How KFC Australia Makes Its Chicken

We were invited to KFC's flagship store in Mascot NSW to see how the company makes its chicken first-hand. We were shown every step of the process; from how meat is stored and prepared to the various ways KFC keeps its "secret" herbs and spices out of the hands of suppliers. Read on for a full kitchen tour.

Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its first Australian store in 1968. Since then, more than 600 stores have sprung up, serving some two million customers per week. Over the past 46 years, the way KFC prepares and cooks its chicken has changed in several notable ways. Today, the emphasis is on finding a reasonable balance between taste and nutrition - particularly through the use of different cooking oils. Here's how the process currently stands, from the delivery truck to the front counter.

Each KFC store contains three industrial-sized refrigerators that are kept at optimal temperatures for different foodstuffs, ranging from three degrees Celsius to well below freezing. Each refrigerator has two handles for cleanliness purposes: only the red handle may be touched by raw food handlers.

KFC's chicken is delivered fresh daily and kept in cold storage (not frozen). The company currently employs three different suppliers: Turi Foods, Baiada/Steggles and Inghams. All chickens are delivered pre-cut and unfloured. "It's basically the same chicken you're going to get at Woolworths or Coles," Ben, KFC Mascot's store manager told us.

One interesting tidbit we learned is that the legs, breasts and wings all come from separate birds: this is because each body part reaches its optimum size at a different stage in the chicken's life cycle.

While KFC flours its own chicken in store, Zinger fillets arrive pre-marinated in the company's signature spicy sauce. (Good news for heat fans: KFC confirmed to us that Hot & Spicy is returning to stores soon. Hurrah!)

Each crate of chicken is clearly labeled with a use-by-date, batch code and the precise moment that the chickens were killed. "If there ever a [quality] issue or customer complaint, we can go back to the supplier and get them to isolate that whole product," Ben said.

As you'd expect, KFC has a very strict policy of not selling food that passes its use-by-date. Staff are forbidden from taking home out-of-date stock; even if it's only one day out of date. Generally, batches of chicken will be usable for five days from the date of delivery, although they are usually sold within two days.

The freezer is where KFC stores its high-volume side offerings such as popcorn chicken and nuggets. These are the only items that KFC keeps frozen and doesn't flour itself in store.

While KFC's meat products undergo extensive food safety checks, its flour is sort of just dumped in a corner. Weird.

Here it is: the fabled "11 secret herbs and spices" mix. According to Ben, the company's policy of only revealing the recipe to two executives at any one time is fact, not folklore. "In Australia, we also use two different suppliers who are each responsible for half of the mix. Both are sworn to secrecy and neither knows what the other puts in."

KFC's cookers come in two varieties. The models to the left are called "eight head" cookers: they're responsible for original recipe pieces and can fry eight birds simultaneously, hence the name. The circular cookers to the right are used for spicy Zinger varieties and can cook six birds at once.

In 2012, KFC Australia made the switch from imported palm oil to locally produced canola oil. This involved a significant investment including the training of farmers to ensure the business was sustainable.

This oven takes care of customers who prefer KFC's non-fried offerings, such as the grilled chicken Taster Box. As you've doubtlessly noted, it's somewhat smaller than the fryers. We're guessing demand isn't that huge.

As mentioned, KFC's Original Recipe chicken is floured and breaded in store. Each piece is briefly immersed in water, shaken dry and then dipped in the bread mix.

Although done by hand, the flouring process follows a very strict procedure to ensure uniformity across the franchise. Each piece is pressed into the flour, patted down and shaken an identical number of times using a specific set of actions.

The final step is deep frying. KFC's cookers are designed to house a set combination of chicken pieces: each tray contains two legs, two thighs, two ribs, two wings and one breast. This is the main reason KFC doesn't let customers request specific pieces when purchasing chicken combos. (We always thought they were just being stingy.)

Finally, the finished product ends up in the display box behind the front counter, ready for serving.

Each batch of chicken has a set time that it needs to be sold by. Anything left over after the time limit expires is binned and replaced.

To see the preparation and frying process in action, check out the video clip below:

This story has been updated from its original publication.


    I'd be willing to bet that most stores never stick to the serve-by time for cooked chicken. A same system applies at McDonald's, and when I worked there, rarely did we pay much attention to the timers. Had we done so, it would've resulted in a lot of wasted product.

      You'd win that bet.

      I hope they NEVER stick to the serve-by time, why on earth would you want to waste so much chicken!!?

    What, no Frankenchickens?

    "Anything left over after the time limit expires is binned and replaced."
    Or eaten by staff. At least, that's what I'd do if I worked there.

    That's how it works in the flagship store. Go to one of the suburban franchises and you'll find a very, very different story.

    I really wish KFC Head Office (or whatever they want to go by), actually did some quality control on their franchises. I'm completely turned off it now, all because my local KFC is utterly crap at pretty much everything. It's annoyed me that much I've even gone so far as to write letters to KFC's Head Office here in Australia to complain about them, but alas, they remain the same. It's pretty clear to me they don't actually care about the quality of their products (or service), this is just a PR stunt.

      Yeah, some franchises are pretty bad. Road tripped across the state this past weekend and the Hungry Jacks I visited for lunch was nothing like my regular one. Yuck.

        Same here.
        I'm pretty much off KFC altogether as all the ones I've been too in the last few years is always too oily.
        And Hungry Jacks, such a love hate relationship. I F#$%ing love Whoppers so much! But damn quality is so all over the place sometimes.

        The thing is, McDonalds seem to have QA down pat; I nearly never have issues with my food, and when I do and complain, I usually find it's because they are training up a new staff member (whether that's true or just used as a scapegoat I don't know, but regardless it's very infrequent Macca's quality is overall extremely consistent).

      salmonella is so easy to propagate that anything chicken could potentially kill a whole days served customers if your not careful. I wouldn't buy KFC or even any chicken for that matter.
      I was trained as a chef if you knew how fast salmonella bacteria grows you wouldn't buy ready made chicken either. when was a boy under 12 we used to have two chickens for Xmas dinner. the demand for Chicken now a days is so high they obviously need to feed the chickens steroids to keep up with demand 75,000 chickens in one barn at a time and 7 barns in one chicken farm is absurd and the stench that comes from those barns astronomical how anyone could work in there is beyond me, and your eating those steroids how many times a week HAAHaha not something that's actually legal in the sports arena. Go figure.

        Steroids haven't been legal in chickens for a LONG time.

          Farmers stopped their use before then anyway. It cost more to give them roids than they got in return for larger chooks.

        It's your boy Robbie with the fake news. Too many American Netflix docos, methinks.

    On average, I would say that KFCs do seem to be one of the grimier fast food chains. And yet every so often my brain is just utterly insistent that I need KFC. Stupid brain.

    That was a nice read, was kind of hoping it was wherever the popcorn chicken and nuggets were made though.

      Popcorn chicken and nuggets are cooked on the same open fryer used to make their chips. No different to McD and any other outlets serving fried chips.

    Oh the stories that flood back to me of the times negating these in store procedures. Just FYI the first ingredient listed on the seasoning pack, Mono Sodium Glutumate.

      What's wrong with monosodium glutamate?

        Gotta love comments on 3 year old stories :) MSG has a bad rap, but its all based around allergies. Its one of the most common non essential amino acids, found in a lot of foods from tomatoes to cheese.

        Plus it also has a horribly chemical sounding name. If it was known as shiny salt, I doubt the public reaction would be nearly as bad.

          Slow reply here, i know - I only check into Lifehacker AU periodically, usually lurk around the US side. Didn't even notice the article was 3 years old! (Probably linked to it from a related article).

          As far as MSG goes, it really does have a bad rap! Even scientific studies and testing can't prove a link between MSG and Chinese Restaurant Syndrome or allergies (apparently, the results were similar with placebos for those who had any sort of reaction).

          Personally, I love the umami taste, and am quite happy to sprinkle liberally into my Japanese or Chinese cooking.

          Last edited 08/04/18 11:49 am

      Ha yeah, MSG. No surprises there. Not that I mind. Most tasty food has it.

      Lovely natural ingredient. Backyard tomatoes I'm growing have it also, very tasty.

    Interesting that those with facial hair aren't required to wear a face cover.

      Front counter staff aren't allowed to have facial hair. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

        I worked IT in a food processing place awhile back. Had to have your face covered if you had 2 days growth or more.

    Seems weird they keep there chicken chilled not frozen except for high volume products they freeze. Wouldn't be the other way around?

      I believe the issue is the flour: they don't have time to flour thousands of tiny chicken pieces each day and the floured chicken presumably requires freezing or it'll go weird and soggy.

      Fresh is always best and that goes the same for the chicken. They can keep some frozen chicken for times that they run out but mostly it's fresh. The problem with quality from store to store is that each store manager is basically paid a pittance and they only way they can make it worth their while is the bonus's they're paid if they can keep the profit margins high and you can guess how that happens :) = why you get rubber chips and dry chicken that should have been thrown out hours ago. All this has to happen hidden from upper management's regular visits.. who by the way do everything possible to save money also (bigger bonus).
      *yes I worked at KFC for nearly 10 years*

    Why does that yellow crate of fresh chicken have a 2014 expiry date?

      Because this is a story from then. Look at the first comments.

    I worked at KFC in the UK for a year. As Cook it was my responsibility to bin the old product, which I took very seriously. I took my store from averaging 50s on their internal reviews to high 90s in those areas. Many people were annoyed with the amount of waste, but I didn't care and they never actually complained about it.

    I moved to Sudbury, where the local KFC was franchised. They hired me as a cook, and then explained the way things were done there. They didn't have any scrap chicken at the end of the day. They left it there until it was sold. When I went home from my first day, I reported them to the YUM hotline, ignored all of their phone calls and got another job.

    Last edited 03/02/18 6:17 pm

    That looks like a nasty arm burn at 1:45 in the video.
    Hope it's healed since the video was shot.

    Use-by 17-Nov-2014? I won't be having any of that KFC thank you very much, it's just a little past its use-by date.

    I know people who work for KFC, and none of them would eat their products.

    Aussie KFC is horrible. I thought it was the northern lights, but having KFC in Amsterdam was amazing, and so was Poland.

    Would be more impressed if you told how the chicken farmers only get 50-70c per chicken from guys like KFC.

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