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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
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
"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
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.
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
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?
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'
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.
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
It's also why marketing campaigns focus so much on the crunchy, crispy sounds their foods
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.
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This Is Why KFC's Fried Chicken Is So Delicious

21 Folder Collection
林宜悉 published on February 25, 2020
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