This Is Why KFC’s Fried Chicken Is So Delicious

This Is Why KFC’s Fried Chicken Is So Delicious


Anyone who’s ever bitten into a piping hot
piece of KFC’s fried chicken knows it’s delicious. But what is it that sets KFC apart from other
chicken joints? It turns out that there’s more to it than
just those 11 secret herbs and spices. Much has been made in KFC’s history of its
proprietary blend of 11 secret herbs and spices. However, in the culinary world, it’s essentially
the equivalent of an urban legend, and no one has been able to confirm precisely what
comprises that proprietary blend. Or have they? In 2016, the real-life nephew of KFC’s legendary
Colonel Sanders appeared to give out the top-secret list. That year, Chicago Tribune reporter Jay Jones
traveled to the small town of Corbin, Kentucky, where Colonel Harland Sanders first began
serving his now-world-famous fried chicken. There, he met Sanders’ nephew Joe Ledington,
who shared a family scrapbook with him. And there, scribbled on the back of a living
will, was a handwritten list labeled “11 Spices – Mix with 2 Cups White Fl.” What were they? Salt, thyme, basil, oregano, celery salt,
black pepper, dried mustard, paprika, garlic salt, ground ginger, and white pepper. Since KFC’s official blend of 11 secret herbs
and spices has never been verified, it’s unclear just how accurate Ledington’s list was. But suffice it to say that whatever they’re
putting on that chicken makes it pretty darn delicious. “Excellent work, captain. Now keep your herbs and spices balanced!” Whenever you get a craving for KFC chicken,
it’s the only thing that will satisfy the raging hunger beast inside of you. You don’t necessarily know why it’s so fulfilling
to chomp down into a piece, but it is. In a Quora thread exploring KFC’s inherent
appeal, Chef Martin Bayer pointed out one possible reason you just can’t seem to get
the Colonel’s menu out of your head, and it all has to do with our cravings. He explained: “Sure, they brag about their 11 herbs and
spices, which is great, but that’s not what you are tasting when you bite into some extra
tasty crispy. You are tasting sweet, salty, and umami, or
savoriness. […] that is what makes you go back for more
KFC.” Food that is more balanced among the tastes
is more appealing to the palate, and KFC’s chicken simply checks a lot of the boxes. Remember how the Chicago Tribune supposedly
sniffed out KFC’s secret blend of herbs and spices? Well, once they had their hands on what was
allegedly the magic formula, they decided to put it to the test. They took to the kitchen in an attempt to
replicate the fast food eatery’s signature fried chicken flavor. But something was missing. After multiple batches that weren’t quite
right, the Tribune team came, quote, “very close” to recreating the taste of the Colonel’s
secret blend. On a whim, someone grabbed a container of
MSG flavor enhancer sitting in the test kitchen and sprinkled it on the chicken. Voila! According to the paper, their test chicken
was, quote, “virtually indistinguishable” from the bucket they bought at KFC. When the Tribune reached out, a KFC spokesperson
reportedly confirmed that they do use MSG in their Original Recipe chicken. If you’re feeling a little horrified, don’t
worry. There’s actually no reason to. While MSG tends to get a bad rap, U.S. News
& World Report says the negative publicity is undeserved. MSG is simply a combination of sodium and
glutamate, an amino acid found naturally in many foods. And guess what? The body digests it all the same, whether
your food comes with it naturally or you sprinkle a little on. Plus, it makes food taste really good. In 2014, KFC offered near-total transparency
by inviting Gizmodo to go behind the scenes for a tour of the restaurant’s headquarters
in Louisville, Kentucky. During the enlightening play-by-play of how
the signature chicken is made, they found that KFC is obsessed with the number seven. And, surprisingly, it actually plays a big
part in making the chicken taste so good. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven!” In preparation for its breading, the chicken
is inspected and then dunked in a brine. To dry the chicken off, KFC employees toss
it seven times. The chicken is then placed in the breading
using a pseudo breaststroke motion seven times. When it’s good and coated, the chicken is
collected in a basket and see-sawed seven times. Finally, the chicken is placed on the frying
rack and pressure cooked to perfection. So, you see, without KFC’s commitment to doing
things seven times, the chicken likely wouldn’t be quite so flavorful. When you think of someone making fried chicken,
you probably think of them submerging it in a bubbling vat or iron skillet filled with
oil. While KFC has always used oil, it originally
used it in a decidedly different way: by basically hacking a pressure cooker. For the record, the Colonel lived on the edge,
because using oil in a pressure cooker not meant for oil was dangerous. Fortunately, by the late 1950s, a commercial
pressure fryer specifically suited to this use was developed. And although many other restaurants have gone
on to adopt the oil-and-pressure cooking method, according to Josh Ozersky’s book Colonel Sanders
and the American Dream, KFC really pioneered pressure cooking with hot oil in the 1940s. The science behind why pressure cooking makes
fried chicken taste so amazing is, well, kind of amazing. As explained by Chef Jacob Burton with Stella
Culinary, “The collagen in tough pieces of meat like
the leg and thigh break down much faster […] yielding a tender product with less cook time. Less moisture from the product is evaporated,
leading to a juicier piece of meat.” Or, in KFC’s words, their chicken is “pressure cooked at a low temperature to preserve
all the great taste we’re known for around the world.” It would be easy to assume KFC and other fast
food restaurants like it use frozen meat products for all of their menu offerings. Doing so would presumably amount to a significant
cost savings over fresh proteins. But according to several former employees
on a Quora thread devoted to how KFC chicken is cooked, the restaurant is committed to
using quality fresh ingredients. One former employee had this to say about
just what kind of chicken was used: “Our chicken was always fresh; chilled, but
not frozen. It was supplied by a local poultry company,
and already cut into pieces: leg, thigh, breast, & wing. There was nothing really special about the
chicken itself; the poultry supplier supplied numerous other restaurants with chicken, so
it was all actually chicken […] KFC, at least from my experience, is very picky about
their food.” Fresh is best, right? Whenever you tear into a juicy bite of chicken,
just tell yourself that you’re simply following your evolutionary cues, because yes, you can
absolutely thank your ancestors for your primal need to dive headfirst into a bucket of Extra
Crispy. Business Insider has a breakdown of why the
blame belongs with someone in your family tree who came way, way, way before you, and
explained it like this: “Because humans evolved as foragers, our brains
learned to recognize and desire things that pack a lot of calories. The caloric density scale ranges from 0 for
water to 9 for pure fat.” Wondering where KFC stacks up? Let’s just say this chicken should satisfy
the forager within. “While raw chicken without the skin has a
caloric density of 1.35, KFC’s original chicken breast scores 2.3. The extra crispy version gets a 2.9. The skin by itself scores an intoxicating
5.0.” To put it plainly, our ancestors knew that
to survive on a sparse diet while still having to plunder for food and travel great distances,
they needed calorie-rich food to sustain them. So, if anyone ever questions your devotion
to KFC’s fried chicken, just tell them it runs in the family. “C’mon, hon. Live a little. A few calories won’t kill ya.” It’s a well-known fact of life that salt makes
everything taste better. Even if the flavor profile is near perfect,
salt can make it better. So, is it really surprising that KFC’s scrumptious
chicken is chock-full of sodium? Nah. That clever Colonel Sanders knew exactly what
he was doing when he developed the recipe that the world would absolutely fall in love
with. In an interview with NPR in 2012, researcher
Paul Breslin at Philadelphia’s Monell Center pointed toward the peculiar paradox of humans’
love of salt. “If you don’t keep up your sodium level in
your body, you’ll die. [But] there’s no question that people who
have high salt intakes are at risk for a heart attack and stroke and death, and that lowering
their salt intake will save lives.” Still, people don’t like to let a little thing
like looming mortality get in the way of our appreciation for salt. This ties into KFC because their fried chicken,
as you might have guessed, is incredibly salty. According to their own nutrition chart, one
Original Recipe chicken breast has a whopping 1,190 mg of sodium. Considering that the American Heart Association
recommends limiting your sodium intake to just 1,500 mg a day, well, is it any wonder
we love what’s so, so bad for us? Sometimes the food that’s the best is the
food that’s quick and affordable, and KFC’s chicken is both. Most of KFC’s menu items are a downright steal. A two-piece chicken combo will only set you
back $5.99, and you can get an entire 8-piece fried chicken meal with two large sides and
four biscuits all for less than $22. Who doesn’t like saving money? Also, it goes without saying that sometimes
when you’re tired and have been dealing with work or kids or whatever all day, you crave
comfort food. According to Psychology Today, this is normal
human behavior. They explain: “Eating food high in fat, sugar or salt activates
the brain’s reward system. Highly palatable foods activate the same brain
regions of reward and pleasure that are active in drug addiction.” So what they’re saying is, yep! You’re definitely addicted to KFC, just as
you’ve suspected for many, many years. Chalk it up to your brain’s reward system. Make no mistake: Fresh-out-of-the-pressure-cooker
KFC fried chicken really is finger lickin’ good. But most of us can’t scarf down all of our
order in one fell swoop. So, we do the normal, responsible thing and
stash our leftovers in the fridge. And you know what? That chicken is just as good cold as it is
piping hot. What gives? For starters, eating cold chicken isn’t a
new concept at all. There’s a reasonable explanation for this
phenomenon, it would seem. According to Southern Kitchen, magic happens
when fried chicken cools. The skin contracts, the crust separates, and
that oh-so-delicious breading stays crunchy while the loss of some of the moisture concentrates
the flavor. And you’ve gotta love that flavor. Here’s something you probably don’t give much
thought to: how your food sounds probably affects the way you think it tastes. In a 2015 study, cognitive neurology researchers
called sound the “forgotten flavor sense” for its importance in our enjoyment of food. The gist is simple, and says that our perception
of flavor is multi-sensory, as is the actual experience of eating. And this is where KFC has an advantage. [CRUNCHY CHICKEN!] The study found that crispiness and pleasantness
were definitely connected when it came time to rate how tasty food is, and that’s true
for everything from fried chicken to potato chips. It’s also why marketing campaigns focus so
much on the crunchy, crispy sounds their foods make. Why are we like this? It’s possible that our brains associate crispness
with freshness, thereby signaling to our inner ancestral foragers that the crispy chicken
contains the kind of vitamins and nutrients that our bodies need. So once again, go ahead and blame your ancient
ancestors for your weekly KFC run. They’re not around to argue with you anyway. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Mashed videos about your favorite
stuff are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
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11 Comments

  1. Why is KFC Fried Chicken taste so Good because it has all that extremely high sodium seasonings and spices that makes it taste so Good you might as well enjoy it you can't live forever so what if your blood pressure Rises enjoy life while you can

  2. Just 5.99 for 2 pieces of chicken 1100 mg sodium each 11 herbs and spices and… 2 bites of actual meat. Seriously their pieces of chicken are the smallest i ever seen, 1 chicken breast at grocery store makes like 5 KFC chicken breasts.

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