Copycat KFC? Is the “leaked” recipe the real deal? We put the recipe from the now famous Chicago Tribune article to the test and here’s what we found!
Is this copycat KFC or is it actually much closer to the real thing? A few weeks ago, the Chicago Tribune published an article in which they interviewed a nephew of Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. During the interview, the nephew, Joe Lexington, produced a family photo album that belonged to his aunt, Claudia, who just happened to be the second wife of the Colonel himself. They leaf through he family album and at the end is a copy of her will and attached to that is a hand written recipe with 11 herbs and spices to be added to 2 cups of flour.
Food websites and bloggers went crazy at the news, with numerous articles from practically every major news outlet and food site asking the question, “Is this the actual secret KFC recipe?” For me the proof is always in the pudding, or in this case the fried chicken, so I set out to try the recipe for myself.
The first small bach I tried was a bit lacklustre because, like many, I mistook the abbreviation “Ts” as handwritten int he recipe to be teaspoons. The lack of depth of flavour revealed that the recipe definitely must have meant tablespoons. One thing I noted from that discovery is that the total volume of herbs and spices is only a tablespoon shy of a whole 8 ounce cup. That’s an incredibly high ratio (2:1) of seasonings to flour in a fried chicken recipe. Since the ingredients are pretty commonplace, I began to suspect that the high volume of herbs and spices was actually the real “secret” to the recipe.
A couple of days later with a fresh chicken at the ready, I whipped up another batch of the coating and heated up my deep fryer. The result this time was much more like the franchise produced version. The depth of flavour was definitely there but lacking punch. KFC readily admits that it does add MSG into the mix so for my 3rd attempt, I decided to try a small amount added to the regular recipe. I decided on 1 tablespoon (15 grams) to add to the mix which is less than a gram per piece of chicken. I found the flour and spice mixture sufficient to coat 2 whole chickens cut into 9 pieces each.
I’ve since had 8 people taste test this final version and they all agreed that it did indeed come very close to tasting like the chicken from a KFC franchise. Spouse says it tastes more like KFC in the states than in Canada; a distinction she has claimed for years, that the Canadian version is saltier. I have no idea if they tweak the recipe for geographical taste; I actually doubt it but Spouse remains steadfast in her belief.
Either way, I don’t think that KFC has anything to worry about. Fast food fried chicken is ultimately convenience food. Nobody looking for a quick meal is going to forgo the KFC drive-thru to spend an hour or so at home making the alternative homemade version. Still, if your curiosity persists, either the handwritten recipe from the Chicago Tribune article, or my tweak of adding a little MSG to it, will produce a very, very, tasty fried chicken.
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- 2 tsp table salt
- 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp celery salt
- 1 Tbsp black pepper
- 1 Tbsp dry mustard powder
- 4 Tbsp paprika
- 2 Tbsp garlic salt
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 3 Tbsp white pepper
- 1 Tbsp MSG optional
- 2 cups white flour
- vegetable oil for deep frying
Mix all of the herbs and spices together first, making sure there are no lumps in the mixture from spices that have clumped in storage.
In a large bowl, add the herb & spice mixture to the flour and mix well until the spices are evenly distributed.
Cut 2 whole chickens into 9 pieces each (2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 side breasts and a centre breast)
Dip each of the pieces in plain water, shake and dredge in the flour and spice mixture. Repeat for all of the remaining pieces. Leave the pieces to sit in the dredge for 10-15 minutes while the oil heats up. This will help the coating stick to the chicken better.
Preheat a vegetable oil filled deep fryer to 340 degrees F
Shake off the excess coating from the pieces and fry for up to 18 minutes for the largest pieces. Wings generally take 8-10 minutes, drumsticks about 12-15 minutes depending on size. I use a meat thermometer to test the pieces and remove them individually when they reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees F.
Place cooked pieces on a rack that has been placed on top of a cookie sheet.
Hold the cooked chicken in a 150 degree oven if you need to cook the chicken in multiple batches. In that Case I always start with the latest pieces and end with the smallest to minimize the time in the oven.
The original recipe in the article used fractions of tablespoons as measurement for some ingredients. I have converted those measurements to teaspoons in those cases, for ease of understanding and measuring.
NOTE If using MSG in the flour dredge you can cut the salt in the dredge by half if you like.