31 October, 2008

The KFC $10 Challenge: Up Yours, Colonel

You've probably seen the Kentucky Fried Chicken "$10 Challenge" ads, where Mom and her two sprogs decide they can't make a fried chicken dinner for under ten bucks. They flail around the supermarket trying to purchase the ingredients for seven pieces of fried chicken, four biscuits, and a small tub of mashed potatoes. Foiled in their quest, they give up and go to KFC.

Most of the time, I like KFC. But I hate commercials that think I'm stupid, and this is one of them. Of course it's going to cost you more than ten bucks to make this barebones, no-vegetables-included "meal" if you're going to buy, say, a five-pound bag of flour to coat seven pieces of chicken and make four biscuits. Most people who cook have all the ingredients (except maybe the chicken) in their kitchen already. So why don't we look at the real cost of making a seven-piece fried chicken dinner?

First, let's talk about seasoning. Supposedly, KFC uses "11 secret herbs and spices" to season their chicken. As much as I enjoy Kentucky Fried Chicken, I suspect that the list is closer to "1 secret MSG, 1 secret pepper, and 9 secret Salts." So let's ignore the bullshit in the ad's voiceover that says, "without our secret recipe, you can't cook it at all." We'll be using Bell's Seasoning, salt, and pepper, and not allowing KFC to weasel out on a technicality.

  • 1 whole 4-pound chicken - cut up at home, giblets and abdominal fat reserved; two wings, two breasts, two thighs, two drumsticks; I usually pay .79 / pound for chicken, so this bird will cost $3.16
  • 2 cups of flour for coating using the traditional flour/eggwash/flour method. Store brand flour at Stop & Shop is $2.29 for a five pound bag, or 3 cents an ounce. Two cups of flour weigh about 6 ounces, for a total cost of $0.36.
  • To season the flour, we'll use a tablespoon of Bell's Seasoning, which costs $1.99 per box. Each box contains 14 teaspoons, at a cost of 14 cents per teaspoon. A tablespoon of it will cost us $0.42.
  • We'll also need salt and pepper. Two teaspoons of salt cost about a penny. A tablespoon of ground black pepper costs about a quarter. So there's another $0.26.
  • I pay $1.79 for a dozen eggs (15 cents each.) I use two eggs for the egg wash, costing $0.30.
  • Milk (for the egg wash) is probably the most expensive item on this list, since I buy it at a local dairy and pay $2.50 for a half-gallon. Even so, that makes the quarter cup used here just $0.16 worth.
If I include the cost of the oil needed to cook the chicken (a generously estimated 12 ounces at 8 cents an ounce, or $0.96) the total comes to $5.62.


I'm going to cheat and use Bisquick, since my "from scratch" biscuits always come out kind of crappy. A 40-ounce box of Bisquick costs $3.49. One batch of biscuits needs 2¼ cups of Bisquick (90 cents) and 2/3 cup of milk (21 cents). That's $1.11 for twelve delicious biscuits.


Potatoes at my local produce store are 29 cents a pound. Let's be really generous and make a two-pound batch of potatoes. That will cost us $0.58.

Butter at Costco is about $2.00 a pound, so the lump of butter I'll use in the potatoes will cost $0.40. The milk in the potatoes - about 6 ounces or so - will cost another $0.24. for a total of $1.22.

By making gravy with the reserved chicken fat and giblets, we can make a little more than a cup of gravy for the cost of the flour - 6 cents. But we can cheat a little here, too, and use an envelope of chicken bouillon to bump up the flavor a bit. That means our gravy now costs $0.27.



That comes in well under the challenge amount, and the food is fresher and of better quality. And there's still room in the budget for the vegetables that KFC leaves out.

You lose, KFC.


Anonymous said...

I love it!

Mr. Dave said...

--Oooh, I hated the Colonel, with his wee beady eyes and that smug look on his face. "Oooh you're gonna buy my chicken, oooh…”--
-Mike Meyers, So I Married An Axe Murderer

How did the chicken turn out? I always liked Popeye's better anyways, KFC is lame.

Michele said...

You've done your research Dave!

The KFC commercial is just another example of the media's "dumb down America" campaign. As long as these ad campaigns are successful they will never go away.

We had fried chicken last night at a cost of $0. I went to the grocery store and used my Greenpoints on a box of deli fried chicken.

I agree....up yours Colonel! :-)

Kate said...

I love it too..the commercials on TV are rarely funny and mostly condescending...

Tanner Christensen said...

They're liars, of course. How else would they sell their product if they didn't lie to the public about it? :)

I'm glad somebody looked into it a bit further and helped prove KFC wrong!

Boost Ventilator said...

One additional factor to consider is time/labour...but it isn't a big deal when you consider the freshness and quality of the home made version.

Anonymous said...

You should factor in time.

you start when you feel like eating a chicken meal.

so you should calculate your time in store, and fuel costs. Then preparation cooking and clean up.


Driving to KFC (again fuel costs). Then clean up after KFC.

Depending on how much you value your time per hour will probably fluxuate your real economic utility to a homemade meal.

Dave said...

Time and labor are not part of the challenge; the people in the commercial give up when their material costs supposedly exceed $10. Suddenly throwing labor and time considerations is a distraction akin to the announcer's line about "you can't make it because you don't have the secret recipe."

Remember that I have to be in the kitchen cooking dinner and washing up no matter what I cook, just as KFC is going to have employees working the shift.

vickierice said...

Amen, brother! While I was watching that idiotic commercial, I was thinking 'How stupid do they think the public is?' I'm glad you did all the work to debunk the claim. Of course, I'm sure your chicken was plumper than theirs too!

Sarah said...

Thank you for tackling this issue, Dave. Those KFC commercials are completely inane and irritating. Unfortunately, Applebee's must have decided that KFC is on to something because that chain is now airing similar commercials. As Michele points out, those ad campaigns will stick around so long as they are successful with some people.

They don't work with me, though. I cook 5 out of 7 dinners per week and make my own lunches as well. I've done the math, too, and cooking basic meals at home costs less than eating in a restaurant, especially when you don't eat meat at every meal.

As for Anonymous' comment regarding the time factor, I understand that home cooking requires time. It's an issue I wrestle with every evening as I drive home from work. As an attorney in private practice (married to a husband with an equally time-sucking job), it's not like I can devote hours to dinner. What I have discovered, though, is that I do not need to spend hours or lots of money on a decent home-cooked meal. Most of my meals take 45 minutes from start to finish, and I have the security of knowing exactly how much fat and salt when into the preparation. As for cleanup, in my house, the person who does not do the cooking does the clean-up.

The Dining Car Chef said...

Hi Dave,
Now you can debunk the corn Industry's HFC commercial where they make the Poor pedson who tries to tell their friend about HFC's look like a dumbass!

Wallace said...

I must admit. I would probably pay the extra $2 so they can do it and I don't have to prep, cook, and clean all the stuff involved. When I go to a restaurant my motto in selecting my entree is usually:
1) What do I want?
2) What would be a pain in the a$$ to cook at home vs ordering out?
3) Cost (I'm cheap :-)