One of the most protected, discussed, and sought-after secret recipes in the food world is KFC’s Original Recipe Fried Chicken. Long ago I published my first hack of this famous formula, but the recipe, which was based on research from Big Secrets author William Poundstone, includes only salt, pepper, MSG, and flour in the breading, and not the blend of eleven herbs and spices we have all heard about. The fried chicken made with my first recipe is good in a pinch, but it really needs several more ingredients to be a true clone. That is why, over twenty years later, I was happy to get another crack at the secret when we shot the pilot episode for my CMT series Top Secret Recipe. In the show I visited KFC headquarters, talked to friends of Harlan Sanders, who had seen the actual recipe, and even checked out the Corbin, Kentucky, kitchen where Harland Sanders first developed his chicken recipe. During that four-day shoot I was able to gather enough clues about the secret eleven herbs and spices to craft this new recipe—one that I believe is the closest match to the Colonel’s secret fried chicken that anyone has ever revealed.

⅓ cup salt
1 tablespoon MSG (such as Accent seasoning)
8 cups water
1 whole roaster chicken (4 to 5 pounds), cut into 8 pieces
6 to 12 cups vegetable oil

9 ounces (1¾ cups) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon MSG
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground tellicherry pepper
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground savory
½ teaspoon ground sage
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground marjoram
¼ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

4 large eggs
2 cups skim milk

Cooking method

1-To make the brine, dissolve the salt and MSG in the water. Add the chicken pieces and marinate for 3 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse with water, and blot dry.

2-Heat the oil in a deep fryer to 300 degrees F.

3-Make the breading by combining all of the ingredients in a large bowl.

4-In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then stir in the milk.

5-When the oil is hot, dip each piece of chicken in the egg and milk mixture and then press into the breading. Toss each chicken piece in the breading until well coated. Let the chicken sit for 5 minutes in the breading, gently tossing every minute or two to ensure a good coating. Gently shake off the excess breading and fry 2 to 4 pieces at a time (or whatever your fryer can hold) for 16 to 20 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown. Drain the fried chicken on a rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

6-OPTIONAL If you want to keep the chicken warm until every piece is cooked so that you can serve it all at once, place the fried pieces on a rack on a baking sheet and keep them in your oven set to 200 degrees F.

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