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#1 Aug 26 2016 at 5:50 AM Rating: Good
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Apparently the Chicago Tribune managed to take a picture of the original KFC "11 Herbs & Spices" recipe when interviewing Col. Sander's nephew.

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Countless recipes have been tried out in the Tribune test kitchen but never one quite like this.

Our mission: find out if 11 ingredients handwritten on a piece of paper could be the secret blend of 11 herbs and spices that go into Kentucky Fried Chicken's Original Recipe — a closely guarded formula that remains one of the world's biggest culinary mysteries.

The recipe came to us by way of Colonel Harland Sanders' nephew, Joe Ledington of Kentucky. He says he found it in a scrapbook belonging to his late Aunt Claudia, Sanders' second wife. Ledington, 67, says he used to blend the spices that went into his uncle's world-famous fried chicken, and the recipe in question is the real deal.

We wanted to see — make that taste — for ourselves. So we put it to the test.

Our aim was not to replicate the exact cooking method used by KFC. That method has been explored and written about by others. Indeed, we decided to soak the raw chicken in a buttermilk-egg bath before frying based on some of those descriptions. Instead, we wanted to test the spice blend detailed in the recipe, which also calls for two cups of white flour.

OUR CHALLENGE TO YOU: TRY THE RECIPE AT HOME AND WEIGH IN

Several batches of chicken were prepared in the Tribune test kitchen by recipe tester and stylist Lisa Schumacher. Food & Dining reporters and editors tasted each batch, comparing it to a bucket of KFC Original Recipe fried chicken that we purchased at the restaurant at 1144 S. Western Ave. in Chicago.

We bought all new herbs and spices — common grocery store brands — for the testing. We used all-purpose flour and standard table salt.

The spice recipe, as written:

11 Spices – Mix With 2 Cups White Fl.

1) 2/3 Ts Salt

2) 1/2 Ts Thyme

3) 1/2 Ts Basil

4) 1/3 Ts Origino (sic)

5) 1 Ts Celery Salt

6) 1 Ts Black Pepper

7) 1 Ts Dried Mustard

8) 4 Ts Paprika

9) 2 Ts Garlic Salt

10) 1 Ts Ground Ginger

11) 3 Ts White Pepper

The first challenge was to determine what that capital T meant. Standard practice in abbreviating recipe measures has a capital T standing for tablespoon. But what if the person who wrote the list on a seemingly random piece of paper meant teaspoon? So we tested the spice mix both ways: with teaspoon measures and with tablespoon measures, both mixed into two cups of flour.

In comparing those first two batches, tasters immediately agreed that the answer was: T equals tablespoons. After frying, the coating with the lesser amount of herbs and spices did not have the intensity of flavor we were looking for.

But even the flavor of the favored batch wasn't quite right. Turns out the frying oil was too hot, causing the breading to brown too much, which overpowered the taste of the herbs and spices.

For the next couple batches, Schumacher tried double dipping into the spice and flour mixture. Too much coating, tasters decided.

With the oil temperature just right at 350 degrees, the chicken soaked in buttermilk and coated just once in the breading mixture, we had our final tasting.

How was it? Well, really good. In fact, tasters agreed the test kitchen fried chicken was even better than the Colonel's.

But more important, did it taste like the Colonel’s secret blend of herbs and spices? It came very close, yet something was still missing. That’s when a reporter grabbed a small container of the MSG flavor-enhancer Accent (how did that get in the test kitchen?) and sprinkled it on a piece of the fried chicken. That did the trick. Our chicken was virtually indistinguishable from the batch bought at KFC. (Does KFC add MSG? A KFC spokesperson confirms that it does use it in the Original Recipe chicken.)

Bottom line, could this be the Colonel’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices? We sure think so. The only folks who can say definitively are the keepers of the recipe at KFC’s parent company, Yum! Brands. We asked, but the company would only say, “Lots of people through the years have claimed to discover or figure out the secret recipe, but no one’s ever been right.”

All we know is the recipe we tested certainly tastes like KFC. And whatever it is, it's finger lickin' good.

jxgray@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @joegraygoodeats



Recipe without the article:

Quote:
Fried chicken with 11 herbs and spices

Prep: 30 minutes

Soak: 20-30 minutes

Cook: 15-18 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 tablespoon salt

1/2 tablespoon dried thyme leaves

1/2 tablespoon dried basil leaves

1/3 tablespoon dried oregano leaves

1 tablespoon celery salt

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon dried mustard

4 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons garlic salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

3 tablespoons ground white pepper

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg, beaten

1 chicken, cut up, the breast pieces cut in half for more even frying

Expeller-pressed canola oil

1 Mix the flour in a bowl with all the herbs and spices; set aside.

2 Mix the buttermilk and egg together in a separate bowl until combined. Soak the chicken in the buttermilk mixture at room temperature, 20-30 minutes.

3 Remove chicken from the buttermilk, allowing excess to drip off. Dip the chicken pieces in the herb-spice-flour mixture to coat all sides, shaking off excess. Allow to sit on a rack over a baking sheet, 20 minutes.

4 Meanwhile, heat about 3 inches of the oil in a large Dutch oven (or similar heavy pot with high sides) over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. (Use a deep-frying thermometer to check the temperature.) When temperature is reached, lower the heat to medium to maintain it at 350. Fry 3 or 4 pieces at a time, being careful not to crowd the pot. Fry until medium golden brown, turning once, 15-18 minutes. Transfer chicken pieces to a baking sheet covered with paper towels. Allow the oil to return to temperature before adding more chicken. Repeat with remaining chicken.

A note on MSG: A number of readers have asked how much MSG to use in the recipe above. Although KFC has confirmed that its present-day recipe uses MSG, that ingredient was not part of the list of herbs and spices we received from the Colonel's nephew, so we didn't include MSG in the published recipe. But we did taste the fried chicken with a sprinkle of MSG. If you want to try the chicken with MSG, we suggest doing as we did: Sprinkle a little on the finished chicken pieces right before eating.


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#2 Aug 26 2016 at 7:05 AM Rating: Excellent
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Part of me says "Whatever, it's just easier to buy the chicken" but, man, KFC's pieces these days come from anemic dwarf chickens or something. Really pathetic pieces.

But I'm still not going to fry my own chicken.

I always assumed the "secret blend" was like the Coke recipe: People could easily enough figure it out (or close enough) but there's no money to be made in selling pseudo-Coke in competition with the billion dollar behemoth company selling the real product. You need to have your own distinct product and convince people that it's better.
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#3 Aug 26 2016 at 7:36 AM Rating: Good
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Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever actually had the chicken from KFC.
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#4 Aug 26 2016 at 7:52 AM Rating: Good
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lolgaxe wrote:
Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever actually had the chicken from KFC.


It's not as good as Popeye's chicken, but it's a close second.
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#5 Aug 26 2016 at 8:35 AM Rating: Good
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Shaowstrike wrote:
lolgaxe wrote:
Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever actually had the chicken from KFC.


It's not as good as Popeye's chicken, but it's a close second.
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#6 Aug 26 2016 at 9:04 AM Rating: Excellent
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Jophiel wrote:
You need to have your own distinct product and convince people that it's better.
Like Crystal Pepsi?
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#7 Aug 26 2016 at 9:42 AM Rating: Excellent
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Crystal Pepsi plays on moronic nostalgia. If no one wanted it the first time and it got pulled after a year, why buy it this time? Oh yeah, you vaguely remember it from your youth.
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#8 Aug 26 2016 at 10:08 AM Rating: Good
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If they really wanted to play on moronic nostalgia, they'd bring back Josta.
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#9 Aug 26 2016 at 10:17 AM Rating: Excellent
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But it was cool and hip for all of 6 months because the adds said so! Who doesn't want a fad like that to come back?

At least those little Tamagotchi things were cute.
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#10 Aug 26 2016 at 10:35 AM Rating: Good
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lolgaxe wrote:
If they really wanted to play on moronic nostalgia, they'd bring back Josta Zima.

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#11 Aug 26 2016 at 11:47 AM Rating: Good
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Now Zima I remember. It was the stuff people stole to bring to high school parties when they couldn't get their hands on real drinks and didn't want to look like complete dinguses.

Tasted like zhit.
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#12 Aug 26 2016 at 2:08 PM Rating: Decent
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Jophiel wrote:
Crystal Pepsi plays on moronic nostalgia. If no one wanted it the first time and it got pulled after a year, why buy it this time? Oh yeah, you vaguely remember it from your youth.

You know, when they brought back Surge I thought the same thing you did, but then I realized it's just a genuinely good soda. A lot of people agree with that sentiment.

I've never met a person who actually liked Crystal Pepsi, though. Not in the past nor the present.
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#13 Aug 26 2016 at 2:09 PM Rating: Decent
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Doublepost. RIP.

Edited, Aug 26th 2016 4:10pm by Zackary
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#14 Aug 26 2016 at 4:04 PM Rating: Good
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Zackary wrote:
You know, when they brought back Surge I thought the same thing you did, but then I realized it's just a genuinely good soda. A lot of people agree with that sentiment.

I've never met a person who actually liked Crystal Pepsi, though. Not in the past nor the present.
I always liked Surge. Not enough to buy at Amazon prices, but like it nonetheless. Crystal Pepsi just always tasted like watery Pepsi to me. My mom loves the stuff, though.
#15 Aug 26 2016 at 5:54 PM Rating: Good
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The One and Only Poldaran wrote:
Zackary wrote:
You know, when they brought back Surge I thought the same thing you did, but then I realized it's just a genuinely good soda. A lot of people agree with that sentiment.

I've never met a person who actually liked Crystal Pepsi, though. Not in the past nor the present.
I always liked Surge. Not enough to buy at Amazon prices, but like it nonetheless. Crystal Pepsi just always tasted like watery Pepsi to me. My mom loves the stuff, though.


If you have a Sheetz near you they're selling Surge at $1 a can.

Edited, Aug 26th 2016 7:54pm by Shaowstrike
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#16 Aug 27 2016 at 12:34 AM Rating: Excellent
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#17 Aug 27 2016 at 6:51 AM Rating: Good
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Shaowstrike wrote:
If you have a Sheetz near you they're selling Surge at $1 a can.
I assume that's some kind of store?
#18 Aug 27 2016 at 7:32 AM Rating: Good
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The One and Only Poldaran wrote:
Shaowstrike wrote:
If you have a Sheetz near you they're selling Surge at $1 a can.
I assume that's some kind of store?


It's like Royal Farms, gas station/convenience store.
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#19 Aug 27 2016 at 8:54 AM Rating: Decent
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I thought this was going to be a pumpkin spice thread. Glad it's not. I may try that recipe.
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#20 Aug 27 2016 at 9:32 AM Rating: Good
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I'll try it the next time I make chicken strips.

Can't say I would have thought to add ginger to the flour. And the amount of seasonings in the mix are a lot more than I usually do. Mostly I pre-season the chicken, and lightly season the flour. I think in a Good Eats episode once, they talked about how over seasoning the flour was a waste, and that many seasonings burned easily and wouldn't hold up to the frying process.

But, if the Colonel does it, I suspect that it can't be wrong.
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#21 Aug 27 2016 at 1:01 PM Rating: Good
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Shaowstrike wrote:
It's like Royal Farms, gas station/convenience store.
I'm glad you clarified that in the second half. Otherwise I'd still be unsure what you were talking about. [:tongue:}
#22 Aug 27 2016 at 1:26 PM Rating: Decent
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The One and Only Poldaran wrote:
Shaowstrike wrote:
If you have a Sheetz near you they're selling Surge at $1 a can.
I assume that's some kind of store?


It's a gas station/convenience store with touch screen ordering for a variety of half decent if somewhat overpriced foods.
#23 Aug 27 2016 at 5:05 PM Rating: Good
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The One and Only Poldaran wrote:
Shaowstrike wrote:
It's like Royal Farms, gas station/convenience store.
I'm glad you clarified that in the second half. Otherwise I'd still be unsure what you were talking about. [:tongue:}
LRN2SMILY, n00b.

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Edited, Aug 27th 2016 5:07pm by Bijou
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#24 Aug 27 2016 at 10:54 PM Rating: Decent
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Turin wrote:
The One and Only Poldaran wrote:
Shaowstrike wrote:
If you have a Sheetz near you they're selling Surge at $1 a can.
I assume that's some kind of store?


It's a gas station/convenience store with touch screen ordering for a variety of half decent if somewhat overpriced foods.

We've got a chain like that up here, QuickChek, which makes some pretty great breakfast English muffin sandwiches. Their subs aren't bad either, but the coffee ain't great.
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#25 Aug 29 2016 at 8:00 AM Rating: Excellent
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7-11 would have probably been the more easily relatable comparison.
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#26 Aug 29 2016 at 10:09 AM Rating: Excellent
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lolgaxe wrote:
7-11 would have probably been the more easily relatable comparison.


Except 7-11 has basic food options while Royal Farms and Sheetz both do subs/burgers/chicken/pizza/mexican/etc.
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#27 Aug 29 2016 at 12:09 PM Rating: Excellent
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Shaowstrike wrote:
lolgaxe wrote:
7-11 would have probably been the more easily relatable comparison.


Except 7-11 has basic food options while Royal Farms and Sheetz both do subs/burgers/chicken/pizza/mexican/etc.
So, it's like a 7-11 with subs/burgers/chicken/pizza/mexican/etc? That seems like a clear way to explain it to me.
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#28 Aug 29 2016 at 1:16 PM Rating: Excellent
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Uglysasquatch wrote:
Shaowstrike wrote:
lolgaxe wrote:
7-11 would have probably been the more easily relatable comparison.


Except 7-11 has basic food options while Royal Farms and Sheetz both do subs/burgers/chicken/pizza/mexican/etc.
So, it's like a 7-11 with subs/burgers/chicken/pizza/mexican/etc? That seems like a clear way to explain it to me.


Shut uppa your face. Smiley: mad
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#29 Aug 29 2016 at 4:31 PM Rating: Decent
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And 7-11 doesn't have touchscreen ordering, as far as I know. Not that there's even any left near me anymore; the two in Dutchess County got bought out and now I'd have to go all the way down to Westchester. Which I do most days for work anyways, but that's another matter.

Edited, Aug 29th 2016 6:36pm by Debalic
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#30 Aug 30 2016 at 8:27 AM Rating: Good
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The McDonalds in Midtown has touchscreen ordering.
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#31 Aug 30 2016 at 8:44 AM Rating: Excellent
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Do they pay the touchscreens $15 an hour?
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#32 Aug 30 2016 at 8:55 AM Rating: Good
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Just the midget inside the kiosk writing the orders down.
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#33 Aug 30 2016 at 5:34 PM Rating: Decent
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Never tried Crystal Pepsi. I think, like many my age, I did try Zima once. Once.

On the flip side, I have semi-fond memories of being able to buy (well, obtain via one method or another) wine coolers in 2 liter bottles. Can't imagine how that could possibly go awry.
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#34 Aug 31 2016 at 7:26 AM Rating: Good
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