Southern Fried Chicken ( KFC Style Chicken )

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 ).

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I worked for The Colonel back mid 60s. Your spices look ok but you need more black pepper. He used 4 different types. I would up the BLACK PEPPER to equal that of the white pepper in your recipe, 3 tbsp each. BTW, I still use an 8 qt. 55 year old Miro-Matic pressure cooker at home! KFC used 16 qt. for two whole chickens per batch, 9 piece cut.

WOW ! Thank-you FloridaBob. It is an honour to me, that you have replied and shared your story. “The Ratios suggested by Peter”. … I may have had a little help, ( and legally could make no claims about the accuracy of ingredients ). … I may have come across an article in the Chicago Times, a few years ago.

Joe Ledington said he found a handwritten note, outlining KFC’s recipe, in a scrapbook belonging to his late Aunt Claudia, the second-wife of Colonel Harland Sayers. He claims the handwritten recipe was found on a piece of paper tucked into an envelope inside a copy of her will.

The recipe was written on the wall, inside the kitchen, above the door, in that first ‘Gas Station Diner’. It was there to remind the cooks how to prepare the chicken. Anyone of the employees could have copied it.

Perhaps, the recipe has been tweaked over the last 70 years, with more or less black pepper. Some have suggested that adding MSG, makes the flavour a closer match to what we find in KFC restaurants of today.

However, ‘Yum! Brands’ ( owners of KFC ) have denied that what was published is the actual ‘Original Recipe’.

The Colonel’s procedure was to bring chicken up to almost room temp in a sink in water, dip it in egg and milk, bread it in sifted flour with KFC seasoning pack and fry it under pressure. Starting at 400 degrees for approx. 10 minutes, variable time due to altitude. Ladle it out to drain and put into a Crescor warming cabinet until served. The water bath was ditched as the brand grew due to sanitary issues.

Don’t listen to Yum peeps because they have changed history and facts a lot to fit their designs. I met Claudia and we chatted several times in Shelbyville before KFC moved to Nashville, then Louisville.

Harland Williams was The Colonel’s right hand man who maintained and blended the spices, packaged and provided to franchisees. He told me only the cooking process was written on that wall. Not spice recipe. But I bet Claudia’s note could be it. In any case, thanks. BTW I do think MSG was in it. Remembering lots of employee comments. Stay safe.

  • Bobby

BTW the cooking “oil” was Kraft shortening, not oil. Came in big blocks that would be melted in a fryer until it was added into the pressure cookers. Two of the 4 or 5 black peppers was Tellicherry and Madagascar. Recipe being “tweaked” with more or less black pepper is a main reason for the taste difference of today. Can’t remember the names of the other black peppers, but there was A LOT!

The Colonel was quite a character. I would encounter him occasionally at foodservice industry events when he lived in my community. I never asked him about his recipe although he volunteer lot of unfavourable comments about what YUM Brands did to the products.

While he was in good health he endeavoured to make unannounced visits to each of his stores annually. What head of a restaurant chain does that now? His favourite piece of chicken for evaluating product quality was the drummer, or first joint piece of the wing.

He will be long remembered here as our hospital’s busy Urgent Care Centre is named after him as a result of his financial generosity.

Thank-you for sharing. I am really enjoying the connection to KFC, the background, gossip and cooking techniques. … I have no intention of duplicating KFC recipe and/or starting up my own business.

The Only Constant is Change. ( Adapt or Die )”. The recipe for KFC has probably changed over the past 50 years, that I have been eating the chicken. Some changes might be for cost cutting. Some changes are following the palate of customers.

I too have changed, or perhaps evolved. As a child, I ate only plain cheddar cheese, and loved flavoured ice-creams. Today, ( in my old age ), give me the exotic cheeses and just ‘Vanilla’ ice-cream.

Please keep the stories coming. As long as no-one sues us for libel. LOL !