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.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
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
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
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

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    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...

    Day In a Page

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style