Fried chicken. The Colonel and his friends have a bit of explaining to do.

Fried Chicken

America is a great place. There are 49 states and one independent country (Texas). We Europeans often sneer at the gastronomic endeavours of “them over there”. I don’t really subscribe to the “They all eat nothing but burgers and tacos” school of thought. However, of the 49 states, the one with that has some culinary questions to answer is Kentucky. I have done my research. Kentucky has more elk, deer and wild turkeys than you could shake a bottle of bourbon at. But, they are not famed for cooking any of them. Those good old bluegrass lovin’ Louisville folk are famed for sending buckets, yes buckets, of spiced, fried chicken to all points of the globe.

“That’s nice of them.” I hear you say. At one stage of my life, I would have been inclined to agree. A face full of pints followed by a greasy bucket of fried chicken was at the zenith of my culinary aspirations. But that was over 30 years ago. Time moves on but the bucket of chicken has not. It’s time for me to address this situation and I do my own take on fried chicken – Colonel Conor’s Fantastic Fried Free Range Chicken.

“But the recipe is a secret.” you blurt. “And you are not a Colonel.” Thanks be to bluegrass for not having the recipe. I suspect that I can concoct a very tasty spice recipe and produce crispy, delicious chicken without blocking every artery in my ageing body. I live in hope of the Irish Government making me an honorary ‘Colonel’ or ‘Knight Exemplar’ or ‘Chicken Tzar’ or something. Here’s how I approached the task.

No, not a genetically modified chicken. I bought the other legs separately.

No, not a genetically modified chicken. I bought the other legs separately.

First, the ingredients:

  • 1 good quality free range chicken (and some chicken pieces if you have five sitting down to eat.)
  • 2 teaspoons of salt, paprika, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, garlic powder, dried oregano, dried thyme, cumin and chili powder.
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Half a litre (1 pint) of milk
  • A pile of panko breadcrumbs. See the picture for an idea of quantity.
  • A smaller pile of flour. Ditto on the picture gazing.
  • 3 eggs
    A gratuitous spice shot. Taken from a different angle, as if that was a good enough excuse to use it!

    A gratuitous spice shot. Taken from a different angle, as if that was a good enough excuse to use it!

Side note on the chicken: Buy good quality chicken. One of the reasons that internationally famous chicken purveyor fails to produce good food is the chicken is not the best quality. If you live here in Ireland, buy good quality free range (or corn-fed if you can afford it) chicken.

Chop the chicken into big bite pieces. Place them in a dish and pour over the milk.

A totally gratuitous milk pouring shot. Why not?

A totally gratuitous milk pouring shot. Why not?

Cover the chicken and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Place the lemon zest into a warm (50º C) oven for about 20 minutes. The resulting crispy lemon zest can be beaten in the mortar along with the mustard seeds and black peppercorns.  Turn the oven up to 200º C.

Nice crispy lemon zest crushes down into a fine powder.

Nice crispy lemon zest crushes down into a fine powder.

Mix together all the spices along with a half table-spoon of the flour.

I know that the Colonel uses 11 spices. I use 10. I wonder what the 11th is?

I know that the Colonel uses 11 spices. I use 10. I wonder what the 11th is?

Beat the eggs.

Cue a decent action shot of the eggs being beaten.

Cue a decent action shot of the eggs being beaten.

Drain the chicken.

Chicken production line. Imagine what the one in Kentucky looks like?

Chicken production line. Imagine what the one in Kentucky looks like?

Set up a production line in the order of chicken, spice, egg, panko, frying pan. The pan should be medium hot and shallow filled with oil. Transfer the chicken from process to process along the production line.

The spiced chicken in the egg, before it goes into the panko, before it goes into the pan.

The spiced chicken in the egg, before it goes into the panko, before it goes into the pan.

Fry the chicken in batches to brown it and make the outer crispy.

It's very tempting to break off the outer skin at this stage. Don't do it!

It’s very tempting to break off the outer skin at this stage. Don’t do it!

Place the chicken pieces on a wire rack in the oven at 200°C for 30 minutes or so.

The very crispy chicken ready to go into the oven. Bet the Colonel never got his as crisp.

The very crispy chicken ready to go into the oven. Bet the Colonel never got his as crisp.

While in the oven, the chicken will release some fat and most of the oil used to fry it. It ends up deliciously crispy on the outside, succulent and juicy on the inside. I served this with a nice mixed salad and some mayo.

Crispier than a crispy thing in crisp town. Delicious.

Crispier than a crispy thing, crisping it up in crisp town. Delicious.

I served the chicken on a plate rather than in a bucket, accompanied by a bottle of buttery, oaky chardonnay. The perfect partner, thanks to Stefan for the thoughtful gift. This all left me thinking “Why can’t the Kentuckians get their chicken crispy?” They have some explaining to do. My version is crispy, juicy and tasty. Do give it a go.

Addendum: Since cooking this, a good friend suggested that I should have added some nutmeg to the spice mix. It sounds like a good idea. I will try it the next time. I wonder, does the Colonel use nutmeg????? 

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Latest comments
  • Sounds fabulous – must give that spice mix a go.

    • Do Linda. It would tale being more potent (less flour) in my next batch, I think.

  • looks pretty good to me. What is the purpose of the milk in the process? Could it be substituted or left out for lactose intolerant / kosher diets?

    • The milk gets rid of any ‘bloodiness’ in the chicken meat. It also softens the chicken a bit, helping give a slightly ‘creamy’ texture. Though that is open to debate. The milk I used was lactose free, given that my girls are both lactose intolerant. Parentally intolerant too!

      • My children have the same issue. My son had a hearing test recently which just confirmed to me that he hears perfectly well – just chooses to ignore me!

  • The “Colonel” pressure-cooks the Original Recipe, hence the lack of any major crispness. He also uses 11 secret herbs and spices (which I learned were salt and pepper). In other words, if you want thoroughbred race horses, Corvettes or baseball bats Kentucky is the place for you. But if you want fried chicken, come to The South — or to your home. Good stuff, my friend.

    • Good to know Adam. I don’t know how I could pressure cook the chicken. Though, I do cook under pressure most of the time, if you know what I mean?

  • As someone who used to live in Kentucky and ate a wide range of foods there with my friends, including international selections and never did once see that Colonel while I lived there, this recipe sounds delicious – I must give it a try! 😉

    • He would stand out for sure, in that white suit and all those chicken feathers floating around. Do give this a go. It is easy and very tasty.

  • Interesting about the milk – not heard that before. I was wondering about how you’d manage to catch a 6 legged chicken, but you cleared that up. Opportunity missed with the egg chicken though. I’ve scoured the background of these photos and can’t see her anywhere. Should I be worried?

    Chicken is so cheap (geddit?) that we eat tons so a new recipe is always welcome. Thanks, Conor.

    • I was asleep at the stove for that one Adam, for sure. Your comment cracked me up (geddit?). The hen was hiding on top of the fridge and I neglected to chase her into the photo. Though, it would possibly have been too cruel to make her watch me dismember one of her clan (in front of her children). I am truly a horror show in my own kitchen!

  • There’s way too many spices there!
    I am sure it’s delicious, but that ain’t fried chicken!

    • I know, I know. Salt, pepper and flour. Yawn!

      • Spices in food are the salt of life!
        …could cinnamon be the 11th spice? …or maybe that’s Alabama fried chicken…sure, I’m italian, what on earth could I possibly know about KFC?!

        • Rumour has it that the spice is nutmeg. Or so I hear….

  • Love the sound of that spice mix Conor. Oh, and the gratuitious foodie shots? DROOL-WORTHY (particularly the milk, ah!). I’ve never attempted anything remotely like the Colonel’s fried chicken. Probably out of fear. However, yours looks absolutely delicious and much healthier than the KFC version. Bookmarking this for sure!

    • Thanks Laura, There is little to compare with the Colonel and his cohorts. Do cook and post.

      • I’ll let you know when I try it, Colonel Conor!

  • Nom nom nom. Though, I disagree with the corn-fed advice. Corn fed chicken has more fat and, for me, the taste isn’t as nice!

    • Corn fed is also about 4 times the price. That keeps me away from it most of the time.

  • A good trick with chicken and milk is to soak the chicken in buttermilk overnight before frying it. It makes a good marinade. Besides that, it’s Southern Grandmother Approved.

    • Thanks Amber,
      All suggestions are very welcomed. This strikes me as a great one. The Southern Grandmother Approval helps too.

  • Mmmmm, CCFFFRC. Franchise available soon??

  • As one of the aforementioned Americans, who’s a big fan of burgers and tacos, I’m quite familiar with the Colonel’s secret recipe for fried chicken. I’m also with you on the whole Kentucky vs. Louisiana thing, but honestly, I’ve eaten some pretty darn tasty friend chicken up in the Northeast, so that confuses things even more. But what’s not confusing is this great recipe. So many spices! Love the assembly line of dipping and dunking and battering. And the crispy skin looks like perfection. I think you’re ready for the rank of Chicken General. I’d join your army in a heartbeat.

    • Thanks Tommy. That made laugh out loud. I can see the shop front now. “General Conor’s Fantastic Fried Free Range Chicken and General Store.” Welcome to the ranks!

      • (Salute)
        Glad to be part of the movement, sir!

  • The “gratuitous spice shot” has such lovely PERFECT little piles of spices! How do you do that? I would have stray bits of spices all over the board. (not to mention all over the kitchen as well) I am so impressed!
    Not a huge fan of the Colonel’s chicken – inside that lovely crispy exterior always seemed to be some sort of mystery meat. But this recipe looks fabulous – I think I shall have to try it!

    • Thanks Dierdre, You have no idea how carefully i arranged those spices, using a tiny spoon and a tweezers to get the rogue mustard seeds to behave.

      Do try it. It is very easy, tasty and, dare I say it, healthy!

  • You’ve outdone yourself with the photos in this post, Conor! Hard to say which one I like the best. Is it one of the gratuitous board shots, or the milk pouring shot? Nice chicken too, and great wine pairing. Not only because oaked full-bodied chardonnay is a great pairing for the chicken, but also because of the name.
    Nice technique to pan fry the chicken and finish it in the oven.

    • Thanks Stefan. I enjoyed the photography on this one. Though, it took most of the afternoon. Quite honestly, the wine name escaped me. I would have made more of it if I had not been so spice obsessed. It was pretty perfect with it. Thank you!

      • Glad you liked it. Even though I expected you would after all those references to buttery chardonnay 🙂
        Hahn is German for rooster, but you probably figured that out.

  • This must take the prize for the funniest and most useful [well, what is wrong in being both ?} blog of the day and the week!! I always thought it was the 49 states and California!!! Shall try this soonest – does not seem overly ‘spicy’ to me!!! And, yes, I am of age to have eaten the original ‘Colonel’ : all of about three times until . . . .

  • I appreciate you recognizing the fine country of Texas. And YES, we soak our fried chicken in milk or buttermilk. While I do not have the Colonel’s secret recipe, I do believe I’ve heard one of the “secret” spices has to do with dried tomato powder… I could also be adding to the rumor mill on that. 😉

    • The rumour mill is interesting. Perhaps if he used a spice mill instead, the stuff would taste better.

  • The plate of chicken, greens, tomatoes and lovely white wine are calling out to me (over oceans!). That chicken looks crispy, juicy and perfect. This is coming from a (US) Southern girl. 🙂

  • Ah! Love this. My mom made perfect southern fried chicken and I have never fried a chicken in my life. You have inspired me Conor. I had to laugh at your “genetically modified” chicken comment because, yes, I was that one person looking at the photo thinking…how’d that chicken have so many legs?

    • That makes me laugh. I had a bit of fun setting it out on the plate.

  • Beautiful, colonel Conor ! Love what you did with the lemon zest! I’ve never purchased fried chicken but I know yours us far superior to any from anywhere in the U.S. Or Texas!

  • My boys have been dying to try out KFC at home after hearing one of their cheffy 12 year old buddies raving about it – he recommends buttermilk!!! I think I’ll show them your recipe and let them loose. (Supervised of course – from behind a newspaper with a coffee).

    • A pretty good approach Sheila. I love the idea of a ‘cheffy’ 12 year old.

  • Greetings from Kentucky, Conor! Though Steve did once did lots of work for KFC, I’m trying hard to remember the last time I tasted one of the Colonel’s bird parts, regular or extra-crispy. As far as I’m concerned, finishing off in the oven is no more heretical than cooking fried chicken in a pressure cooker (as the Colonel did). And your spice mix sounds grand.

    • Thanks Michelle, approval from that fine state and from you is important to me.

  • OMG. Stunning. These photos are just gorgeous. I love that you added lemon zest. I totally love fried chicken, but rarely eat it. Where I went to college they have a chain called Kennedy Fried Chicken, which always made me a little nervous. I’m sure it didn’t taste nearly as good as this amazing recipe. Well done. I’m inspired!

    • There was a chain here some years ago established by a former KFC franchisee. He changed the name (to something nearly as daft as my proposed name) and the recipe. The business ended up in the grease traps.

      Do give this a whirl.

  • Well, I do never tire of tacos! Finger-licking good recipe.

    • Thanks Rufus. Not so much finger lickin’ needed, if one gets the recipe right!

  • Very nice, Conor, although I have to tell you, that there are a lot of Texans out there who would claim that KFC is nothing but a bluegrass corporate interloper and that real fried chicken is cooked in the Lone Star State. You know there’s kind of a national obsession here with how to develop a method of frying chicken that deviates from the traditional one, i.e. crumbed up pieces of poultry almost (but not quite) deep-fried in a high-sided “frying skillet.” Of course, the traditional method is like training yourself for heart attack. But it does taste good. Hence, the obsession. Your recipe and methodology look great–especially the fact that you don’t turn fried chicken into baked chicken (which has its virtues, but not the virtues of fried). I’m looking forward to trying it. And great gratuitous photos, as always. Ken
    P.S. I might consider adding the nutmeg, but a very tiny amount, the stuff is so dominant.

    • Ken, The truth is that we would love to be young and carefree enough to not think of the ramifications of a diet of deep fried food. This comes close and it is crispier by miles. The meat stayed pretty succulent too.

  • There was a famous chicken restaurant in Houston that had the best fried chicken which they served with biscuits and a little jug of honey on the side. They said the secret to their chicken was soaking it in buttermilk. I like the addition of lemon zest in your seasoning…I bet your chicken was crispy and delicious.

    • Thanks Karen, I can understand the honey. It is a good call, particularly if there was a little nutmeg in the spice.

  • Love the earth shattering crunch of a good piece of fried chicken. The gratuitous spice shot is always worth keeping & love the use of Panko crumbs to update the recipe!

  • Looks good! I use buttermilk with the chicken overnight. Makes for very tender chicken!

    • A few people have said that to me. I must try it. I hope you are well Barb.

  • Brilliant recipe, Conor. Made it with a few tweaks tonight for supper and it was delicious. I missed out the mixed herbs and added dried pimento and ras el hangout ( it was what I had), and fresh minced garlic rather than dried, and it was wonderful. Knocks any other crispy chicken I’ve tried into a bucket.

    • Great stuff Luffy. I saw it over on FB and it looked pretty awesome indeed.

      • All down to your good self, Conor. That’s what I love about good blogging – it’s a constant source of inspiration!

  • Wow! This sounds to die for!! Pinned for later 🙂

    • Happy Days. Worth pinning and worth cooking, for sure.

  • Hi, Sir Conor… I found your blog via another food blogger and am so glad I dropped in. I saw this and wanted to see how you made it, as I also have my own recipe… as far as the spices go, I have read many, instead of nutmeg, I read the “Colonel” Copycat recipe added allspice. I don’t know if that’s true, but thought I would share it with you. I really do not care too much for a “spicy” Kick, but, to my mix I also add basil and onion powder. Yet, Some will add marjoram and tarragon. But, I guess, everyone adds or omits the spices they like. Being from NY and lived in Florida and now in Oregon. I have tried “fried” chicken many way. As both my grandmother and Mom always did, and now me, we marinated our chicken the night before, with the seasoning. I do add some dried parsley and some seasoning (No salt) to the panko, and do it much like you, where I kind of fry in my cast iron skillet, then place in the oven. I wanted to Thank you for a fun and beautiful blog! I loved your pictures (Especially the 6 legged chicken) and your thoughts and jokes along the way! This has made me smile and want to eat some chicken NOW!!! LOL. Thanks again and keep up the fine work… God Bless!

    • Thanks Ms Nena for your considered reply. I love to hear of the different approaches. That’s what makes this stuff fun. In my humble opinion, there is no right or wrong way to prepare these as long as it is the way you like to do it. Also, the world would be a pretty boring place if we all did everything the same way.

      • Thanks for such a quick reply!! I totally agree with you on that! I love to read recipes and like you I then go and do my own thing! Its so much fun trying out different recipes and I truly enjoy those who give a little story behind the recipe.. Not to mention some Humor… Thanks again and keep on posting!

  • after browning the chicken readying it for the oven… The oven is not on correct?

    • My apologies! It is. I have edited that vital piece of info now. I hope you try it.
      Thanks for improving my standards.

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