Even if you’re an anti-fast food, chicken-hating vegetarian, absolutely everyone recognises the colonel when they see him. The pros and cons of KFC can be debated until the cows come home, but the facts are that the world wants original recipe birds by the bucketload. Whether you’re in China, America or Australia, you’ll be able to find people willing to swear blind that KFC is the best food ever made.
Despite its status as a global powerhouse, the origins of KFC remain shrouded in mystery. Behind every bucket is a history of covert recipe secrecy and dodgy business dealings. To shed some light on the world’s most famous poultry, here are seven weird things you never knew about KFC chicken.
1. The Rule of Two
It’s no secret that the exact formula for KFC’s signature blend of herbs is closely guarded, but just how highly protected it is almost beggars belief. Not only is the slip of paper that bears the recipe locked behind concrete walls, motion sensors and a crack security team, but only two KFC executives are allowed to know the recipe at any given time.
2. Behind the Spice
Though the secret of the 11 herbs and spices is undoubtedly the best known thing about the chicken, the ingredients were only half the story in turning KFC into a superpower. Arguably Colonel Sanders’ biggest revelation was his use of a pressure fryer to cook his chicken, rather than the more conventional, and far slower, frying pan.
3. In Every Kitchen
Though the chicken’s recipe remains under lock and key, Sanders did drop occasional hints as to its contents throughout his career. For instance, he admitted that the recipe includes both pepper and salt, and later added that the ingredients are “on everybody’s shelf”, according to the Kentucky Encyclopedia.
4. It’s all in the Oil
Until 1993, all KFC chicken was fried in vegetable oil. However, a rise in price saw American franchises change to a mixture of palm and soybean oil. This was not mirrored around the world. In Japan, for instance, restaurants opted to use more expensive cotton seed and corn oils, meaning that - though the seasonings remain the same - the chicken may taste completely different depending upon where you are.
5. The Secret is Out
For all of KFC’s extensive precautions, a team from the Chicago Tribune believe that they have managed to crack the code behind the herbs and spices. After being tipped off by a nephew-by-marriage of the Sanders family, and much trial and error, they believed that they could produce a flavour nearly indistinguishable from the original. The formula they came up with involved 2/3 tbsp salt, 1/2 tbsp thyme, 1/2 tbsp basil, 1/3 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp celery salt, 1 tbsp black pepper, 1 tbsp dried mustard, 4 tbsp paprika, 2 tbsp garlic salt, 1 tbsp ground ginger and 3 tbsp white pepper.
6. All Out of Sauce
The chicken might have been unchanged since the 50s, but one key component of the Colonel’s arsenal has been lost in the annals of history. Despite being his pride and joy, KFC moved away from Sanders’ original recipe for KFC gravy, replacing it with something simpler, cheaper and easier to make. Upon tasting the new product in the 1960s, the Colonel was apparently crestfallen.
7. Japanese Christmas
It might be an all American institution, but there’s only one country that can claim to be the colonel’s biggest fan. KFC is so popular in Japan that it has become the go-to Christmas food of choice, with families prepared to wait for hours to get a bite of original recipe before Santa arrives. Even America can’t claim to take it more seriously than that.
They might seem like invincible pop culture icons, but every single fast food brand has some skeletons in the closet. Though they might not necessarily be bad things, there are definitely some secrets behind all our favourite foods. As we’ve just seen, KFC is no exception.