Friday, April 9, 2010

What's in my...? Chicken: Maltodextrin

KFC lists maltodextrin as the first ingredient in the "seasoned with" category of its grilled chicken. Maltodextrin is one of those ingredients that's sounds common enough to me that I assume it's relatively innocuous whenever I see it listed on an ingredient label, but I've never really bothered to find out what it actually is. My first thought was that maybe it's similar to whatever's in malted milk balls...not that I really know what those are made from, of course! Turns out that it may very well pop up in a malted milk ball from time to time, but as the sugar component rather than the malted milk.

Maltodextrin is a carbohydrate made from either corn, potatoes or rice (the label doesn't have to specify which.) It's less sweet than cane sugar so it's often used in low-carb foods or artificial sweeteners like Splenda. So, is it going to kill you? Probably not, at least not before one of the other ingredients in the meal (like partially hydrogenated oils or MSG) gets to you. The better question is, why in the world is there sugar in your grilled chicken? And why is it listed six ingredients before KFC's "secret Kentucky spices," which I would assume would be the primary seasoning in such a dish?

Sugar in chicken isn't my taste, but it would make sense in something like a honey roasted recipe. In this case, though, it seems to be just a filler and one more unnecessary sugar used as a flavor enhancer. Personally, I'd rather allot my daily sugar allowance for the good stuff - homemade strawberry cake, perhaps? - than find it cropping up in my chicken meals!

Quick: other than flour, name one ingredient you'd find in a recipe for both grilled chicken and strawberry cake?

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