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Alex

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

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If that's the recipe it's the original home version the restaurant version was based on. Which makes sense if it was meant only for a direct family member.  

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On 8/27/2016 at 10:32 PM, Thanks for the Crepes said:

...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...

Yes. This. What passes as KFC fried chicken these days is but a pale knockoff of what it used to taste like. It's likely the bean counters eliminated some spices to save money thinking no one would taste the difference. Really?

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I only purchase 2 things from KFC. I buy, but not for some time, the chicken pot pie. I mostly buy their chicken tenders that I am going to dip in BBQ sauce anyway - drive thru food that isn't another burger or burrito.


Edited by Porthos (log)
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So, I made the mix, although I had to make one substitution, I even went on a run to the market to get some spices I was low on to make this, and forgot that I don't have any paprika. I substituted some fairly spicy pimenton for the paprika, but only used half as much.

 

I then used the mix, with egg wash first, to make some potato slices. It was very good. The pimenton made it fairly spicy, though, and the smokiness came through as well. I recommend it, but it's probably not true to anyone's memories of KFC. I was surprised at the synergy of the spices. I could not pick out ginger or celery seed flavor. Also, I had been wondering if the herbs would make it taste fairly 'green' but I did not get that. It was a little sweet, I did not add sugar -although I did add 1 Tbsp Accent (msg). The mix did make me sneeze, a lot. So, I'd be careful about getting too much in the air.

 

I am going to try making other things with it now. I think there is real potential in using the mix as a dredge and maybe in a tempura batter (sub rice flour for the AP flour).

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Tonight, I made a pasta casserole, something between baked ziti and macaroni & cheese, with some broccoli tossed in. I had some leftover mix, with flour, I mixed two tablespoons with some plain breadcrumbs and a little butter and used that as a topping. It was great. Not Italian at all, but very good. Be warned that my topping was right on the edge of being too salty. This is powerful stuff. (also, I think some gets lost in deep frying -with a bake, it all stays put)

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"Healthy Junk Food" YouTubers take on comparing the secret recipe used on home-fried chicken versus KFC chicken (click).

They slathered the chicken with the spice mixture and brined it in buttermilk before eventually coating the chicken in the flour & spice mixture and deep frying it.

The woman in the video, like Lisa mentioned above, said she really noticed the saltiness.


Making the spice mixture would certainly be a quick way to use up the content of my ancient cans/jars of spices and herbs sitting in my cupboards! :D

 

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I was wondering about brining and such. I knew someone who worked at KFC and sometime in 2004-ish got to ask him about the coleslaw. He said that they cut the cabbage and then salted & sugared it and let it sit overnight, then drained and added the dressing. My suspicion would be that maybe the chickens got tossed with salt, pepper, and sugar and allowed to sit overnight. I just found THIS video of the Colonel making the chicken on live TV. He appears to coat plain chicken in the dry flour mix. (I also found photos of him demonstrating to franchisees, it was definitely never a batter) Despite this being a 'softball' piece, and not hard journalism, IMO one of the hosts would have asked what the chicken was coated with if it had been brined in buttermilk. Note that Minnie comments on the pressure fryer, and both she and Ernie knew about paper bag shaking. It seems like Minnie has made some chicken in her day, and Ernie has at least watched people cook it. I really strongly suspect that the buttermilk soak is spurious. There's a good chance that advance seasoning, with at least salt, would have drawn out water making it easier to coat that plain chicken from the package. (note that the Colonel clearly states that the chicken is fried in hydrogenated oil, some modern differences may be due to the change in oil when they eliminated trans fat a while back)

 

Also note the canister that Ernie holds up as a retort when the Colonel says he doesn't have 11 herbs and spices. I wonder if that's supposed to be a famous competing brand, or Claudia's mixture?

 

I understand the chemistry, somewhat, of buttermilk soaking. I suspect, although no one has tested it, that it's related to the effect that Heston Blumenthal saw with yogurt. (fast forward to 13:03 to see the lab work) But, it adds extra expense, and takes up space in the walk-in. And, since this recipe was developed prior to reliable air conditioning and refrigeration, and in the hot/humid South, I am pretty skeptical about it. I think maybe they just salt & peppered (and maybe added sugar) in the morning, an hour or so before frying.

 

In the HJF video, I suspect the prefer the KFC leg slightly over the home made simply because of the pressure frying and the surface area ratio.

 

BTW, the HJF people talk about the finger-licking sauce, I have never had it. But, I looked it up on the KFC website. The main ingredients are vegetable oil and high fructose corn syrup. I suspect that a decent facsimile, especially for those without a modernist pantry, would be to take some mayonnaise and add sugar and the spice mix. It will probably taste good.

 

I also think that people's perception of the crispness and flavor is probably affected by the modern hot-holding system they now use. I think they are holding cooked chicken significantly longer than they used to.

 

Today, I made fried potatoes and eggs for breakfast. I added about ¼teaspoon of the seasoning to the potatoes as they cooked, removed them from the pan, lowered the heat and scrambled some eggs, then tossed it all together. It was good, I probably should have added a little salt, in my fear of saltiness I just used the seasoning, and got it under-seasoned. I also dipped a chunk of cantaloupe in the mix. It wasn't great, oddly enough, it was intriguing but ultimately bad. -The smoke from the pimenton was the first flavor to register, which is odd because I only used half as much as called for with paprika.

 

I think there's untapped potential for the spice mix. I am still contemplating....

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3 hours ago, Lisa Shock said:

He appears to coat plain chicken in the dry flour mix. (I also found photos of him demonstrating to franchisees, it was definitely never a batter) Despite this being a 'softball' piece, and not hard journalism, IMO one of the hosts would have asked what the chicken was coated with if it had been brined in buttermilk.

 

Ernie does at one point ask what the mixture the chicken was in and Sanders answers that it was milk and egg wash.  And what I hear Sanders telling Minnie is that she doesn't have the 11 herbs and spices (and earlier he mentions the 11 herbs and spices as being part of the recipe).

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2 hours ago, mgaretz said:

 

Ernie does at one point ask what the mixture the chicken was in and Sanders answers that it was milk and egg wash.  And what I hear Sanders telling Minnie is that she doesn't have the 11 herbs and spices (and earlier he mentions the 11 herbs and spices as being part of the recipe).

 

Whoops! Ok, I only watched until the chicken went into the fryer, figuring that they explained everything in steps as it happened. Because the egg and milk are mixed, I don't think it's a brine or marinade, I think it's just functioning as part of a breading station, holding the spice mix and flour on.

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I just used the seasoned flour, with egg wash, to make onion rings. They were very good. However, the mix is really salty, so the ones with just a light breading were better than the ones pressed lots of coating onto. I wound up knocking some breading off to be able to eat a few of the pieces.

 

I wonder why KFC never made these themselves? -I know that hand-breaded items are considered expensive to produce nowadays, many fast food chains that serve onion rings just buy factory made frozen ones, some made from chopped onion pressed into ring form. (even though onions are pretty cheap, you can get 5-6 servings from one onion) You'd think they'd figure something out. Unless all they have are those pressure fryers, and, I guess a pressure fryer would cook an onion ring into oblivion in about ten seconds or so.

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More power to ya, @Lisa Shock!

 

I am still going to do this from my bookmarked recipe, but haven't got 'round to it yet. I have been playing with other interesting stuff and pumping out required meals for my husband.

 

This is going to happen eventually in the kitchen of TftC. You are inspiring me!

 

Chicken takes a lot of salt, and perhaps good homemade onion rings maybe not so much.

 

I made salt and pepper shrimp tonight and was a little astonished at how much salt it called for, but it was excellent, if not the healthiest dish I've made. 

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Thanks!

 

I think part of the issue is that the onion rings were nowhere near as thick as a piece of chicken, the ratio of coating to food was way off. And, I only sliced them ½" high. I am contemplating making a low-salt version of the mix specifically for coating thin foods.

 

However, I think next on the agenda will be using the spice mix for tempura -using rice flour instead of wheat and making a batter with egg white and soda water.

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I standardized the formula by weight, subbed celery seed (ground) for celery salt and granulated garlic for garlic salt, added the salt from them to the salt line on the ingredient list, and then cut the total amount of salt in half. It was bland. Added 50% more, to equal ¾ the original amount, and that was much better. I am also reducing the amount of black pepper a little (still working on that) as it seems a bit strong, probably because I am grinding it myself just prior to use.

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Recently I made chicken strips from some organic chicken tenders.  Used the buttermilk brine and then well-seasoned flour to dust them.

I don't deep fry inside my kitchen because of the lack of a hood, so I took my Fry Daddy outside to the deck and cooked them there.  They were absolutely amazing and I'm just waiting for another nice day (it's been cool and rainy lately) to make some more.

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On 8/27/2016 at 8:29 PM, Tri2Cook said:

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

 

I think that's about 30% salt by weight (nearly 4 TB) when added to 2 cups of flour.

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1 hour ago, IndyRob said:

 

I think that's about 30% salt by weight (nearly 4 TB) when added to 2 cups of flour.


You may be right. I have absolutely no idea which post I was responding to at the time and couldn't even figure it out by reading back through the thread so I won't make any attempt as claiming I was right. :D

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Posted (edited)

No, I think we may be in agreement.  I think the relevant point is whether Ts in the hand written recipe refers to teaspoons or tablespoons.  Teaspoons would mean only 10% salt by weight - which seems more plausible.

 

That said, it also occurred to me that this whole "11 secret herbs and spices" deal is probably the biggest marketing red herring of the modern age.  If KFC - at any time in their history (because I think KFC used to be better back in the day) - left out any, say, two of the herbs, nobody would ever notice.


Edited by IndyRob (log)
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Posted (edited)

I do think that MSG and black pepper (maybe even some white) are an important part of the recipe.

But I think that the flavor (the one or two spices, that are very closely related) that make it truly unique—the cornerstone of the recipe—especially the Kentucky Fried Chicken of 30 years ago and prior, has been overlooked by almost everyone.

Hint: They're indirectly mentioned in the Big Secrets book.

I can remember James Beard picking up on the flavor in a different account, many years ago.

I can't find a reference to it now, but when I read it I remember thinking "YES!"

It's odd that he's not quoted as mentioning it in the "Big Secrets" book—which makes me wonder how accurate the Big Secrets book is.

 


Edited by DiggingDogFarm (log)
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There is a product which may be close to the original KFC spice blend.

Look at https://marionkay.com/product/chicken-seasoning-99-x/

 

The story is that in the 60s the owner of the Marion-Kay spice company was a friend of Col. Sanders.  There was a time (60s or 70s) when Col, Sanders was fighting with the people who owned KFC.  

 

For a short time Col. Sanders urged all KFC restaurants to use 99-X in place of the KFC branded spice mix. (Violating their franchise agreement.)

 

I have no idea if it is true.  

 

Chicken made with 99-x tasts good.  I have not done a side by side test.  I am not sure a side by side test woul tell much because I do not have a pressure fryer.

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Perhaps this comment deserves its own thread...but I was wondering if anyone on eGullet had ever looked into the possibility of duplicating junk food at home, including, yes, KFC's famous recipe.

 

Don't laugh - apparently this is a thing that I never knew existed. There is a not-insignificant-percentage of food bloggers who regularly write about homemade Big Macs for example.

 

 

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Junk food at home? Sure. My mother had damn near a cottage industry going with caramel popcorn, which was what we  used to make popcorn balls for Halloween (kids would come out from town to trick or treat at our house in the country), but she'd just put it on a bunch of cookie sheets and then break it up, like granola.  I do things like chocolate covered pretzels == easy, and people think you have conquered space, or something, when you make them and roll them in a crushed peppermint stick.  

 

I have recipes that cover hard candy, all SORTS of assorted chips and crackers and dips and spreads,  popular pizzas (who remembers the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pizza-in-a-box kit? They still make them, and I made a special trip to the dreaded WalMart the other day to get one), and oh, I don't know, no telling what all else may be lurking back there in the recesses of my brain. One of my favorite pastimes is trying to recreate a "Damn, that was good!" taste from a restaurant. Sometimes I'm successful; sometimes less so. "The Google" makes it a lot easier, at least to find a jumping-off point. I've come pretty damn close to a lot of my restaurant favorites.

 

Some things, like Dunkin Donuts coffee, you just can't reproduce. It's a function of their equipment and the quantity in which they make it, I guess. Yeah, I can buy Dunkin Donuts beans, grind them, make my coffee (in a variety of fashions; I've tried pour-over, French press, Keurig, Mr. Coffee), but it doesn't taste like Dunkin Donuts coffee, which I content is the best commercially brewed coffee I've ever had.

 

Yes, I've been to a number of coffee houses, both chain and individual. Can't touch DD. IMHO.

 

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Yes! Duplicating at home something wonderful I've eaten at a restaurant is a favorite pastime of mine, and Google helps a lot. Just search for copycat recipes and you can see, that I am far from the first one to think of this concept.

 

I was delighted when @mgaretzcame up with a recipe for a Latino grilled chicken, I used to eat at a Cary restaurant thirty years ago that is now Los Tres Magueyes' location. I've forgotten the name of the restaurant again, but I'm almost sure "Pollo" was part of it. To eat that pretty close chicken again really made me happy.

 

I make the Cheddar Bay biscuits from Red Lobster from a recipe that used to be posted on the restaurant's own website years ago, but has since disappeared. That was probably when they started selling their mix for the biscuits.

 

Duplicating something that was perfect or correcting a dish toward perfection that I had in a restaurant that fell short but had potential is one of my great joys. It is definitely a thing.

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19 hours ago, ProfessionalHobbit said:

Perhaps this comment deserves its own thread...but I was wondering if anyone on eGullet had ever looked into the possibility of duplicating junk food at home, including, yes, KFC's famous recipe.

 

Don't laugh - apparently this is a thing that I never knew existed. There is a not-insignificant-percentage of food bloggers who regularly write about homemade Big Macs for example.

 

 


While I have pretty much zero interest in recreating fried chicken from any chain, I've done more than a little bit of attempting to duplicate food from other fast food places I used to visit before I moved to a place where none exist. The difficulty in doing it, for me, is I don't want an upscale eGullet-worthy "better" version of those items. I want authentic tasting to the nastiest nitty-gritty. That's not as easy to accomplish as one might think. I've had results I could live with but none that got me where I was trying to go.

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22 hours ago, ProfessionalHobbit said:

Perhaps this comment deserves its own thread...but I was wondering if anyone on eGullet had ever looked into the possibility of duplicating junk food at home, including, yes, KFC's famous recipe.

 

Don't laugh - apparently this is a thing that I never knew existed. There is a not-insignificant-percentage of food bloggers who regularly write about homemade Big Macs for example.

 

 

 

You've seen the eGullet Culinary Institute's Drive-In Food course, yes?

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