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The article omits the secret ingredient that Lisa's recipe includes: MSG.

 

 

The current version of the "original recipe" has been so tweaked out by industrial food chemists as to be basically unrecognizable. I wonder what the original really tasted like.

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5 hours ago, Lisa Shock said:

What I am suspicious about is the ginger.

 

But it must have referred to powdered, dried ginger from decades ago - unlike what we might find as a matter of course with regards to fresh ginger nowadays - and which presumably had a different taste profile...

 

In this sense you don't need me to murmur that "powdered (who-knows-how-old) garlic" is quite different from fresh chopped smashed garlic.

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4 hours ago, btbyrd said:

The article omits the secret ingredient that Lisa's recipe includes: MSG.

 

 

The current version of the "original recipe" has been so tweaked out by industrial food chemists as to be basically unrecognizable. I wonder what the original really tasted like.

 

I wonder what it would be like if we could recreate the spices as would have been known in the 1930's, with their presumably processed-and-definitely-not-spanking-fresh profiles rather than use the corresponding ones from modern/current times.

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9 hours ago, Thanks for the Crepes said:

According to Louis Hatchett, who has written books about Duncan Hines, the truly original Kentucky Fried Chicken was skillet-fried. It only began to be marketed with special pressure cooking equipment when he and his wife launched the franchises.

 

Since the pressure cooker version is all of known the thought I had was this might be perfect if made in an InstaPot. I don't have an IP, just throwing the thought out there.

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3 minutes ago, Porthos said:

 

Since the pressure cooker version is all of known the thought I had was this might be perfect if made in an InstaPot. I don't have an IP, just throwing the thought out there.

 

You need a pressure fryer, an IP or other regular pressure cooker can't be used to pressure fry.

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In an oblique way I am also reminded of thoughts that many folks who cook in the modern Western Farm-to-Table idiom have --- that something "fresh" (and picked from the garden or fished from the sea just a few minutes ago) is ALWAYS better. It is not so. I have mentioned before how dried or preserved ingredients are NOT necessarily poor substitutes for the spanking fresh ingredients, and that they often are ingredients in their own right, and that substituting the spanking fresh ingredient for the preserved ingredient DOES NOT WORK in many recipes which call for the preserved ingredient.**

 

** As just one example, if one tried using fresh squid or cuttlefish in certain Chinese-type soups where dried cuttlefish is called for, one would get a pretty repulsive soup, and those who have never used dried cuttlefish before but envision the soups as being made with fresh cuttlefish/squid ("fresh must be better") might be unable to comprehend why such a soup might be edible in their minds.


Edited by huiray (log)
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1 hour ago, mgaretz said:

 

You need a pressure fryer, an IP or other regular pressure cooker can't be used to pressure fry.

I appreciate the clarification.

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42 minutes ago, Porthos said:

I appreciate the clarification.

I believe it's officially called a Broaster. A local diner near my mom has one. They make very good fried chicken...not tasting like the Colonel's but tasting much more like the fried chicken my mom used to make...when she still cooked. :(

 

I have a silly question about the handwritten recipe pictured in the article. It uses "Ts" for the measurement. Is that tablespoons (because the "T" is capitalized), or do they mean teaspoons? Either way, the ratio would be the same but the difference in measurement would impact the final taste of the chicken breading.

Anyone?

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8 minutes ago, Toliver said:

I believe it's officially called a Broaster. A local diner near my mom has one. They make very good fried chicken...not tasting like the Colonel's but tasting much more like the fried chicken my mom used to make...when she still cooked. :(

 

I have a silly question about the handwritten recipe pictured in the article. It uses "Ts" for the measurement. Is that tablespoons (because the "T" is capitalized), or do they mean teaspoons? Either way, the ratio would be the same but the difference in measurement would impact the final taste of the chicken breading.

Anyone?

The measurements are explained.  Tablespoons win. 

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56 minutes ago, Toliver said:

I believe it's officially called a Broaster.

 

That is one brand of pressure fryer (and also includes marinades and coatings that must be used to produce "official" Broasted chicken) and when done correctly it's great.  Henny Penny, Winston and others also have commercial pressure fryers and I am not sure who makes the ones KFC uses.  You can also get a home, stove-top pressure fryer. I have one, but haven't used it in years.  Some here: http://www.pro-selections.com/category.cfm/198/

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I am also suspicious of the celery part of the celery salt, but, I agree that back in the day spices were sold way past their prime.

 

I would also like to mention that part of what triggered my thinking for my recipe was reading a newspaper article (maybe a magazine???) in the 1970s where someone sent some of the Colonel's chicken to a lab to try and reverse engineer the recipe. They found flour, salt, pepper, and a lot of chicken. They could not confirm other spices. So, part of my thinking was that the herbs and spices were already very processed as part of the bouillon, and then being fried just destroyed them. (I had no clue that modern food labs were using chemicals from, or found in, the herbs not the whole herb. Nowadays, I doubt that the 1970s test could find any of the esters used as flavorings in processed foods. -And be affordable for a reporter.) And, using bouillon explains finding so much chicken in the breading.

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"In 1983, William Poundstone conducted laboratory research into the coating mix, as described in his book Big Secrets, and claimed that a sample he examined contained only flour, salt, monosodium glutamate and black pepper."

~Big Secrets by William Poundstone (1983) William Morrow. pp. 20–21. ISBN 0-688-04830-7

 

Also from the same book...

kfc.png

 

Oddly, I used to own that book — it may still be packed away somewhere.


Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)
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I have suspected sugar myself, and hey, it's not an herb or spice, so, it may not appear in the list. That said, some spices trigger a recognition or memory of sweetness when no sweetener is there.

 

If the ginger is really there, it explains a lot of what the Esquire team was saying. They had a really tough job trying to untangle flavors after they were mixed and deep fried with chicken.

 

Thanks for the Poundstone reference. That was what I meant, I just did not recall the correct year. Once again, I wonder how much spice is destroyed in cooking, and, we probably have better lab equipment nowadays.

 

The Chicago Tribune's taste test seems pretty conclusive. However, I'd like to see a real test with 100+ participants given unmarked samples of both the real and the supposed recipe and see what happens. -Don't even say anything about KFC. I think the Tribune, while well-intentioned, did not work the test out well enough to eliminate unconscious bias.

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This past Tuesday, my son and his best friend got back from Shelbyville, Kentucky where they were on a mission to go to Claudia Sanders Dining House to have the fried chicken in order to compare it to KFC.  They were successful.

 

This post is not to say that I have any knowledge of what goes into KFC chicken.  I just thought that it was a funny coincidence that they were making this trip as this news came out.

 

He did buy the restaurants cookbook for me, though, and the fried chicken recipe has little resemblance to the 'secret recipe' that is now supposedly being revealed.  It calls for milk instead of buttermilk and 1 1/2 TB Claudia Sanders Chicken Seasoning which had been available for purchase.  The book was published in 1979 and the Seasoning is no longer in existence for sale, as far as I can tell.

 

He described the chicken as "Meh" and the sides as really, really good.

 

We love fried chicken (In moderation).  I'm a midwestern girl at heart and it's one of my favorites (Niemergs in Effingham, IL is outrageous).

 

I may have to give this secret recipe a try - as soon as it cools down a bit here in Massachusetts!

 

 

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HERE's a link to an eBay auction of the Claudia Sanders seasoning. Click on the images to enlarge them. (ebay doesn't keep info forever, this link will break very soon) This item was made by Marion-Kay in Indiana. Note that the ingredients are shown on the back of the package: Pepper (white and black), MSG, Salt and natural herbs and spices.

 

White pepper is listed before black, so there is more of it than the black. (and more of it than anything else, which jibes with the newspaper article) There is more MSG than salt! And, like today, herbs and spices do not need to be mentioned by name.

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Thanks for that link, @Lisa Shock.  I have no interest in bidding, but the listing is entertaining to read. There's quite a lot of history in it.

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15 tablespoons of salt and spices in 2 cups (32 tablespoons) of flour... that's some powerful stuff.

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Here's a link to an Associated Press article that my local news station published today where Yum Brands subsidiary, KFC, denies the authenticity of the recipe revealed in the Chicago Trib's authenticity. Well they would, whether it is true or not, I think. Also like @btbyrd said upthread, the recipe will have changed over all these years from the original skillet-fried when the original restaurant opened. The food chemists and the bean counters team up these days to ruin most things. :)

 

I don't like KFC today, but I remember back in the day, it was good, and I'm still going to have fun trying the recipe published in the Trib with the pan-fried version like the Colonel made before he got famous and went on the road to market his franchises. 

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I should have mentioned this earlier, but, there are two issues with the formula as it stands:

 

1) It makes a really small amount. Maybe someone reduced it for home use, but, any franchisee, or someone packing for a franchisee wouldn't be sitting there and measuring out tablespoons of spice and cups of flour -they would probably need 30-100 times as much per day.

Which leads me to:

2) The formula shown in the article is volumetric and involves all dry ingredients which makes no sense. By the time the recipe went into regular use in the first restaurant, someone was mixing it in large tubs or maybe a 35qt Hobart. (why mix it daily when you can mix it weekly or monthly then just scoop it out as needed) They were buying by weight, they should have been mixing by weight for consistency.

It should probably read more like:

      20lb sack of AP flour

       1lb salt

       1/2 jar Thyme (1.5 oz to a jar, therefore .75oz)

       1/2 jar Basil (1.5 oz to a jar, therefore .75oz)

       1/3 jar Oregano (1.5 oz to a jar, therefore .75oz)

       1 1.5 oz jar Celery Salt

       1 1.5oz jar Black Pepper

       1 1.5oz jar Dry Mustard

       4 1.5oz jars Paprika

       1 1.5oz jar dry Ginger

       2 1.5oz jars Garlic Salt

       3 1.5oz jars White Pepper

(plus sugar and msg)

 

-Or, by the late 1960s, a 100lb sack of flour and some larger commercial canisters of spice.

 

I can pretty much guarantee that the current formula is by weight (probably metric) and makes a large quantity at once. -Although they probably make small batches of experimental products in the test kitchen.

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