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If you've ever wanted to make KFC at home, today is your lucky day. Aussie home cook Jessica Nguyen has spent months perfecting her very authentic recipe and has just shared it so we can all enjoy that deep-fried goodness at home.
She thoroughly researched the subject, speaking to current and former KFC employees, deep-diving into the famous 11 herbs and spices, and converting the fast-food chain’s commercial processes into an easy to follow at home recipe.
The result “tastes like Colonel Sanders’ wildest dreams,” according to Jessica, who tells Yahoo Lifestyle her recipe is "The way a hot, fried bird should taste: Slightly spicy and peppery, a crispy and craggily coating and tender flesh that’s sweet, hot and juicy."
“I think the texture and flavour is very similar [to KFC's]” she adds, “Also, when you make something yourself, I think the sense of accomplishment makes it taste better!”
What are KFC’s 11 secret herbs and spices?
It all starts with those coveted herbs and spices, and there are a few different lists floating around on Twitter. However, Jessica found that the most accurate tasting one is the hand-written recipe shared by a nephew of Colonel Sanders with the Chicago Tribune five years ago.
It’s unclear whether the recipe calls for teaspoons or tablespoons as the writer jotted the measurements down as ‘ts’, however considering the recipe calls for two cups of flour, Jessica interprets it as tablespoons which is a more sensible flavour ratio.
She also adds a twelfth ingredient, one tablespoon of MSG, which is used in a number of KFC products but isn’t included as part of the 11 herbs and spices.
Jessica recommends blitzing the herbs and spices in a food processor so that they’re very finely ground down and almost disappear into the flour like they do at the fast-food chain.
Another important thing to consider when seasoning your chicken is the amount of salt used. To get that perfect KFC taste, you need to add generous amounts of salt at multiple stages of the preparation process, not just with the 11 herbs and spices.
KFC's 11 secret herbs and spices:
½ tbsp Basil
½ tbsp Oregano
1 tbsp Ground black pepper
4 tbsp Smoked and sweet paprika
1 tbsp Mustard powder
1 tbsp Salt
½ tbsp Thyme
1 tbsp Celery salt
3 tbsp White ground pepper
2 tbsp Garlic powder
1 tbsp Ginger powder
How to make authentic KFC at home
One of the problems Jessica kept coming up against is the fact that KFC’s processes and equipment have been streamlined to make it simple to create tons of chicken in a very short amount of time.
For example, they use milk and egg powder instead of fresh milk and eggs, which would be messier and have higher margins of waste as the liquid drips off the chicken into the herb and spice mix.
They also have commercial pressure fryers that tenderise the chicken as it cooks, thus eliminating the need to brine the chicken in advance. Jessica says you can still achieve the same effect at home by sitting the chicken in a bowl of buttermilk for between four and 24 hours before cooking it, and by using a home deep frier like the $169 Breville Smart Deep Fryer she uses.
“The way KFC cooks it in their restaurants is impossible to replicate at home because of the commercial techniques and equipment they use but this would be how the Colonel would have cooked it at home,” Jessica explains, “Except he probably would have use a deep set skillet back in 1930 before he developed his pressure fryer.”
“The colour of my coating is a little darker than what KFC does because I fried it for a bit longer to ensure the chicken was fully cooked through but you can cook it for less.”
The other essential bits of equipment you need are baking racks and a digital meat thermometer to ensure that your deep fried chicken is properly cooked.
Jessica Nguyen’s KFC at home recipe
This recipe is the result of months of investigation and Jessica says she’s relieved and thrilled to have created such authentic-tasting fried chicken at home.
“I heavily ingested many batches of fried chicken to get to this point and I’m very glad the recipe is now up and has been well received by so many,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Now, everyone can make perfect fried chicken at home!”
Head over to her Instagram to watch her demonstrate the whole process in her highlights reel, and see below for her recipe.
2 cups plain flour
1 cup milk
3L canola oil (or another neutral tasting oil)
½ cup salt
1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces
The above list of 11 herbs and spices plus 1 tbsp MSG
Generously salt chicken pieces on both sides and allow to stand for 30 minutes
Place chicken in a lidded container and fully cover in buttermilk. Cover the container and allow to marinate in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, but ideally overnight
A few hours before cooking, place the chicken pieces in a colander to drain off the buttermilk and allow the meat to come to room temperature
In a large bowl, mix the 11 herbs and spices plus MSG into the sifted flour, then separate into two bowls.
In a third bowl, whisk the eggs and milk until combined
Place a piece of chicken into the first bowl of the flour and spices mix, coat and shake off any excess. Then fully submerge into the egg and milk wash, and roll it in the second bowl of flour mixture ensuring it’s fully coated. Place on a baking rack and repeat for all your pieces of chicken
Fill your deep frier with oil and heat to 180°C. Once hot, place three evenly sized pieces of chicken into the basket being careful not to overcrowd it as this can significantly lower the oil temperature
Cover the deep frier with the lid and cook for 8-9 minutes. When done, remove the chicken from the oil and insert a digital meat thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of the chicken is above 85°C. Repeat until all the chicken pieces have been cooked
Sprinkle with salt while hot and serve
Jessica’s top tips for perfect fried chicken at home:
1. Salt your chicken at every step of the process. At the start before brining, in the breading mixture and at the very end just before serving.
2. Marinate/brine the chicken in buttermilk for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours before frying. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own using 2 cups of regular milk, and 2 tbsp of either lemon juice or white vinegar.
3. Finely blitz the herbs and spices to get uniformity and even cooking.
4. Always allow your chicken to come back up to room temperature before dredging and frying.
5. If you want the chicken to be extra crispy, double dredge the chicken before frying.
6. Make sure you check the temperature of your oil and chicken to make sure your oil temperature is consistent and the chicken has cooked through in-side. A digital deep fryer like the Breville Smart Fryer from Amazon Australia has an in-built thermometer otherwise you can also get yourself a thermometer off. Head to my Amazon Australia wishlist to pick up everything you need.
7. Fry using only neutral oil as they are odourless and have high smoke points. KFC fries with canola, but peanut, grapeseed or vegetable will work. Stay away from olive oil which has a low smoke point.
8. Don’t overcrowd your deep fryer as it will drop the temperature too low. Fry in batches of 3-4 pieces at a time and fry the same pieces together i.e drumsticks with drumsticks, wings with wings etc
9. Don’t drain your fried chicken on a plate lined with paper towel, as the oil absorbed onto the towel will make the bottom of your chicken soggy. Instead, use a raised wire rack. I got mine here.
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