I suppose that we could start with a fixed set of instructions type recipe. Instead, this is a discussion, and a few tips. Understand what certain cooking techniques will do, and how it changes the final product. Tweak the recipe to suit your tastes.
KFC Chicken, 11 Secret Herbs & Spices, ‘Comfort Food’ and/or 'Fast Food’. Developed in the 1940’s and first sold at a ‘Gas Station Diner’ or was it ‘Roadside Restaurant’ in Corbin, Kentucky. I am guessing Colonel Sanders did NOT have access to Michelin Star chefs and fine dining ingredients. There has been many attempts, over the years, to duplicate the recipe. Here is what most of these recipes include in the batter or have in common : Salt, Garlic Salt, Celery Salt, White Pepper, Black Pepper, Thyme, Basil, Oregano, Paprika, Dried Mustard, Ground Ginger, Brown Sugar, Onion Powder, Chilli Powder and/or Cayenne Pepper. All ingredients were readily available, in the 1940’s. ( You can create your own ratios, or check out mine at the bottom. )
Lets face it. It is the ‘Pressure Fryer’ that is the key to the great taste, and the Colonel’s success. Tender, soft, juicy chicken and crispy coating outside, which is not too oily. Quick cooking time of under 30 mins, means more sales. … Now we have SOUS VIDE, and a chance to compete at home, ( even though it takes longer ). Importantly, remember to use large chicken portions. Thicker pieces of chicken will minimize the drying out of the meat, while creating the crust during the final frying stage.
Try marinating the chicken in ‘Buttermilk’ over night. You can make your own Buttermilk, with 1 cup full cream milk and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar ( or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice ). It is the Vinegar that breaks down the texture of the meat, and makes it softer. ( May not be needed when using ‘Sous Vide’. )
Some recipes use the traditional ‘Flour, Egg and Bread Crumbs’. It gives a thick coating of batter. The idea is to keep the chicken moist and tender inside, ( and makes the portion look bigger ). Perhaps try a very fine dried bread crumbs. Perhaps try crushed Corn Flakes breakfast cereal. I also like the Japanese style of bread crumbs called ‘Panko’. I suppose it depends on what sort of crunch, you want on the outside.
Some recipes use an Egg & Milk wash, then just a coating of the Herbs & Spices Flour, ( which is my favourite coating method ). This is close to the KFC style of chicken. Perhaps try adding some very fine dried bread crumbs into flour mix, for a thicker coating of batter.
Some recipes do the coating, 2 or 3 times, to get the batter even thicker around the chicken. The idea is to keep the chicken even more moist and tender inside.
Some recipes suggest putting the coated meat back in the fridge for a few hours. It lets the coating bind to the chicken. ( I don’t think this idea suits ‘Sous Vide’. )
I am going to try taking the wet cooked Sous Vide chicken. Dry just a little, so chicken is still wet. Then give a coating of the Herbs & Spices Flour, before frying. ( The egg wash, used in other coating options, is meant to help bind the final outer coating. )
I like ‘Chicken Thighs’, definitely bone in, and preferably skin on. I find the meat has a stronger flavour. The bone also adds flavour and acts as a handle for ‘Finger Licking, Good Eating’. It is a bigger piece of meat, and more suitable for Sous Vide. ‘Chicken Breast’ would be my second choice of chicken portion.
I find the meat on ‘Drum Sticks’ too tough, compared to other parts of the chicken, and it is all bone / knuckle or joint, on each end. Leg is round, and better suited to a Deep Fryer. ( In general, all big chicken portions are better suited to a Deep Fryer. You could try a large deep cooking pot, with a minimum of 8 cms or 3 inches of oil. )
‘Chicken Wings’ are too small, and a waste of time under the Sous Vide method. The meat will be dry and tough, after it receives its coating of batter, then fried. I recommend one of the above coating methods, and frying the raw chicken. This will keep the meat moist.
Remember, when frying, NOT to over crowd the pot. Cooking too many pieces, at the same time, will also reduce the temperature of the oil, and make the chicken greasy. The chicken pieces need space, to then crispen. I know it is inconvenient to cook in batches, but we want good results. I take each cooked batch, place on absorbent paper, on a plate. Put plate in oven, on a very low heat, to keep warm. Then repeat with next batch.
Sous Vide Method.
- Sprinkle a bit of salt on the chicken, and then seal in plastic bag.
- Cook on 74oC or 165oF for 2 to 4 hours. The longer the time, the softer the meat.
- There will be a lot of juice / liquid in the bag. Do NOT throw away. It is a full flavoured broth, for other dishes. (Note-1)
- Allow chicken to cool and/or place sealed bag in an ice bath. This will allow the skin to get more crispy, without over cooking the chicken underneath, during the frying stage. (Note-2)
- Dry chicken with a paper towel. “Moisture is the arch enemy of Crispy”.
- Apply your choice of coating method to the chicken.
- Deep frying is definitely the best option. Pan fry with a good helping of oil, ( 5 mm or quarter inch deep ), will do the job for flat portions of chicken. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on each side, until you get your choice of Golden Brown.
- The oil must be smoking hot for pan frying. I like high burning point oils, when putting the crust on my Sous Vide meats. e.g. ‘Rice Bran’, or sometimes ‘Olive Oil - Extra Virgin and Light’. ( Both cheap and value for money. )
- Remove from deep fryer / fry pan. Place on paper towel, to absorb excess oil.
Peter’s Ratios : Enough to coat 20 thighs or 15 breasts or 30 drum sticks. ( tbsp = tablespoon )
2 cups Plain Flour. 2/3 tbsp Salt. 2 tbsp Garlic Salt. 1 tbsp Celery Salt. 3 tbsp White Pepper. 1 tbsp Black Pepper. 1/2 tbsp Thyme. 1/2 tbsp Basil. 1/3 tbsp Oregano. 4 tbsp Smoked Paprika. 1 tbsp Dried Mustard. 1 tbsp Ground Ginger.
Note-1 : Idea comes from YouTuber Guga, and his ‘Sous Vide Everything’ or ‘Guga Foods’ channels.
Note-2 : Idea comes from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt ( Director of Serious Eats ).