I used to like KFC. Thirty years ago. When you could see through the paper bag holding the bucket because of the transparency caused by the grease. All the salt. All the saturated fats. Original recipe. Yum.
They posted the recipe online. They either lied or held back the truth. The nephew supplied the original recipe. No. The only thing he said that I think was true was his recollection of all the white pepper. Yes. That's what the smell is. But cooked in a pressure cooker with oil. I'm not trying that at home.
I tried the recipe and slight variations. For three years. I now have fried chicken cred. What I did was I kept trying varieties of the recipe until it tasted like KFC. And then I made it better.
What's the "secret ingredient"? I saw a 1950's interview with the Colonel. The secret ingredient is MSG. Makes it taste a little better. Still used today mostly in the United States.
You don't need it. But you need a consistent approach which has been shown to work. I've done that. And the right ingredients 'pushed' or emphasized. Because rule number one is that for all the spices you add, only about 20% of the flavour of each survives the deep frying.
I am now on variety B-136. Yes. 136 tries. In variety B. There was a variety A. Not 136 failures. Many varieties which have been shown to taste great but in my view are still missing something. Probably just the oil pressure cooker. Below are a few of my favourites. I'm very strick in what is a 'pass'. If I pass a variety, I promise you would love it.
Appearance, smell, colour, and taste. All important aspects. I like orange or slightly red. KFC is a colour. It's almost green. Turmeric. Do not tell me that turmeric is not in the recipe.
B-62: Orange Dragon; B-82: Lipton Chicken Chicken; B-91: Cheesy Poofs II; B99: White Rhino; B-103: Honey Garlic; B-114; KFCP (Kentucky Fried Cheesy Poofs; B-116; Frog Prince; B-120; Let it Snow; and B- 121; Carnival Good.
Each of these varieties have about twenty ingredients in them. Does each really contribute? Sort of but not really? There is a bare minimum of spices. I just keep going, asking each time, 'might this make it better?' and when it makes a noticable difference, I remember that. Then I come to know what contributes. It's also about ratios. Some ingredients I really want included and so I put a greater concentration of that one, again knowing that only 20% of the flavour will come through. So for example you can put a lot of salt without it ending up tasting salty.
If you cook it in the oven, about 60% of the flavour is retained. Some of the varieties have 2 - 8 tbl of pure Habanero powder. If a mortal put their finger into the dried mixture, and then sucked their finger, you'd need water for the burn. After deep fried, much milder. But in the oven, back up to 60%.