The Holy Grail of chicken has just been found by an unsuspecting reporter of the Chicago Tribune. Yes, that's right: The secret 11 herbs and spices in Colonel Sanders' Original Recipe chicken has finally been revealed, and it looks legit as hell.
While a copy of the Original Recipe chicken is locked down tight in KFC's headquarters, another version has been sitting in the photo album of Sanders' second wife, Claudia Ledington, which is now in the possession of her nephew, Joe Ledington. The hand-scribbled note contains the amounts for each of the 11 herbs and spices, which are listed below, to be included with 2 cups of white flour.
- 2/3 Tbsp. salt
- 1/2 Tbsp. thyme
- 1/2 Tbsp. basil
- 1/3 Tbsp. oregano (spelled origino)
- 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
To see if this recipe was really the secret KFC one, the Chicago Tribune tried it out on a couple batches of chicken. They found that it was seriously close to the real deal, but something was missing—and that something turned out to be Accent (MSG), which they confirmed to be included in KFC's official chicken. The Accent can be sprinkled on after cooking, or added right into the mix.
Before the above recipe came to light, others had claimed to have cracked the secret recipe of Kentucky Fried Chicken. One, Ron Douglas of Long Island, New York, reverse-engineered the top secret 11 herbs and spices and thought the key ingredient was Accent, a commercial MSG-based flavoring. And given the news above, it does play a big part in the recipe. It may not be one of the 11 herbs and spices, but it's definitely added into the mix somewhere.
The Guardian's Tim Hayward put Douglas' recipe to the test:
Cooking from scratch enables us to do two things that the Colonel can't: use great chicken and drain the grease more efficiently. This gave us a real head start, and the results were stunning. A single bite of the homemade KFC is enough. It's like biting into a dew-fresh ripe peach after eating a canned one. It's obviously the same thing but an order of magnitude better. As before, none of the flavours predominated enough to be identifiable but, having made up the mix from scratch, we now know the secret. Herbs and spices be damned, that staggering, mouthfilling, umami facepunch of a flavour is down to the two tablespoonfuls of MSG.
Hayward then upped the challenge. Is it possible to achieve the same amazing taste without the MSG? He altered the recipe to the newly titled "GFC":
GFC, our own mix, was very, very good. Nice flavours, well chosen and matched. It's refined, elegant and I'd proudly serve it at a family picnic. An elegant Southern church lady would gladly remove a cotton glove to pick up an MSG-free GFC drumstick. She would compliment us on our British reserve, our eccentric quirkiness and our general pluck, but as far as stimulating the senses goes, she'd politely opine, 'why, it's like comparing iced tea and crystal meth'.
As you'll see below, many of the ingredients are actually ones that are listed in Ledington's version above, and white pepper even made the cut in the "GFC" version, as well as celery. Use 2 cups of flour for each recipe below, even though the ingredient amounts seem a lot smaller than the real deal.
- 1 tsp. ground oregano
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. ground sage
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried marjoram
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. onion salt
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 Tbsp. Accent (MSG)
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. mustard powder
- 1 tsp. sage
- 1 tsp. celery seeds
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. dried onion flakes
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. ground white pepper
For all of these recipes, you'll need to use a buttermilk-egg bath (KFC actually uses powdered milk and powdered egg), then batter and cook as usual. If you want to be a real KFC pro, try deep-frying your chicken in a pressure cooker.
Rachel Mansur contributed to this post.
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