Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version. Oscar Quine tucks in

When Christopher Columbus returned from discovering the Americas, he brought with him Europe's first bottle of barbecue sauce. Along with later colonists, he also had introduced the "sacred fire pits" of the Caribbean to mainland America. Soon, something similar to what we now know as pulled pork had emerged as the food de rigeur at communal gatherings in the infant country.

"Pulled meat, or 'pig pickin' as they often call it in America, was literally about taking the skin off a pig once it was cooked and everyone just pulling it apart," says Charles Banks, co-founder of global food trends agency thefoodpeople, which was recently tasked with researching the secrets of barbecue for none other than KFC.

Now a speciality of Memphis, pulled pork has found ubiquity in the UK thanks to our insatiable hunger for US barbecue. Every supermarket in the country offers up a grey-brown, cellophane-entombed version of the meat. Sainsbury's has it in a burrito or on a pizza. Tesco serves it in a pie or a salad. Waitrose does pulled pork burgers and a stew. And Asda mixes it into a bake with wedges and a tangy cheese sauce.

This week, fast-food chain KFC got in on the act with the launch of a burger containing "pulled" chicken, created after Banks went on a fact-finding mission to the US's barbecue belt. KFC's version comes coated in a "Kansas black" dressing of molasses, vinegar and seasoning. It's served with two KFC mini-fillets, so "people get a little bit of something they know", says Louise Direito, the chain's innovation manager.

None of which are likely to be something that Neil Rankin, chef at London restaurant The Smokehouse and all-round barbecue expert who has appeared on the Great British Menu, will be eating any time soon. "If someone asked me 'how do you mass-produce pulled meat without a barbecue?', I'd say you don't," he says. "The best pulled meat is smoked. Artificial smoke flavour is often used in sauce to try to mimic that. And then there'll be too much sauce to try to keep the meat moist."

KFC overcomes the moisture problem with that black dressing, which to me tastes a bit like watered-down sandwich pickle. Strictly speaking, says Rankin, there's nothing wrong with pulling chicken. He's done it a few times at home and he doesn't just serve pulled pork at his restaurant. The menu includes versions with goat, lamb and beef brisket.

But, he hastens to add, just because you can, it doesn't mean you should. "Most places I've eaten pulled meat, it's pretty shit," he says. "People over-pull it. It becomes really stringy. You can't even taste it because they've used so much sauce. A lot of people have treated it as a bandwagon because it's easy to do – but it's difficult to get right."

This, Rankin says, takes "a long fucking time". He cooks a joint for 15 hours at 100-110C. Then, he says, you have to be gentle when you shred it. "It's not like duck confit. You want chunks. You have to pull it with some sort of liquid, usually the fat, and cool it in that liquid too so it starts to suck it up and get really juicy."

So how does KFC's pigless version square up? The version that I taste (there are three products on the menu featuring the pulled poultry, with prices starting at £1.79) comes in a brioche bun, with the Kentucky black marinade and a new "Southern style" coleslaw. Thanks to the inclusion of those mini-fillets though, the overriding flavour is of a KFC. The pepper-heavy batter, carried by the hum of fryer oil, coats the mouth. But texture is just as important with fast food and the sticky, sweet, tender meat certainly helps ease the whole thing down. Authentic or not, I'm afraid to say that it looks as though I've pulled.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam