Taste test in the golden age of the fast food chicken sandwich

Chicken sandwich taste test...

We’re living in the golden age of the chicken sandwich.

Fried chicken sandwiches are popping up on more menus across the country, according to data from the menu research firm Datassential.

Chick-fil-A has transformed from a regional chain to a national chicken powerhouse, managing to lift annual sales by more than $1 billion in a year.

Restaurant chains that aren’t even known for chicken are looking to poultry to appeal to more consumers and in turn boost sales, Nation’s Retaurant News recently reported.

McDonald’s completely overhauled its chicken sandwich, and Shake Shack unveiled one of the best sandwiches ever made in 2016.

David Chang fanned the flames with the chicken-sandwich-focused Fuku, the most hyped addition to the trendy Momofuku empire.

In light of this crispy, golden renaissance, we decided to gather the chicken sandwiches from major fast-food chains and see which ones are worth it — and which ones are better left untouched.


For this taste-test showdown, we got sandwiches from seven major fast-food chains: McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Dairy Queen, KFC, and Chick-fil-A.


First up: McDonald’s. The recent revamp of its chicken sandwich brought some much-needed change to the chain. The ‘buttermilk crispy chicken’ sandwich is indeed crispy — in fact, perhaps a little heavy on the breading.

The chicken is slightly on the dry side, but there is a definite hint of tangy buttermilk seasoning. Unfortunately, it often gets masked by a glob of mayonnaise — the usual for this sandwich, based on our reviews before. The ‘artisan’ bun does the job well, holding up to the heaping helping of mayo without getting too soggy.

Burger King’s ‘tendercrisp chicken sandwich’ is … not the best. It’s soggy and saucy; the outrageous amounts of mayonnaise mixes with the watery and weak tomato slice to form a strange, warm slurry beneath the bun.

The chicken is juicy, but salt seems to be the only hint of flavor here. A hunk of gristle — or something — brought the taste-test to an abrupt end. My advice: Don’t go to Burger King for the chicken. It’s not ‘Chicken King,’ and at this rate it never will be.

Wendy’s chicken has always impressed me, at least as far as fast-food chicken can. There’s a crispy, thick fillet with a modest amount of mayo; the iceberg lettuce, however, is a bit of a letdown.

The bun is dolefully spongy, but it stays dry in the face of mayonnaise and a wet tomato slice. Wendy’s isn’t the most amazing of chicken sandwiches, but it’s the old faithful, the decent standby.

Of all the sandwiches, Arby’s is the most unexpected. First, finding that Arby’s even serves a fried chicken sandwich was a learning moment. Secondly, it’s surprisingly good. The chicken is quite tender but has a satisfyingly crunchy breading.

There’s a lot of mayonnaise — the bane of chicken sandwiches everywhere, evidently — but it tastes like real store-brand mayo, which is something of a silver lining. The bun is fantastically soft yet stays dry, and the tomato is flavorful and strong.

Dairy Queen — I’ll preface this by saying how much I adore the Blizzard. I do not expect much of the food, yet even then I am sorely disappointed. Such a sad, sad sandwich. The crispy chicken sandwich is a swampy debacle with far too much mayonnaise and a bun that deteriorates in hand — much like one’s hopes of this sandwich being a decent and enjoyable meal.

The meat is incredibly bland, the tomato is pallid, and the sorrowful shreds of iceberg lettuce add nothing positive to the equation. “That’s … rough,” one taste-test helper said. Please, Dairy Queen, keep making great ice cream treats and stop making food.

KFC’s chicken sandwich, overshadowed by the ghost of the infamous chicken-on-bacon-on-cheese-on-chicken ‘double down,’ is called the ‘doublicious.’ It’s a crispy fillet draped with strips of bacon on top of rich and subtle Monterrey Jack cheese and a slightly spicy sauce.

This sandwich is really, really good. It doesn’t fit within the chicken-tomato-lettuce-mayo tradition of sandwiches, but the flavors are notably nuanced for a fast-food sandwich. The thin chicken is well seasoned with pepper, buttermilk, and whatever the Colonel’s elusive herbs and spices may be. The sauce is likely a mixture of mayonnaise and barbecue sauce, which adds a vinegary kick without overwhelming the sandwich. It’s not as salty as one would expect, as the slightly sweet bun counteracts the bacon.

Chick-fil-A’s revered chicken sandwich is iconic for a reason. Man, it’s a hot one — the foil envelope it comes in keeps it steaming hot for a long, long time. There is a sweetness to the bun, which pairs well with the savory chicken.

The chicken breast isn’t that crispy, but it’s incredibly juicy and tender, and the taste is smooth and fresh. The pickles add a delightful crunch and piquant notes. An elegant simplicity surrounds this sandwich: bun, chicken, pickle. It’s a humble sandwich with little pretense.

Chick-fil-A’s deluxe is another beast entirely, which is why it has to be included in this as well. If we’re going to be shallow and base things purely on looks, this sandwich is the most beautiful thing we have ever laid eyes on. Perfectly ruffled lettuce, melted cheese draped like silks in a Dutch still life, and an unblemished bun — it’s a sight to behold.

As far as taste goes, it’s fantastic; however, it feels … complicated. The chicken — arguably the best part of any Chick-fil-A sandwich, is muffled within the cheese, thick tomato slice, and puffed-up bun.

Of all the sandwiches, KFC’s flavors and quality seemed to shine through — a beacon of crispiness and depth. And even though it has bacon and cheese added on (what is this, a wannabe club sandwich?), the Colonel’s mysterious seasoning gives it the best taste and crunch. But I have to say — Chick-fil-A’s simple, modest, classic sandwich is almost always a winner and pleases even the pickiest of palates.

[From an article by Hollis Johnson, written for BUSINESS INSIDER]


As always, posted for your edification and enlightenment by

NORM ‘n’ AL, Minneapolis


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