Active Prep: 15 min. Inactive Prep: 2 hrs. 40 min.
Difficulty: Easy
Yield: 4 servings

It took chefs several yearsto develop what would eventually become KFC’s most cluckedabout new product launch. Oprah Winfrey featured the chicken on her talk show and gave away so many coupons for free grilled chicken meals that some customers waited in lines for over an hour and half, and several stores ran out and had to offer rain checks. Company spokesperson Laurie Schalow told the Associated Press that KFC has never seen such a huge response to any promotion. “It’s unprecedented in our more than fifty years,” she said. “It beats anything we’ve ever done.” When I heard about the commotion over this new secret recipe, I obtained a sample of the proprietary seasoning blend and got right to work. After days of nibbling through what amounted to a small flock of hens, I’m happy to bring you this perfected clone version of the fast-food recipe so that you can now reproduce it in your own kitchen. The secret preparation process requires that you marinate (brine) your chicken for a couple of hours in a salt and MSG solution. After the chicken has brined, it’s brushed with liquid smoke–flavored oil that will not only make the seasoning stick to the chicken but will give the chicken a smoky flavor and ensure that it doesn’t stick to the pan. I duplicated the cooking process using an oven-safe grill pan, searing the chicken first on the stovetop to add the grill marks, then cooking the chicken through in the oven. If you don’t have a grill pan or a grill plate, you can sear the chicken in any large oven-safe sauté pan. If you have a convection function on your oven you should definitely use it, but the recipe will still work in a standard oven with the temperature set just a little bit higher. After baking the chicken for 20 minutes on each side, you’re ready to dive into your own eight-piece bucket of delicious indoor grilled chicken that’s as tasty as the fried stuff, but without a lot of the fat and calories.

¼ cup salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons MSG 8 cups water
1 whole roaster chicken (4 to 5 pounds), cut into 8 pieces

¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
¼ teaspoon soy sauce

4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons chicken bouillon powder (Knorr brand is best)
½ teaspoon beef bouillon powder (Knorr brand is best)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Dissolve the salt, sugar, and MSG in the water to make the marinade (brine). Add the chicken, cover, and chill for exactly 2 hours.
  2. When the chicken has marinated, rinse each piece of chicken with water and blot dry. Whisk together the oil, liquid smoke, and soy sauce in a small bowl. Brush the oil over one side of each piece of chicken. 
  3. Combine all of the ingredients for the seasoning in a small bowl. Sprinkle the seasoning over the oiled side of each piece of chicken, then flip each piece, brush with oil again, and sprinkle on more seasoning. 
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, or 325 degrees F if you have a convection oven. Brush some of the leftover oil solution onto an oven-safe grill pan or grill plate. Set the pan over medium heat, and when the oil begins to smoke, place the chicken skin-side down on the pan. Cook the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes or until the skin begins to brown and grill marks form on the chicken, then flip the chicken and cook it for another 1 to 2 minutes. Pop the grill pan in the oven for 20 minutes, then flip each piece of chicken and bake for another 20 minutes or until the surface of the chicken is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. 

 If you can’t find the chicken and beef bouillon powder for this recipe, you can use bouillon cubes in a pinch. Just crush the cubes into fine powder before measuring. For a better coating of the spice blend, use an empty shaker bottle to shake the seasoning on each piece of chicken.

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