Yes, KFC does use breading on many of its fried chicken products. The breading helps provide a crispy coating and added flavor to the chicken. KFC’s original recipe chicken features a breading blend of flour, spices, and seasoning. Additionally, other menu items like popcorn chicken, chicken tenders, and chicken pot pies also contain a light breading. The use of breading is one of the characteristics that sets KFC apart from other fast food chicken chains.
History of KFC’s Breading
Colonel Harland Sanders began selling fried chicken out of his roadside restaurant in Corbin, Kentucky in the 1930s. Sanders developed his signature seasoning blend of 11 herbs and spices to flavor the chicken. The chicken was then breaded in a mix of flour, milk, eggs, and the secret spice blend before being fried in a pressure cooker. This resulted in juicy, tender chicken coated in a light, crispy breading full of flavor.
When Sanders franchised his chicken concept in the 1950s, the breading technique became standardized across all KFC restaurants. The recipe was so prized that Sanders placed the breading ingredients in different locations to protect the secret. Even today, the exact blend of the Original Recipe breading remains a closely guarded trade secret. It’s what gives KFC its distinctive taste and texture.
Purpose of the Breading
The breading that coats KFC’s chicken serves several important purposes:
Provides a crispy exterior
The use of flour, eggs, and milk creates a light, crunchy coating when fried. This contrasts nicely with the juicy, savory chicken inside. The crispy texture gives a satisfying mouthfeel with each bite.
Seals in moisture
The breading helps seal in the natural juices and moisture of the chicken while frying. This prevents the chicken meat from drying out and keeps it tender.
Allows even cooking
The breading helps the chicken cook evenly. It facilitates quick heat transfer from the hot oil to the inside of the meat. The result is chicken that is cooked through without being overdone.
In addition to the secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, the breading itself imparts additional flavors. Eggs provide richness, flour lends heartiness, and milk adds subtle sweetness. These work together to complement the signature KFC seasoning.
Provides texture contrast
The crisp breading contrasts the soft, juicy interior of the chicken for sensory appeal. The variations in texture make the chicken more interesting to eat.
The eggs and milk act as binders to help the flour-spice blend stick tightly to the chicken. This prevents the breading from falling off during frying or eating.
Ingredients in KFC’s Breading
While the exact measurements are a secret, KFC’s breading is known to contain these core ingredients:
Flour forms the base of the breading. Likely all-purpose flour, it gets seasoned with the blend of proprietary spices. The flour helps form the crispy coating.
Spices and seasoning
The unique blend of 11 herbs and spices gives KFC breading its signature flavor. While the exact spices are secret, possibilities include black pepper, thyme, basil, oregano, celery salt, garlic salt, paprika, and more.
Salt seasons the breading and boosts flavor. It also aids browning reactions during frying.
Milk or buttermilk is used to help the breading adhere. The milk proteins also promote browning.
Eggs bind the breading to the chicken and provide richer flavor and color.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
MSG is often used as a flavor enhancer in breaded fried foods. It’s likely added to KFC’s seasoning blend.
Baking powder can help breadings stay extra crispy. The carbon dioxide bubbles create an airier, crunchier texture.
Applying the signature breading is a quick, streamlined process:
1. Chicken pieces are trimmed, prepared, and marinated in buttermilk to tenderize.
2. The breaded chicken is run through a flour blender loaded with the Original Recipe seasoning blend. This coats the chicken evenly in seasoned flour.
3. The floured chicken then goes into a milk wash made from eggs and milk.
4. After the milk wash, the chicken gets a second coating of the seasoned flour. This helps the breading adhere tightly.
5. The breaded chicken is briefly shaken off to remove any excess.
6. It then goes into the fryer for pressure cooking at a steady temperature of 365°F.
7. The chicken fries for approximately 15-18 minutes until golden brown and 165°F internally.
8. After frying, the chicken is removed, allowed to drain briefly, then held in a warming cabinet until serving.
Breading vs Batter
It’s important to understand the difference between breading and batter:
– Dry coating of flour, spices, and seasonings
– Cracker-like crunchy texture
– Doesn’t penetrate the chicken much
– Sticks to exterior of meat
– Example: KFC Original Recipe
– Thick, wet coating like pancake batter
– Softer, less crisp exterior
– Penetrates into chicken crevices more
– Covers chicken fully and evenly
– Example: KFC Extra Crispy
While the Original Recipe uses a lighter breading, the Extra Crispy chicken features a heavier batter for an extra craggy, crunchy crust. Both provide signature flavors and textures.
Here are the basic nutrition facts for KFC’s breaded chicken pieces:
As you can see, the chicken is relatively high in protein, but also contains a good amount of fat from frying. The breading adds carbohydrates and sodium as well.
Other Breaded Menu Items
In addition to bone-in chicken pieces, KFC also offers these breaded items:
These are bite-sized pieces of breaded white meat chicken. The breading provides a satisfying crunch and plenty of spice flavor.
The chicken tenders feature all-white meat strips coated in a crispy breading. They make for a great kid-friendly option.
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken, peas, carrots, and sauce get topped with a savory biscuit-style breading. It bakes to a golden brown crust.
Nashville Hot Chicken
Spicy breaded chicken brushed with a cayenne and smoked paprika sauce. The breading keeps everything crispy.
Georgia Gold Chicken
Honey mustard BBQ sauce gets absorbed into the nooks and crannies of the craggy breading on this chicken.
KFC recently introduced gluten-free breaded chicken tenders. These are prepared without wheat flour and safely accommodate gluten intolerance. However, they are cooked in the same fryers as the regular chicken, so there may be cross-contact.
Why KFC Uses Breading
There are several key reasons why KFC relies on breading for its fried chicken:
Breaded fried chicken has always been part of Colonel Sanders’ original 1940s recipe. It’s the expected standard for KFC’s chicken today.
American customers recognize and crave the distinctive taste and texture of breaded fried chicken. It’s a familiar comfort food.
The breading seals in natural juices and prevents dry chicken after frying. This keeps the meat succulent.
The breading helps maintain the shape and integrity of chicken pieces during cooking. It prevents breaking apart.
Focus groups and surveys indicate most KFC customers favor breaded chicken over non-breaded options.
The unique blend of seasoning and spices makes KFC’s breaded chicken stand apart from competitors. It’s hard to replicate.
The breading helps fully cook the chicken to safe internal temperatures during frying.
Comparison to Other Chains
Unlike other fast food chicken chains, KFC sets itself apart with breaded bone-in chicken:
|Signature herbs and spices seasoning
|Pressure cooked; marinated
|Cajun spice flavors
The use of breading is central to KFC’s product identity and why customers crave it over other brands. The seasoning blend also can’t be easily copied.
Downsides of Breading
However, coating chicken in breading does have some drawbacks:
The breading and seasoning adds extra sodium. This makes it less healthy for those monitoring salt intake.
The combination of frying and breading results in quite high calorie counts compared to grilled/rotisserie chicken.
The wheat and egg ingredients present allergy risks for those with intolerance or sensitivities.
Some consumers perceive breaded chicken as more processed and less natural or wholesome.
Messy to eat
Battered chicken can sometimes get quite messy on your fingers and face compared to non-breaded options.
Longer prep time
Hand-breading chicken pieces adds time and labor compared to simply grilling or frying plain chicken.
The Future of KFC’s Breading
While the core breaded chicken offerings will likely remain unchanged, KFC may consider these possible innovations:
New spice blends
Introducing new limited-time breading flavors could attract interest and variety.
A thinner, crispier breading would reduce calories and heaviness.
Further expanding gluten-free breadings would draw those with dietary needs.
Using simpler, less processed ingredients in the breading would appeal to health-conscious consumers.
Fresh baked breading
In-store freshly baked breadings could provide a more homemade, wholesome image.
However, the core appeal of their classic breaded chicken means KFC is unlikely to move too far away from Colonel Sander’s original vision that made it famous.
In summary, breaded fried chicken has been at the heart of KFC’s menu since the very beginning. The signature blend of seasoned flour and spices applied to chicken before pressure frying gives KFC its distinctive flavor and texture. While the exact breading ingredients remain secret, ingredients like flour, eggs, milk, salt, and herbs work together to create crispy, juicy chicken full of flavor. Breading helps retain moisture in the meat, provides a crunchy coating, and allows even cooking.
Customers have come to intrinsically associate breaded chicken with the KFC brand and experience. The use of breading differentiates KFC from other fast food chicken chains that rely on grilling or frying plain chicken. While the preparation method sometimes gets criticism for being high in calories or sodium, KFC’s breaded chicken remains a cherished indulgent comfort food. Colonel Sanders’ cooking principles continue to be followed in KFC kitchens globally, ensuring this classic recipe endures for generations to come.