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After much speculation, KFC finally unveiled its Louisville fast-casual prototype, "KFC eleven" over the weekend, and the results sound intriguing.
Located in Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood, conveniently close to parent company Yum! Brands’ headquarters, the Colonel Sanders-free standalone restaurant is the first one of its kind. Geared toward a younger, hipper demographic, KFC eleven’s menu largely revolves around their new boneless chicken: either crispy or grilled chicken can be added to a sandwich, rice bowl, flatbread, or salad, with prices ranging from $4.99 to $6.89, according to Nation’s Restaurant News. Meals include crispy bites or boneless chicken paired with sides including waffle fries, macaroni and cheese, garlic smashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw, or a side salad, and drinks include lemonade, smoothies, and iced drinks. They’re also using Square to accept mobile payments.
"We took a look at the marketplace, at KFC and at evolving consumer needs, and what we wanted to do was design a new concept that could enable us to meet those changing consumer needs," David Menis, senior manager of concept development for Louisville-based KFC, told NRN. "We looked at menu, service, technology, the asset and everything, and asked… how could we leverage the strength of KFC and the taste of our chicken to put together a package that’s compelling for consumers?"
It’s unknown if KFC is planning on opening more elevens, if they hope to replace existing KFCs with ones more closely resembling this, or if this will be a one-and-done standalone restaurant. It appears as if they’re using this as a testing ground for future innovations, and to determine just how far the boneless variety can take them. "What we expect from this 'innovation restaurant' is to be able to better understand boneless chicken and what consumers are looking for out of that, and then transition those learnings back to our 4,500 restaurants," Menis continued.
Taco Bell experimenting with fast casual concept
Like its sister chain KFC, Taco Bell is reportedly testing a new fast casual concept called the U.S. Taco Co. and Urban Taproom.
According to the OC Register, the concept is expected to debut this summer in Huntington Beach, Calif., and will feature $4 premium tacos, steak-cut French fries and alcohol shakes. Unlike Taco Bell, the U.S. Taco concept will not feature burritos, beans, rice or tortilla chips.
CEO Greg Creed told the publication that more could open later, but the company will first gauge how the initial restaurant goes. He also said the concept is not a Taco Bell spin-off or a "Chipotle walk-along."
The restaurant itself features an open kitchen, wood tabletops and floors and modern lighting.
Taco Bell has invested about $500,000 on the startup, the story said, and has been developing the concept for a year.
KFC, also owned by Yum! Brands, introduced its KFC eleven fast casual concept last summer in hometown Louisville, Ky. Yum! also launched a new concept recently in Arlington, Texas, called Super Chix, which features premium chicken offerings.
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Sanders Court & Café
Harland Sanders was born in 1890 and raised on a farm outside Henryville, Indiana (near Louisville, Kentucky).  When Sanders was 5 years old, his father died, forcing his mother to work at a canning plant.  This left Sanders, as the eldest son, to care for his two younger siblings.  After he reached 7 years of age, his mother taught him how to cook.  After leaving the family home at the age of 13, Sanders passed through several professions with mixed success. 
In 1930, Sanders took over a Shell filling station on US Route 25 just outside North Corbin, Kentucky, a small town on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains.  It was here that he first served to travelers the recipes that he had learned as a child: fried chicken and other dishes such as steaks and country ham.  After four years of serving from his own dining room table, Sanders purchased the larger filling station on the other side of the road and expanded to six tables.  By 1936, this had proven successful enough for Sanders to be given the honorary title of Kentucky Colonel by Governor Ruby Laffoon.  In 1937 he expanded his restaurant to 142 seats and added a motel he purchased across the street, naming it Sanders Court & Café. 
Sanders was unhappy with the 35 minutes it took to prepare his chicken in an iron frying pan, but he refused to deep fry the chicken, which he believed lowered the quality of the product.  If he pre-cooked the chicken in advance of orders, there was sometimes wastage at day's end.  In 1939, the first commercial pressure cookers were released onto the market, mostly designed for steaming vegetables.  Sanders bought one and modified it into a pressure fryer, which he then used to fry chicken.  The new method reduced production time to be comparable with deep frying while, in the opinion of Sanders, retaining the quality of pan-fried chicken. 
"Original Recipe" and franchising
In July 1940, Sanders finalised what came to be known as his "Original Recipe" of 11 herbs and spices.  Although he never publicly revealed the recipe, he said the ingredients included salt and pepper and that the rest "stand on everybody's shelf".  After being recommissioned as a Kentucky Colonel in 1950 by Governor Lawrence Wetherby, Sanders began to dress the part, growing a goatee, wearing a black frock coat (later switched to a white suit) and a string tie and referring to himself as "the Colonel".  His associates went along with the title change, "jokingly at first and then in earnest", according to biographer Josh Ozersky. 
In 1952, Sanders franchised his recipe to his friend Pete Harman of South Salt Lake, Utah, the operator of one of the city's largest restaurants.  The Sanders Court & Café generally served travelers, so when the route planned in 1955 for Interstate 75 bypassed Corbin, Sanders sold his properties and traveled the US to franchise his recipe to restaurant owners.  Independent restaurants would pay four (later five) cents on each chicken as a franchise fee in exchange for Sanders' recipe and the right to feature it on their menus and use his name and likeness for promotional purposes. 
Don Anderson, a sign painter hired by Harman, coined the name "Kentucky Fried Chicken".  For Harman, the addition of KFC was a way of differentiating his restaurant from competitors a product from Kentucky was exotic and evoked imagery of Southern hospitality.  Harman trademarked the phrase "It's finger lickin' good", which eventually became the company slogan.  He also introduced the "bucket meal" in 1957 (14 pieces of chicken, five bread rolls and a pint of gravy in a cardboard bucket).  Serving their signature meal in a paper bucket was to become an iconic feature of the company. 
By 1963, there were 600 KFC restaurants, making the company the largest fast food operation in the United States.  KFC popularized chicken in the fast food industry, diversifying the market by challenging the dominance of the hamburger. 
Sale and global expansion
In 1964, Sanders sold KFC to a group of investors led by John Y. Brown Jr. and Jack C. Massey for US$2 million (around US$17 million in 2020).  The contract included a lifetime salary for Sanders and the agreement that he would be the company's quality controller and trademark.  The chain had reached 3,000 outlets in 48 different countries by 1970.  In July 1971, Brown sold the company to the Connecticut-based Heublein, a packaged food and drinks corporation, for US$285 million (around US$1.8 billion in 2020).  Sanders died in 1980, his promotional work making him a prominent figure in American cultural history.  By the time of his death, there were an estimated 6,000 KFC outlets in 48 different countries worldwide, with $2 billion worth of sales annually. 
In 1982, Heublein was acquired by R. J. Reynolds, the tobacco giant.  In July 1986, Reynolds announced the sale of KFC to PepsiCo for $850 million (around US$2.0 billion in 2020).  The actual sale took place in early October for $840 million.   PepsiCo made the chain a part of its restaurants division alongside Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.  KFC entered the Chinese market in November 1987, with an outlet in Beijing. 
In 1991 the KFC name was officially adopted, although it was already widely known by that initialism.  Kyle Craig, president of KFC U.S., admitted the change was an attempt to distance the chain from the unhealthy connotations of "fried".  The early 1990s saw a number of successful major product launches, including spicy "Hot Wings" (launched in 1990), popcorn chicken (1992) and, internationally, the "Zinger", a spicy chicken fillet sandwich (1993).  By 1994 KFC had 5,149 outlets in the US and 9,407 overall, with over 100,000 employees.  In August 1997, PepsiCo spun off its restaurants division as a public company valued at US$4.5 billion (around US$7.3 billion in 2020).  The new company was named Tricon Global Restaurants and, at the time, had 30,000 outlets and annual sales of US$10 billion (around US$16 billion in 2020), making it second in the world only to McDonald's.  Tricon was renamed Yum! Brands in May 2002. 
By 2015 KFC was struggling, having lost business to other retailers and being surpassed by Chick-fil-A as the leading chicken retailer in the US three years previously. The company launched a new initiative with a plan to revamp its packaging, decor and uniforms and expand its menu. Additionally, beginning in May 2015, a new series of US advertisements was launched featuring Darrell Hammond as Colonel Sanders.  In a planned rotation of actors,  Norm Macdonald, Jim Gaffigan, George Hamilton and Rob Riggle portrayed Sanders in similar ads through the fall of 2016.     In January 2018, country music icon Reba McEntire played the first female Colonel Sanders. 
All Access: KFC
Images of the late Col. Harlan Sanders are everywhere as you walk through the Louisville, Kentucky, headquarters of KFC and its parent, Yum! Brands. Not only are there plenty of photos and videos of the company founder and creator of the world’s most popular fried chicken recipe, but there are also statues of him both standing and sitting, as well as an animatronic version in the onsite Col. Sanders Museum.
A stylized version of Sanders visage—including Van Dyke beard, Western-style bowtie, and white suit—is part of KFC’s logo, and he remains one of America’s best-known commercial faces even though he died nearly a quarter-century ago. And soon the honorary Kentucky colonel’s Southern drawl might even make its way back into America’s consciousness KFC is readying special marketing efforts to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the final incarnation of the Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe.
“We’re working on an ad campaign that will bring back his voice,” Kevin Hochman, chief marketing officer for KFC U.S., says during a recent tour of the company’s offices and kitchens. Consumers can also expect to see “lots of innovative surprises for the 75th anniversary,” he says. Hochman declines to go beyond those teasers. In the past, KFC has employed actors to portray Sanders’ voice in advertising.
Innovation at KFC, at least in the public consciousness, has taken something of a back seat in recent years to Yum’s two other brands, Pizza Hut and particularly Taco Bell, which has launched a breakfast menu and had hits with several menu items, such as Doritos Locos Tacos. But KFC hasn’t been sitting still, with new product introductions like boneless and bite-sized chicken, as well as the Go Cup, a container that fits in vehicle cup holders and includes a choice of chicken with potato wedges.
The company also has looked at different store designs and styles. It opened a fast-casual concept, KFC Eleven, in 2013 in its hometown and is testing a new, fresher design—rife with Sanders photos and memorabilia—at a unit in another part of the city.
KFC has seen huge growth outside the U.S.—two-thirds of its locations are international, and China is its largest single market. In Japan, going to KFC is a Christmas tradition and sometimes requires making a reservation. Back at home, however, the chain has lost its crown as America’s biggest chicken chain to Chick-fil-A. In 2013, KFC did $4.3 billion in U.S. sales, while Chick-fil-A raked in around $5 billion domestically.
Through it all, executives said during the headquarters tour, KFC continues to focus on the quality of its chicken. That includes its famous recipe of 11 herbs and spices, the formula of which is held in a large vault built into a white wall in a nondescript office at the headquarters. There’s another vault inside the vault, protected by two feet of concrete and various electronic security devices.
The recipe kept inside “is more than the actual ingredients,” says Rodrigo Coronel, public relations manager. “It’s how you blend it,” he adds, noting that two companies make different parts of the blend.
In recent years, some of the chain’s advertising homed in on the fried chicken and how it’s made. Corporate team members were only too excited to demonstrate the process during the tour, walking through test kitchens, conducting consumer taste tests, and preparing and cooking fried chicken and chicken strips.
The test kitchen “is where we do a lot of innovation work,” says Bob Das, Yum’s chief corporate chef. It’s also where KFC does considerable work with vendors, franchisees, and corporate team members to develop new equipment and products. Consumers will see that, Das says, “with lunch and ideas around lunch.”
The KFC testing area typically hosts two or three taste tests every week, drawing from a pool of about 25,000 local residents who are chosen for their particular demographics and whether they are heavy users of particular menu items. The company also has a trained panel of 10 “super tasters.” The panel members, all women, were screened for their tasting expertise and are then trained further.
“What we’ve found is consumers are very good at telling us what they like, such as sweetness or crunch,” says Vanessa Calvert, sensory coordinator for KFC. For the super tasters, “it’s all about telling the difference, because we’re approving suppliers, we’re approving equipment, holding shelf life studies.”
As for making KFC’s chicken, it’s a very specific process, one that company officials expect to be replicated at restaurants all over the world, says Mike Showalter, research and development chef. Fresh chicken—which arrives at the stores in bags that contain the breasts, thighs, legs, and wings of two chickens—is inspected for issues like deep bruises in the meat of if any feathers are still attached. Small dark objects are removed from the back of the thigh.
The next step is breading. The chicken pieces are placed in a metal basket, dipped in water, taken out, and shifted from side to side seven times to remove the liquid. They then goes into a large plastic container filled with the coating—flour, milk powder, eggs, and the secret herb-and-spice concoction—and manipulated through the silky soft mixture seven times.
“It’s like putting your hands in a cloud,” Coronel says.
The breaded chicken is placed on a metal grate in a specific fashion so all the pieces fit. Grates with the pieces of eight chickens go into large pressure-cooking machine—unlike the small pressure pot originally used—and cook for more than 15 minutes.
“The temperature fluctuates in the pressure cooker to create the perfect moisture and texture,” Das says. The final product is a golden brown color.
It’s this kind of quality, consistency, and transparency that KFC hopes will help it restore its position within the public consciousness—and make the Colonel proud.
KFC is taking its new chicken sandwich national
Another day, another chain is taking its upgraded chicken sandwich to the masses.
KFC on Thursday revealed the day when its version will take a spot on menus—the sandwich is available in select markets now and will be available in all 4,000 of its U.S. units by the end of February.
In so doing, it becomes the second major chain this week to say it will introduce a new chicken sandwich nationally, following McDonald’s reveal that its Crispy Chicken Sandwich will go national on Feb. 24.
“We tested the new KFC Chicken Sandwich in Orlando last spring and we nearly doubled our sales expectations, so we knew we had a winner,” Andrea Zahumensky, chief marketing officer for KFC U.S., said in a statement. “Many customers hadn’t considered KFC as a part of the chicken sandwich conversation, but anyone who tastes this sandwich will know, without a doubt, that we’re playing to win.”
Chicken sandwiches have been all the rage for the past 15 months, since Popeyes introduced its sandwich to massive popularity. (Check out RB’s chicken sandwich timeline.)
All the chains are looking to take a page out of the playbook of the extraordinarily popular Chick-fil-A, which has become the third-largest chain in the U.S. seemingly overnight.
KFC’s sandwich, much like McDonald’s, carries some significant importance. Consumers increasingly on the go have shifted much of their chicken consumption to sandwiches, tenders and wings and away from the bone-in meals it has classically served. But the Louisville, Ky.-based chain has struggled to hit on the right recipe that would resonate with customers.
The company clearly believes it has hit on that this time. The sandwich features a quarter-pound Extra Crispy filet with mayo or spicy sauce, pickles and a buttered brioche bun.
The sandwich is available for $3.99 or for $6.99 as part of a combo meal with fries and a medium drink.
KFC has put up a sandwich finder on its website—kfc.com/findthesandwich—for customers to check and see if it’s available in their market.
KFC to launch upmarket concept
LOUISVILLE, KY. — KFC is set to test a new, upmarket restaurant concept that will do away with the image of Colonel Harland Sanders and bone-in chicken.
KFC Eleven — a reference to the 11 herbs and spices in the chain's Original Recipe chicken recipe — will open near KFC's Louisville headquarters on Aug. 5, according to an Associated Press report. The revamped eatery will be a stand-alone restaurant. The company also has plans for a second location in a strip mall, according to AP.
The menu will include updated side dishes, salads, rice bowls, flatbread sandwiches and only boneless pieces of Original Recipe chicken. The company hopes to use KFC Eleven as a laboratory of sorts, aimed at updating its offerings and appealing to a broader consumer base, particularly women. The decision to serve only boneless chicken was made to appeal to consumers in their 20s and 30s who grew up eating chicken nuggets and tenders. Bone-in chicken may be added to the menu in the future, said John Cywinski, president of KFC.
KFC launches Go Cup for snacking in cars
KFC launched a new Go Cup snack item on Wednesday that fits in most car cup holders and aims to take a bite out of the quick-service segment&rsquos snack market share.
The Go Cup, priced at $2.49, can be filled with Original Recipe Boneless chicken, a Chicken Littles sandwich, two Extra Crispy Tenders, three Hot Wings or four Original Recipe Bites, plus seasoned potato wedges.
The items are served in a new, patented Go Cup, which fits in most vehicle cup holders. The cup also has a wider rim to fit the chicken, which is separated from the potato wedges with a divider.
&ldquoToday&rsquos on-the-go snackers are going to love the Go Cup because it features awesome taste and great value, and in the ultimate portable package,&rdquo said Jason Marker, chief marketing officer for KFC U.S., based in Louisville, Ky.
To promote the item, KFC launched a #GoCupGo Instagram photo contest Monday, asking guests to submit photos of themselves on the go with their Go Cups for a chance to win a Polaroid Z2300 camera or $250 worth of iPhone photography accessories, as well as being named KFC Social Correspondents for a year.
An estimated 53 percent of car owners between the ages of 18 and 32 would be more likely to eat in their cars if the food container fit in the cup holder, according to a survey by KFC. Another 35 percent of Americans describe themselves as one-handed eaters in the car, KFC said.
Restaurants claimed 22 percent of consumer snacking occasions in 2012, an increase from 17 percent in 2010, according to market research firm Technomic Inc. Thirty-seven percent of American consumers have broadened their definition of a snack to include more types of foods, beverages and restaurant fare, the firm found.
Chains are increasingly targeting snack opportunities, not only because American consumers like to eat on the run, but also because it stretches sales into untapped off-peak periods. KFC, for example, launched both slider-sized Chicken Littles sandwich and Original Recipe Bites last year, at a time when chicken snacks were proliferating.
Last year, McDonald&rsquos featured a Chicken McBites limited-time offer, also served in a cup-holder-friendly container. This year, the Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain is introducing on-the-bone Mighty Wings.
Earlier this year, McDonald&rsquos restaurants in Japan launched a French fry car cup holder, available with value meals, which went viral in the U.S.
In 2005, Burger King introduced BK Chicken Fries, chicken strips shaped like French fries and served in a round container that fit into cup holders, with a pocket for dipping sauce. The item was discontinued last year.
KFC, with 17,000 units worldwide, is a division of Louisville-based Yum! Brands Inc.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected] .
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout
Yum! Brands and KFC U.S. Invest $6 Million to Advance Equity and Opportunity in Louisville
Louisville, KY, September 2, 2020 – Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM) and KFC U.S. today announced plans to invest $6 million over five years to advance equity and opportunity across Louisville, particularly in the West End. This expanded investment in Louisville will target endeavors that tackle inequality and uplift Black students, educators, entrepreneurs and social change agents. The local commitment is part of Yum! Brands’ global Unlocking Opportunity Initiative announced in June, in which the Company committed $100 million over five years to promote equity and inclusion, education and entrepreneurship for employees, frontline restaurant teams and communities around the world.
“At Yum!, we know our brands, frontline restaurant teams and communities are much stronger when we have diverse people, voices and ideas at the table to tackle our biggest challenges,” said David Gibbs, CEO, Yum! Brands. “With this expanded effort in Louisville, we are pleased to increase our partnership and investment in experienced local leaders and institutions that are already working to address the complex challenges of inequality.”
“As we work to strengthen equity and inclusion within every aspect of KFC, we look forward to partnering with community leaders to serve up greater opportunity and positive change right here in our hometown of Louisville,” said Kevin Hochman, President, KFC U.S.
The expanded work led by Yum! and KFC U.S. is expected to catalyze opportunity for the talent in Louisville through partnerships and financial contributions to entrepreneurship, education and equity and inclusion initiatives benefiting underserved areas of Louisville and tackling systemic racism.
“Tackling inequality is a long-term challenge that will require local businesses, governments, schools and philanthropists to establish new ways of partnering with and supporting talented community leaders who know the issues and the people most affected,” said Jerilan Greene, Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer, Yum! Brands, and Chairman and CEO, Yum! Brands Foundation. “We’re pleased to be part of making education and entrepreneurship, which are both essential ingredients for a brighter future, more accessible to our fellow Louisvillians.”
The Company’s expanded commitment in Louisville will support:
- Technology entrepreneurship. Led by Executive Director Dave Christopher of The Academy of Music Production Education and Development, AMPED is expanding its full-service family support, increasing emphasis on technology skills, workforce development and business creation to drive economic growth, mobility and independence in West Louisville.
- Grants for Black entrepreneurs and nonprofits. Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), one of the largest community development organizations in the U.S., will establish a fund that provides grants to Louisville-based Black entrepreneurs and nonprofits to expand economic opportunity in West Louisville. Simultaneously, LISC will open a Louisville office under the leadership of Denise Scott, LISC Executive Vice President, and create a local advisory committee comprised of local leadership from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to begin the search for an Executive Director.
- African-American teacher development. As one of the oldest private Historically Black Colleges in America, Simmons College of Kentucky, led by its President Dr. Kevin Cosby, is developing a unique program designed to recruit and train more African American teachers to enter the Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) system.
- College scholarships. Led by Executive Director Marland Cole, Evolve502, a nonprofit organization, is helping JCPS students pursue a post-secondary education by funding scholarships and support, with an emphasis on assisting underserved communities.
- College pathways: High school business, technology, and leadership education. University of Louisville College of Business professor Dr. Nat Irvin is working with Central High Magnet Career Academy Principal Raymond Green, and other key JCPS schools, to launch the second phase of a business, technology and leadership development pilot program to help predominantly Pell Grant-eligible high school students earn college credits from and early admission to the University of Louisville. The program is part of the University of Louisville President Dr. Neeli Bendapudi’s vision to become the nation’s premier anti-racist metropolitan research university.
- Black-led philanthropy and advocacy. Led by Metro United Way’s Chief Equity Officer Daryle Unseld, Black L.O.V.E., a nonprofit to strengthen Black-led social institutions in Louisville, will work with Black leaders and philanthropic partners to invest in areas recommended by the Black Social Change Funders Network.
In addition to Yum! Brands’ Unlocking Opportunity Initiative, the Company previously announced a $3 million pledge to social justice efforts by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, American Civil Liberties Union and Louisville-based social justice nonprofits along with national organizations identified by U.S. restaurant general managers at KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and The Habit Burger Grill—including the Boys & Girls Club of America, Equal Justice Initiative and Children’s Bureau.
In Louisville, Yum! is also co-chairing Greater Louisville Inc.’s Business Council to End Racism, a cohort of local business leaders developing policy recommendations to tackle racism and build a stronger, more inclusive local economy. Beyond the Company’s expanded efforts to address inequality locally, the Yum! Brands Foundation will continue its long history of supporting Dare to Care Food Bank, Metro United Way and Fund for the Arts in Louisville.
About Yum! Brands
Yum! Brands, Inc., based in Louisville, Kentucky, has over 50,000 restaurants in more than 150 countries and territories primarily operating the company’s brands – KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell – global leaders of the chicken, pizza and Mexican-style food categories. The Company’s family of brands also includes The Habit Burger Grill, a fast-casual restaurant concept specializing in made-to-order chargrilled burgers, sandwiches and more. In 2019, Yum! Brands was named to the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index and in 2020, the company ranked among the top 100 Best Corporate Citizens by 3BL Media.
KFC Corporation, based in Louisville, Ky., is the world's most popular chicken restaurant chain. KFC specializes in Original Recipe®, Extra Crispy™, Kentucky Grilled Chicken® and Extra Crispy™ Tenders, Hot Wings®, KFC Famous Bowls®, Pot Pies, freshly hand prepared chicken sandwiches, biscuits and homestyle side items. There are more than 24,000 KFC restaurants in 145 countries and territories around the world. KFC Corporation is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands, Inc., Louisville, Ky. (NYSE: YUM). For more information, visit www.kfc.com. Follow KFC on Facebook (www.facebook.com/kfc), Twitter (www.twitter.com/kfc) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/KFC).
The releases contained on this page may contain dated information. Readers are cautioned that the releases on this page are maintained here solely for the purposes of providing historical background about Yum! Brands, its business and product offerings. As the releases may contain dated information, they should not be relied upon as providing accurate or current information. Yum! Brands disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any of the information contained in any of the releases on this page, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
KFC Reveals Its New Fast-Casual Concept in Louisville - Recipes
Louisville-based Yum! Brands will open its first ever concept store Monday for KFC on Bardstown Road in the Highlands neighborhood.
“This is just a chance for us really to step out, take a holistic look at the brand and see what we can learn,” says Yum’s concept director Anne Fuller.
The store will experiment with recipes and service models similar to the “fast-casual” restaurant style that’s becoming more popular, she says.
Think of your Qdobas and Paneras. The ingredients are fresher and the feel of the restaurant is different than typical fast food.
“We’ve been able to recruit what I call a team of foodies into the restaurant. So we have a number of folks who will be working in the restaurant with extensive culinary degrees and restaurant backgrounds and that really allows us to innovate our team culture,” Fuller says.
The prices will be comparable to other fast-casual style restaurants, which means a slightly higher cost.
Another concept restaurant is scheduled to be opened likely before the end of the year at an undisclosed Louisville location, Fuller says.
The company wants to study the results of these locations before expanding to other markets, she says.
I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker
For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.
Includes eight (8) 79¢ recipes of your choice each month!
Save $12 vs. monthly
Includes eight (8) 79¢ recipes of your choice each month!
I never thought dinner rolls were something I could get excited about until I got my hand into the breadbasket at Texas Roadhouse. The rolls are fresh out of the oven and they hit the table when you do, so there’s no waiting to tear into a magnificently gooey sweet roll topped with soft cinnamon butter. The first bite you take will make you think of a fresh cinnamon roll, and then you can’t stop eating it. And when the first roll’s gone, you are powerless to resist grabbing for just one more. But it’s never just one more. It’s two or three more, plus a few extra to take home for tomorrow.
Discovering the secret to making rolls at home that taste as good as the real ones involved making numerous batches of dough, each one sweeter than the last (sweetened with sugar, not honey—I checked), until a very sticky batch, proofed for 2 hours, produced exactly what I was looking for. You can make the dough with a stand mixer or a handheld one, the only difference being that you must knead the dough by hand without a stand mixer. When working with the dough add a little bit of flour at a time to keep it from sticking, and just know that the dough will be less sticky and more workable after the first rise.
Roll the dough out and measure it as specified here, and after a final proofing and a quick bake—plus a generous brushing of butter on the tops—you will produce dinner rolls that look and taste just like the best rolls I’ve had at any famous American dinner chain.
To get their Extra Crispy Chicken so crispy KFC breads the chicken two times. This double breading gives the chicken its ultra craggy exterior and extra crunch, which is a different texture than the less crispy Original Recipe Chicken that’s breaded just once and pressure fried.
As with my KFC Original Recipe hack, we must first brine the chicken to give it flavor and moisture all the way through, like the real thing, then the chicken is double breaded and deep fried until golden brown. KFC uses small chickens which cook faster, but small chickens can be hard to find. If your chicken parts are on the large side, they may not cook all the way through in the 12 to 15 minutes of frying I’m specifying here. To be sure your chicken is cooked, start frying with the thickest pieces, like the breasts, then park them in a 300-degree oven while you finish with the smaller pieces. This will keep the chicken warm and crispy, and more importantly, ensure that they are cooked perfectly all the way through.
On my CMT show Top Secret Recipe I chatted with Winston Shelton, a long-time friend of KFC founder Harland Sanders. Winston saw the Colonel's handwritten secret recipe for the Original Recipe chicken, and he told me one of the secret ingredients is Tellicherry black pepper. It's a more expensive, better-tasting black pepper that comes from the Malabar coast in India, and you should use it here if you can find it. Winston pulled me aside and whispered this secret to me when he thought we were off-camera, but our microphones and very alert cameramen caught the whole thing, and we aired it.
I first published this hack in Even More Top Secret Recipes, but recently applied some newly acquired secrets and tips to make this much-improved version of one of the most familiar fried chicken recipes in the world.
This recipe was our #2 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).
Getting a table at the 123-year-old original Rao’s restaurant in New York City is next to impossible. The tables are “owned” by regulars who schedule their meals months in advance, so every table is full every night, and that’s the way it’s been for the last 38 years. The only way an outsider would get to taste the restaurant’s fresh marinara sauce is to be invited by a regular.
If that isn’t in the stars for you, you could buy a bottle of the sauce at your local market (if they even have it). It won't be fresh, and it's likely to be the most expensive sauce in the store, but it still has that great Rao's taste. An even better solution is to copy the sauce for yourself using this new and very easy hack.
The current co-owner of Rao’s, Frank Pellegrino Jr., told Bon Appetit in 2015 that the famous marinara sauce was created by his grandmother many years ago, and the sauce you buy in stores is the same recipe served in his restaurants. The ingredients are common, but correctly choosing the main ingredient—tomatoes—is important. Try to find San Marzano-style whole canned tomatoes, preferably from Italy. They are a little more expensive than typical canned tomatoes, but they will give you some great sauce.
After 30 minutes of cooking, you’ll end up with about the same amount of sauce as in a large jar of the real thing. Your version will likely be just a little bit brighter and better than the bottled stuff, thanks to the fresh ingredients. But now you can eat it anytime you want, with no reservations, at a table you own.
You might also like my #1 recipe of 2019, Texas Roadhouse Rolls.
Crafting a clone of Olive Garden’s signature Lasagna Classico became the perfect opportunity to create a beautiful multi-layered lasagna hack recipe that uses up the whole box of lasagna noodles and fills the baking pan all the way to the top. This Top Secret Recipe makes a lasagna that tips the scale at nearly 10 pounds and will feed hungry mouths for days, with every delicious layer copied directly from the carefully dissected Olive Garden original.
I found a few credible bits of intel in a video of an Olive Garden chef demonstrating what he claims is the real formula on a midday news show, but the recipe was abbreviated for TV and the chef left out some crucial information. One ingredient he conspicuously left out of the recipe is the secret layer of Cheddar cheese located near the middle of the stack. I wasn’t expecting to find Cheddar in lasagna, but when I carefully separated the layers from several servings of the original dish, there was the golden melted cheesy goodness in every slice.
This clone recipe will make enough for 8 big portions, but if you make slightly smaller slices this is easily enough food to fill twelve lasagna-loving bellies. If you like lasagna, you're going to love this version.
Browse my other Olive Garden clone recipes here.
“Don’t call them fries,” says KFC about its popular side made with sliced, skin-on russet potatoes. What sets these potatoes apart from all the others is the secret breading made with a similar seasoning blend to the one used for Colonel's Original Recipe Fried Chicken. To achieve the proper crispiness, the potatoes are par-fried, frozen, then fried again until golden brown.
One important ingredient that completes the flavor is MSG. Monosodium glutamate is a food additive derived from glutamic acid, which is an important amino acid found in abundance in nature, food, and in you right now. Over the last 60 years of study and use, MSG has not only been found harmless in normal amounts, but tests have shown glutamate to be a chemical messenger that benefits gut health, immunity, and brain functions such as memory and learning. In addition to all of that, it imparts a unique savoriness that enhances flavors in other ingredients and makes your food taste amazing. Using MSG in your food is, literally, smart cooking.
Another important ingredient is ground Tellicherry black pepper, a select black pepper from India. Winston Shelton, a friend of Harland Sanders who invented the first high-volume pressure fryers for KFC, confirmed this. Shelton recalled seeing the ingredient when Sanders showed him the secret formula for the fried chicken seasoning he had scribbled on a piece of paper.
While we were shooting the first episode of my TV Show, Top Secret Recipe, Winston pulled me aside and whispered to me that Tellicherry pepper is crucial to creating the unique KFC aftertaste. It was a great tip, and fortunately, we caught that moment on camera and you can see it in the show. Later, I conducted a side-by-side taste test with common black pepper and Tellicherry black pepper and discovered Winston was right. If you want the best taste for your clone you'll need Tellicherry pepper, which you can find online and in some food stores. Be sure to grind it fine before using it.
For this recipe, just two russet potatoes are all it takes to make the equivalent of a large serving of fried potato wedges, which will be enough for at least four people.
Jerrico, Inc., the parent company for Long John Silver's Seafood Shoppes, got its start in 1929 as a six-stool hamburger stand called the White Tavern Shoppe. Jerrico was started by a man named Jerome Lederer, who watched Long John Silver's thirteen units dwindle in the shadow of World War II to just three units. Then, with determination, he began rebuilding. In 1946 Jerome launched a new restaurant called Jerry's and it was a booming success, with growth across the country. Then he took a chance on what would be his most successful venture in 1969, with the opening of the first Long John Silver's Fish 'n' Chips. The name was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. In 1991 there were 1,450 Long John Silver Seafood Shoppes in thirty-seven states, Canada, and Singapore, with annual sales of more than $781 million. That means the company holds about 65 percent of the $1.2 billion quick-service seafood business.
Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken and Biscuits has become the third-largest quick-service chicken chain in the world in the twenty-two years since its first store opened in New Orleans in 1972. (KFC has the number-one slot, followed by Church's Chicken). Since then, the chain has grown to 813 units, with many of them overseas in Germany, Japan, Jamaica, Honduras, Guam, and Korea.
Cayenne pepper and white pepper bring the heat to this crispy fried chicken hack.
Did you like this recipe? Get your hands on my secret recipe for Popeyes Chicken Sandwich and other Popeyes dishes here.
KFC's Chicken Pot Pie is a classic. It's packed with lots of shredded white and dark meat chicken, potatoes, peas, and carrots all of it swimming in a delicious creamy gravy and topped with a tantalizing flakey crust. It seems more like homemade food than fast food. And now it can be made at home better than ever before with this improved hack of my original recipe. The crust now has a better flavor (more butter!), and the gravy tastes closer to the original with the addition of more spices.
You can make these in ramekins or small oven-safe baking dishes, or get some recyclable aluminum pot pie pans you can find in many supermarkets. Those pans are the perfect size for four single servings, and they make cleanup easy after the feast.
Find more of my KFC copycat recipes here.
Menu Description: "Made from scratch in our kitchens using fresh Grade A Fancy Russet potatoes, fresh chopped onion, natural Colby cheese and spices. Baked fresh all day long."
In the late sixties Dan Evins was a Shell Oil "jobber" looking for a new way to market gasoline. He wanted to create a special place that would arouse curiosity, and would pull travelers off the highways. In 1969 he opened the first Cracker Barrel just off Interstate 40 in Lebanon, Tennessee, offering gas, country-style food, and a selection of antiques for sale. Today there are over 529 stores in 41 states, with each restaurant still designed as a country rest stop and gift store. In fact, those stores which carry an average of 4,500 different items apiece have made Cracker Barrel the largest retailer of American-made finished crafts in the United States.
Those who know Cracker Barrel love the restaurant for its delicious home-style breakfasts. This casserole, made with hash brown-sliced potatoes, Colby cheese, milk, beef broth, and spices is served with many of the classic breakfast dishes at the restaurant. The recipe here is designed for a skillet that is also safe to put in the oven (so no plastic handles). If you don't have one of those, you can easily transfer the casserole to a baking dish after it is done cooking on the stove.
Love Cracker Barrel? Check out my other clone recipes here.
A popular staple of any Chinese chain is the fried rice so it better be good, and the version served at Panda Express most certainly is. Here's an easy hack when you need a stress-free, low-cost side for your entrées. But I do suggest that you cook the white rice several hours or even a day or two before you plan to make the finished dish. I found that the cooked rice called for in this recipe works best when it's cold.
As for a shortcut, bagged frozen peas and carrots will save you from the hassle of petite-dicing carrots since the carrots in those bags are the perfect size to produce an identical clone. And they're already cooked.
Now, how about some Honey Walnut Shrimp, or Beijing Beef to go with that rice? Find all my Panda Express copycat recipes here.
In the early 90's Boston Chicken was rockin' it. The home meal replacement chain's stock was soaring and the lines were filled with hungry customers waiting to sink their teeth into a serving of the chain's delicious rotisserie chicken. So successful was the chain with chicken, that the company quickly decided it was time to introduce other entree selections, the first of which was a delicious barbecue sauce-covered ground sirloin meatloaf. But offering the other entrees presented the company with a dilemma: what to do about the name. The bigwigs decided it was time to change the name to Boston Market, to reflect a wider menu. That meant replacing signs on hundreds of units and retooling the marketing campaigns. That name change, plus rapid expansion of the chain and growth of other similar home-style meal concepts sent the company into a tailspin. By 1988, Boston Market's goose was cooked, and the company filed for bankruptcy. Soon McDonald's stepped in to purchase the company, with the idea of closing many of the stores for good, and slapping Golden Arches on the rest. But that plan was scrapped when, after selling many of the under-performing Boston Markets, the chain began to fly once again. Within a year of the acquisition Boston Market was profitable, and those meals with the home-cooked taste are still being served at over 700 Boston Market restaurants across the country.
How about some of those famous Boston Market side-dishes to go with your copycat meatloaf recipe? I've cloned all the best ones here.
In the Bush’s Beans commercials, Duke, the family golden retriever, wants to sell the secret family recipe, but the Bush family always stops him. The dog is based on the Bush family’s real-life golden retriever, and the campaign, which began in 1995, made Bush’s the big dog of the canned baked beans market practically overnight. Their confidential baked beans formula is considered one of the top 10 biggest recipe secrets in the U.S.
Bush Brothers & Company had been canning a variety of fruits and vegetables for over 60 years when, in 1969, the company created canned baked beans using a cherished recipe from a family matriarch. Sales jumped from 10 thousand cases in the first year to over 100 thousand cases in 1970. And just one year later sales hit a million cases. Today Bush’s makes over 80 percent of the canned baked beans sold in the U.S., and the secret family recipe remains a top food secret, despite Duke’s attempts. A replica of the original recipe book—without the original recipe in it (drat!)—is on display at the company's visitor center in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee.
I chose to hack the “Country Style” version of Bush’s Beans because I don’t think the Original flavor has enough, uh, flavor. Country Style is similar to Original, but richer, with more brown sugar. The recipe starts by soaking dry small white beans in a brine overnight. The salt in the water helps to soften the skins, but don’t soak them for more than 14 hours or the skins may begin to fall off.
My first versions tasted great but lacked the deep brown color of the real Bush’s beans, which include caramel coloring—an ingredient that can be hard to find on its own. I eventually discovered that the “browning” sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, will add the dark caramel color needed to our home version of the beans so that they’ll look just like the real thing.
This recipe was our #5 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4).
Menu Description: “Two lightly fried parmesan-breaded chicken breasts are smothered with Olive Garden’s homemade marinara sauce and melted Italian cheeses. We serve our Chicken Parmigiana with a side of spaghetti for dinner.”
Chicken parmigiana is a forever favorite, and it’s not a difficult dish to whip up at home. But for it to taste like the Olive Garden signature entree, we’ll need to take some very specific steps.
Olive Garden’s chicken is salty and moist all the way through, so we must first start by brining the chicken. Give yourself an extra hour for this important marinating step. The marinara sauce used on the chicken is an Olive Garden specialty and no bottled sauce compares, so we’ll make our own from scratch using canned crushed tomatoes and the formula below.
While the sauce cooks, filling your house with its intoxicating aroma, the chicken is breaded and browned. When the marinara is done, top the chicken with the sauce and mozzarella and stick it under your hot broiler until bubbling.
Hopefully, everyone at your house is hungry, because the Olive Garden dinner portion is two chicken fillets, and this recipe will yield a total of four 2-piece servings. Add a small serving of spaghetti on the side, topped with more of the delicious sauce, and you'll have a perfect match to the restaurant plate.
Can't get enough Olive Garden? Click here for more of my copycat recipes.
The Southern-themed chain famous for its gift shops filled with made-in-America products and delicious homestyle food is also known to have a particularly good meatloaf. This dish ranks high in popularity, right up there with the Chicken ‘n Dumplins and the Hash Brown Casserole, so a good hack is long overdue.
Making meatloaf is easy. What’s hard is making it taste like the meatloaf at Cracker Barrel which is tender and juicy, and flavored with onion, green pepper, and tomato. I sought to turn out a moist and tender loaf of meat, and one that’s not dry and tough, but my first attempts were much too dense. I wasn’t happy about that, but my dog was thrilled.
After playing around with the eggs-to-breadcrumbs-to-milk ratios and being careful to use gentle hands when combining everything and pressing it into the loaf pan, the final batch was a winner and I get to pass it along to you.
It's best to use a meatloaf pan here which has an insert that lets the fat drip to the bottom, away from the meat. A regular loaf pan will still work, but you’ll want to pour off the fat in the pan before slicing.
Satisfy your Cracker Barrel cravings with more of my copycat recipes here.
In early 1985, restaurateur Rich Komen felt there was a specialty niche in convenience-food service just waiting to be filled. His idea was to create an efficient outlet that could serve freshly made cinnamon rolls in shopping malls throughout the country. It took nine months for Komen and his staff to develop a cinnamon roll recipe he knew customers would consider the "freshest, gooiest, and most mouthwatering cinnamon roll ever tasted." The concept was tested for the first time in Seattle's Sea-Tac mall later that year, with workers mixing, proofing, rolling, and baking the rolls in full view of customers. Now, more than 626 outlets later, Cinnabon has become the fastest-growing cinnamon roll bakery in the world.
The talented chefs at Benihana cook food on hibachi grills with flair and charisma, treating the preparation like a tiny stage show. They juggle salt and pepper shakers, trim food with lightning speed, and flip the shrimp and mushrooms perfectly onto serving plates or into their tall chef's hat.
One of the side dishes that everyone seems to love is the fried rice. At Benihana this dish is prepared by chefs with precooked rice on open hibachi grills, and is ordered a la cart to complement any Benihana entree, including Hibachi Steak and Chicken. I like when the rice is thrown onto the hot hibachi grill and seems to come alive as it sizzles and dances around like a bunch of little jumping beans. Okay, so I'm easily amused.
This Benihana Japanese fried rice recipe will go well with just about any Japanese entree and can be partially prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until the rest of the meal is close to done.
Over a century ago, Detroit, Michigan became the Coney Island chili dog capital of the world, even though Coney Island is nowhere near there. Greek immigrants who entered the U.S. through Ellis Island adapted a recipe for the hot dogs they ate while visiting Coney Island, New York, on their way to the Midwest. When they settled in southern Michigan, many opened restaurants to sell their clones of the food they ate when they first got to America, turning New York-style Coney Dogs into a Midwest phenomenon.
Two of the most famous Coney Island restaurants in Detroit are Lafayette Coney Island and its next-door neighbor, American Coney Island. The two buildings were originally one building with a single restaurant inside, built by brothers Gus and Bill Keros in 1915. But somewhere along the way the brothers had a falling out and split the restaurant in half, right down the middle, and it stayed that way. Today, the two Coney Island restaurants are under different ownership, but they still remain next-door rivals.
I decided the best Coney dog to hack is from American Coney Island, not only because of the restaurant’s deep history, but also because I was able to order the chili dogs shipped to my house in a kit. That’s always good news, since shipped foods must list ingredients, and I get to see exactly what’s in the chili. Built the traditional way, a typical Detroit Coney Island chili dog features a natural-casing hot dog in a soft white bun, smothered in chili sauce, drizzled with mustard, and topped with a pile of diced sweet onion. The kit came with everything I needed, including the tub of chili with clearly-labeled ingredients that I was counting on.
With the help of that information, I was able to create a thick, flavorful chili sauce that you can use on your favorite hot dogs to make a delicious clone. Crushed soda crackers thicken the chili, and extra beef fat adds a smooth quality that mimics the famous 100-year-old recipe.
The chili must simmer for four hours to properly tenderize the meat, so plan your Coney dog cloning adventure accordingly.
And now if you're craving French fries, try my Mcdonald's Fries copycat recipe here.
Braised and shredded pork shoulder is a staple of Mexican cuisine that Chipotle prepares with a simple blend of flavors, and a surprising ingredient you may not have expected: juniper berries. Once you track those down (they’re easy to find online), the berries are combined with thyme and bay leaves in a braising liquid that will transform your own pork roast into an easily shreddable thing of beauty in under 3 hours. Then you can use your freshly cloned carnitas on tacos, in burritos, or in a bowl over rice and beans just like they do in the restaurant.
When picking your pork roast, try to find one without too much fat. If your roast has a thick cap of fat on it, trim off the excess. You want some fat in your braising liquid, but if the cap of fat is too thick, it may not fully render down and you’ll get chunks of fat in the shred.
It’s often assumed that the pork butt is from the rear end of the pig, even though cuts from the back region already have a name: ham. The pork butt, also known as a Boston butt, is cut from the other end, the upper shoulder of the pig. It’s called a “butt” because in pre-Revolutionary War New England the roasts were stored and transported in barrels called “butts”, and the confusing name stuck.
This 220-unit downscaled version of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro targets the lunch crowd with a smaller menu that features bento boxes, bowls, and small plates. The bestseller on the menu is this orange chicken, which I have to say is pretty damn good orange chicken. Obviously, a clone is needed for this one, stat.
The name “Wei Better Orange Chicken” is a competitive callout to Panda Express's signature orange chicken, which is made with pre-breaded and frozen chicken. Pei Wei claims its orange chicken is prepared each day from scratch with chicken that is never frozen, so we’ll craft our clone the same way. But rather than assemble the dish in a wok over a high-flame fast stove like they do at the restaurant, we’ll prepare the sauce and chicken separately, then toss them with fresh orange wedges just before serving.
By the way, this dish goes very well with white or brown rice, so don’t forget to make some.
A recipe for Portuguese sweet bread inspired the soft rolls that became a big hit at Robert Tiara's Bakery & Restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii in the 1950s. It wasn’t long before Robert changed the name of his thriving business to King’s Hawaiian, and in 1977 the company opened its first bakery on the mainland, in Torrance, California, to make the now-famous island sweet rolls sold in stores across the U.S.
King’s Hawaiian Rolls are similar to Texas Roadhouse Rolls in that they are both pillowy, sweet white rolls, so it made sense to dig out my Texas Roadhouse Rolls clone recipe and use it as a starting point. These new rolls had to be slightly softer and sweeter, so I made some adjustments and added a little egg for color. And by baking the dough in a high-rimmed baking pan with 24 dough balls placed snugly together, I ended up with beautiful rolls that rose nicely to the occasion, forming a tear-apart loaf just like the original, but with clean ingredients, and without the dough conditioners found in the packaged rolls.
Use these fluffy sweet rolls for sandwiches, sliders, or simply warmed up and slathered with soft European butter.
This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2020. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce (#1), Olive Garden Lasagna Classico (#2), Pei Wei Better Orange Chicken (#4), Chipotle Mexican Grill Carnitas (#5).
Before he became America's sausage king, Jimmy Dean was known for crooning the country hit "Big Bad John." That song came out in 1962 and sold more than 8 million copies. His singing success launched a television career on ABC with The Jimmy Dean Show, where Roy Clark, Patsy Cline, and Roger Miller got their big breaks. The TV exposure led to acting roles for Jimmy, as a regular on Daniel Boone, and in feature films, including his debut in the James Bond flick Diamonds are Forever. Realizing that steady income from an acting and singing career can be undependable, Jimmy invested his show-biz money in a hog farm. In 1968 the Jimmy Dean Meat Company developed the special recipe for sausage that has now become a household name. Today the company is part of the Sara Lee Corporation, and Jimmy retired as company spokesman in 2004.
This clone recipe re-creates three varieties of the famous roll sausage that you form into patties and cook in a skillet. Use ground pork found at the supermarket—make it lean pork if you like—or grind some up yourself if you have a meat grinder.
Check out more of my famous breakfast food clone recipes here.
The easy-melting, individually-wrapped Kraft Cheddar Singles are a perfect secret ingredient for this Panera Bread broccoli cheddar soup recipe that's served at this top soup stop. In this clone, fresh broccoli is first steamed, then diced into little bits before you combine it with chicken broth, half-and-half, shredded carrot, and onion. Now you're just 30 minutes away from soup spoon go-time.
Click here for more of my copycat Panera Bread recipes.
Menu Description: "Quickly-cooked steak with scallions and garlic."
Beef lovers go crazy over this one at the restaurant. Flank steak is cut into bite-sized chunks against the grain, then it's lightly dusted with potato starch (in our case we'll use cornstarch), flash-fried in oil, and doused with an amazing sweet soy garlic sauce. The beef comes out tender as can be, and the simple sauce sings to your taste buds. I designed this recipe to use a wok, but if you don't have one a saute pan will suffice (you may need to add more oil to the pan to cover the beef in the flash-frying step). P. F. Chang's secret sauce is what makes this dish so good, and it's versatile. If you don't dig beef, you can substitute with chicken. Or you can brush it on grilled salmon.
I've cloned a lot of the best dishes from P.F. Chang's. Click here to see if I coped your favorite.
Anyone who loves Olive Garden is probably also a big fan of the bottomless basket of warm, garlicky breadsticks served before each meal at the huge Italian casual chain. My guess is that the breadsticks are proofed, and then sent to each restaurant where they are baked until golden brown, brushed with butter and sprinkled with garlic salt. Getting the bread just right for a good Olive Garden breadstick recipe was tricky—I tried several different amounts of yeast in all-purpose flour, but then settled on bread flour to give these breadsticks the same chewy bite as the originals. The two-stage rising process is also a crucial step in this much requested homemade Olive Garden breadstick recipe. Also check out our Olive Garden Italian salad dressing recipe.
What is it about Stouffer's Macaroni & Cheese that makes it the number one choice for true mac & cheese maniacs? It's probably the simple recipe that includes wholesome ingredients like skim milk and real Cheddar cheese, without any preservatives or unpronounceable chemicals. The basic Stouffer's Mac and Cheese ingredients are great for kitchen cloners who want an easy fix that doesn't require much shopping. I found the recipe to work best as an exact duplicate of the actual product: a frozen dish that you heat up later in the oven. This way you'll get slightly browned macaroni & cheese that looks like it posed for the nicely lit photo on the Stouffer's box. Since you'll only need about 3/4 cup of uncooked elbow macaroni for each recipe, you can make several 4-person servings with just one 16-ounce box of macaroni, and then keep them all in the freezer until the days when your troops have their mac & cheese attacks. Be sure to use freshly shredded Cheddar cheese here, since it melts much better than pre-shredded cheese (and it's cheaper). Use a whisk to stir the sauce often as it thickens, so that you get a smooth—not lumpy or grainy—finished product.
If you're still hungry, check out my copycat recipes for famous entrées here.
One of the most protected, discussed, and sought-after secret recipes in the food world is KFC's Original Recipe Fried Chicken. Long ago I published my first hack of the famous formula, but the recipe, which was based on research from "Big Secrets" author William Poundstone, includes only salt, pepper, MSG, and flour in the breading, and not the blend of eleven herbs and spices we have all heard about. The fried chicken made with my first recipe is good in a pinch, but it really needs several more ingredients to be a true clone. That is why, over twenty years later, I was happy to get another crack at the secret when we shot the pilot episode for my CMT TV series Top Secret Recipe. In the show, I visited KFC headquarters, talked to friends of Harlan Sanders who had seen the actual recipe, and even checked out the Corbin, Kentucky, kitchen where Harland Sanders first developed his chicken recipe. During that four-day shoot I was able to gather enough clues about the secret eleven herbs and spices to craft this new recipe—one that I believe is the closest match to the Colonel's secret fried chicken that anyone has ever revealed.
In 1991 Kentucky Fried Chicken bigwigs decided to improve the image of America's third-largest fast-food chain. As a more health-conscious society began to affect sales of fried chicken, the company changed its name to KFC and introduced a lighter fare of skinless chicken.
In the last forty years KFC has experienced extraordinary growth. Five years after first franchising the business, Colonel Harland Sanders had 400 outlets in the United States and Canada. Four years later there were more than 600 franchises, including one in England, the first overseas outlet. In 1964 John Y. Brown, Jr., a young Louisville lawyer, and Jack Massey, a Nashville financier, bought the Colonel's business for $2 million. Only seven years later, in 1971 Heublein, Inc., bought the KFC Corporation for $275 million. Then in 1986, for a whopping $840 million, PepsiCo added KFC to its conglomerate, which now includes Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. That means PepsiCo owns more fast food outlets than any other company including McDonald's.
At each KFC restaurant, workers blend real buttermilk with a dry blend to create the well-known KFC buttermilk biscuits recipe that have made a popular menu item since their introduction in 1982. Pair these buttermilk biscuits with KFC's mac and cheese recipe and the famous KFC Original Recipe Chicken, and skip the drive-thru tonight!
Once a regular menu item, these sweet, saucy wings are now added to the KFC menu on a "limited-time-only" basis in many markets. So how are we to get that sticky sauce all over our faces and hands during those many months when we are cruelly denied our Honey BBQ Wings? Now it's as easy as whipping up this KFC honey BBQ wings recipe that re-creates the crispy breading on the chicken wings, and the sweet-and-smoky honey BBQ sauce. "Limited-time-only" signs—we laugh at you.
How about some famous coleslaw or wedge potatoes? Check out my collection of KFC clone recipes here.
Like at Wendy’s, where unsold and broken burger patties provide the beef for their famous chili, Chick-fil-A gets the chicken for this delicious noodle soup by chopping up the leftover chicken used on their grilled chicken sandwiches. But grilling isn’t the first step to take when whipping up a home hack of this famous soup. First, you must brine the chicken to fill it with flavor and keep it juicy like the real thing. A couple of hours later, when the brining is done, it’s grilling go-time.
The pasta shape Chick-fil-A uses in their soup is an uncommon one, and you might have a hard time finding it at your local market. It’s called mafalda corta (upper right in the photo), which is a miniature version of the ruffled-edge malfadine pasta used in my hack for Olive Garden Beef Bolognese. It also goes by the name “mini lasagna.” If you can’t find mafalda corta (I found it online), you can instead use your favorite small fancy pasta here, such as farfalle, rotini, fusilli, or whatever looks good at the store.
Looking to make the popular Chick-fil-A Chicken Sandwich or their Mac & Cheese? Click here for more of my Chick-fil-A clone recipes.
The first Auntie Anne's pretzel store opened in 1988 in the heart of pretzel country—a Pennsylvanian Amish farmers' market. Over 500 stores later, Auntie Anne's is one of the most requested secret clone recipes around, especially on the internet. Many of the copycat Auntie Anne's soft pretzel recipes passed around the Web require bread flour, and some use honey as a sweetener. But by studying the Auntie Anne's home pretzel-making kit in the secret underground laboratory, I've discovered a better solution for re-creating the delicious mall treats than any clone recipe out there. For the best quality dough, you just need all-purpose flour. And powdered sugar works great to perfectly sweeten the dough. Now you just have to decide if you want to make the more traditional salted pretzels, or the sweet cinnamon sugar-coated kind. Decisions, decisions.
Menu Description: "Delicate white cake and lemon cream filling with a vanilla crumb topping."
To make this clone easy I've designed the recipe with white cake mix. I picked Betty Crocker brand, but any white cake mix you find will do. Just know that each brand (Duncan Hines, Pillsbury, etc.) requires slightly different measurements of additional ingredients (oil, eggs). Follow the directions on the box for mixing the batter, then pour it into 2 greased 9-inch cake pans and bake until done. The filling recipe is a no-brainer and the crumb topping is quick. When your Olive Garden lemon cream cake recipe is assembled, stick it in the fridge for a few hours, and soon you'll be ready to serve 12 slices of the hacked signature dessert.
Menu Description: “Creamy marsala wine sauce with mushrooms over grilled chicken breasts, stuffed with Italian cheeses and sundried tomatoes. Served with garlic mashed potatoes.”
This recipe includes a marsala sauce that even marsala sauce haters will like. My wife is one of those haters, but when she tried this sauce, her eyes lit up and she begged for more. That’s great, now I won’t have to eat alone.
Not only is Olive Garden's delicious marsala sauce hacked here (and it’s easy to make), you’ll also get the copycat hack for the chain's awesome Italian cheese stuffing that goes between the two pan-cooked chicken fillets. Build it, sauce it, serve it. The presentation is awesome, and the flavor will soothe your soul.
Try this dish paired with my recent clone of Olive Garden’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes for the complete O.G. Stuffed Chicken Marsala experience.
It took chefs several years to develop what would eventually become KFC's most clucked about new product launch in the chain's 57-year history. With between 70 to 180 calories and four to nine grams of fat, depending on the piece, the new un-fried chicken is being called "KFC's second secret recipe," and "a defining moment in our brand's storied history" in a company press release. The secret recipe for the new grilled chicken is now stored on an encrypted computer flash drive next to the Colonel's handwritten original fried chicken recipe in an electronic safe at KFC company headquarters. 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 50 years," she said. "It beats anything we've ever done."
When I heard about all the commotion over this new secret recipe I immediately locked myself up in the underground lab with a 12-piece bucket of the new grilled chicken, plus a sample I obtained of the proprietary seasoning blend, and got right to work. After days of nibbling through what amounts to a small flock of hens, I'm happy to bring you this amazing cloned version of this fast food phenomenon so that you can now reproduce it in your own kitchen. Find the smallest chicken you can for this KFC grilled chicken copycat recipe, since KFC uses young hens. Or better yet save some dough by finding a small whole chicken and cut it up yourself. The secret preparation process requires that you marinate (brine) your chicken for a couple hours in a salt and MSG solution. This will make the chicken moist all of the way through and give it great flavor. 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 also ensure that the chicken doesn't stick to the pan. The liquid smoke in the oil gives the chicken a smoky flavor as if it had been cooked on an open flame barbecue grill.
The grilled chicken at KFC is probably cooked on ribbed metal plates in specially designed convection ovens to get those grill marks. I duplicated that 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 just sear the chicken in any large oven safe saute 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 8-piece bucket of delicious indoor grilled chicken that's as tasty as the fried stuff, but without all the fat.