KFC offering new Kentucky Grilled

by Brian Clarey

As far as fast-food fried chicken goes, I’m a Popeyes man. I like my chicken spicy, and I make no apologies for that. I can do Bojangle’s in a pinch, or the spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy’s (no mayo, please). But I’ve never been a devotee of Kentucky Fried Chicken. It’s got like meatloaf spices in it or something, more savory than fiery, and their biscuits absolutely suck. I always kind of admired Colonel Sanders, though, and not just because I like the look. At age 40 Harland Sanders started cooking chicken for customers at his gas station and serving it in his home. He perfected the recipe and technique in the 1930s and, after becoming a Kentucky Colonel, he became one of the fathers of fast food, franchising his restaurant using $100 from his first Social Security check after he turned 65. Of course, Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC, a subsidiary of Tricon Global Restaurants, and the Colonel, who passed in 1980, has been reduced to a line-art corporate logo. The company has come under fire by PETA for mistreatment of animals, and after customer complaints and legal issues the company phased out trans-fats in 2006. I don’t think they even sell it in buckets anymore. But KFC set the chainrestaurant world abuzz this spring when it announced a new grilled chicken line, devoting considerable prep hours and marketing dollars toward it. Now, if I can’t get my chicken fried, then I like it roasted, like how they do at Boston Market. I preferred Kenny Rogers Roasters, but there is only one left in the whole country, in Ontario, Calif. But a quick check of caloric information on the company websites reveals that Boston Market chicken is loaded with fat, especially the dark meat: one thigh and leg contain 17 grams of fat. So what the heck. I’ll give it a try. I hit the KFC on West Market Street in Greensboro and order some up. KFC is different in one way than many other fastfood chains in that there is quite a bit of actual cooking going on. Colonel Sanders pioneered the use of the pressure-cooker to fry chicken, reducing cooking times significantly and guaranteeing more fresh product ready to serve. There are always piles of fresh-cooked chicken under glass at KFC, but this visit saw half of that space devoted to this new grilled variety. I relieved them of two breasts and a wing, and brought them back to my office. I have a couple initial concerns about Kentucky Grilled Chicken, as they are branding the product. One was that the grill marks on the chicken would be of that fake kind that is sort of tattooed onto the meat. But the grill marks turn out to be real, created by a George Foreman-like grill which also drains much of the fat, leaving it relatively lean. A two-piece dark has 13 grams of fat, and that’s mostly because the thigh has 9 grams all by itself. All three pieces on my plate have 12 grams of fat, which honestly is kind of a lot for one meal, but for a sizable fast-food lunch it is not too bad. Consider that a single Big Mac has 29 grams of fat, including 1.5 grams of trans-fat. A medium fries adds 19 more grams. My other concern is dryness — losing all that fat can create a dry bird. And indeed, the outside is a bit dry, which I attribute to time under the heat lamps. The inside, however, is surprisingly tender and juicy — even Popeyes serves a dry breast once in a while, and theirs have 20 grams of fat apiece. The meat still carries that famous blend of 11 herbs and spices, which at this point either you like or you don’t. I think the blend works better with grilled chicken than with fried, however, and I never felt the need to douse my lunch with hot sauce. I would likely order this grilled chicken again if ever I find myself in a KFC, which, let’s face it, is bound to happen sooner or later. And it’s reassuring to see one fast-food chain paying at least minimal attention to the nutritional content of the food it serves.

The new gilled chicken at KFC is the beneficiary of a hugeadvertising campaign and a concession to customers who won’t eat friedchicken anymore. As this photo shows, the grill marks are real. (photoby Brian Clarey)