In 1974 Esquire magazine asked four food writers to try Kentucky Fried Chicken and offer their analyses. There was little consensus.
James Beard found the chicken “well seasoned with salt”; with less assurance, he thought he detected monosodium glutamate, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon. Roy Andries de Groot was “reasonably sure of minuscule amounts” of rosemary, savory, tarragon, thyme, pepper, turmeric, and cinnamon. He also noted salt, monosodium glutamate, “tiny globules of what might be honey or brown sugar,” and “the faintest touch of both almond and mint.” Waverly Root concluded that the chicken was “dunked in some sort of batter” containing flour, milk, and perhaps egg. Root was certain only of salt and pepper in the seasoning; he guessed that celery salt, caraway, chili powder, and/or horseradish might be present. James Villas doubted that any milk or egg was used in the coating and further doubted that there were eleven herbs and spices. He detected only cinnamon and cloves. Villas argued that the secret of Kentucky Fried Chicken is sugar: “Real fried chicken is not sweet; this is.” The sugar, he suspected, was added to the “very light and very safe and very healthy cooking oil.”
Another analysis comes from Gloria Pitzer, a St. Clair, Michigan, homemaker and newsletter publisher. Pitzer’s Secret Recipe Report attempts to duplicate the recipes of popular processed foods for home use. In the late 1970s, Pitzer devised three recipes for facsimile Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The recipes call for the chicken pieces to be fried in a pan or deep fryer until brown and then transferred to an oven for thirty to thirty-five minutes’ additional cooking. One-fourth to one-half inch of water in the baking pan keeps the chicken moist in the oven. In Pitzer’s first recipe, the chicken is seasoned with a marinade made from commercial Italian salad dressing mix, flour, salt, lemon juice, and oil.
Pitzer’s second and third recipes use eleven herbs and spices each. The second, said to simulate spicy-crispy Kentucky Fried Chicken,. requires garlic salt, onion powder, paprika, black pepper, allspice, sweet basil, oregano, sage, summer savory (substitution: parsley flakes), ginger, and rosemary. All are mixed with flour and salt. Chicken pieces are dampened with beer or club soda, dredged in the flour/seasoning mix, and fried.
The third recipe uses a modified list of herbs and spices: rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, marjoram, thyme, parsley, pepper, paprika, garlic salt, and onion salt. Three additional flavoringsbrown sugar, powdered chicken bouillon, and Lipton Tomato Cup-a-Soup mix-supplement the herbs and spices.