Next week we are launching a new design, and this blog post may give you a hint at what this new food t-shirt will feature. As you may know, the fast food world has been busy participating in an industry-wide fried chicken sandwich competition. Popeyes come out with their fried chicken sandwich back in August 2019. Promptly, Chick-fil-A shot back with a tweeted back staking claim that their fried chicken sandwich was the original. From that moment the competition kicked off. Then more fast food joints joined the fried chicken sandwich train, and a full on war ensued throughout the whole industry. Before we knew it almost every fast food restaurant had a fried chicken sandwich. Now in 2021, everywhere you turn there is some version of a fried chicken sandwich on the menu.
We wanted to see what all the buzz was about so Martina, our Yummiewear artist, and I visited seven different fast food joints. We took several bites out of each of their fried chicken sandwiches, and took notes. After testing each sandwich, pretty quickly we were able to identify some key features that make a fried chicken sandwich delicious. We are not the first to review chicken fried sandwiches at each of these places, but we believe that everyone has their own unique perspective on how they qualify taste, texture and overall flavor. Considering different perspectives can yield a better decision-making process. Here is what we discovered and the methodology we used to rank each sandwich.
By the way, if you are wondering how to make your own fried chicken sandwich check out our post on 5 EXPERT RECIPE TIPS FOR THE BEST FRIED CHICKEN SANDWICH IN 2021. In this blog post we review the top fried chicken sandwich recipes online and we identify the key ingredients and processes to make the best sandwich at home.
Methodology we used to determine who has the best fried chicken sandwich.
Martina went to Popeyes, Church’s Chicken and Chick-fil-A. She was in the southeast and these fast food joints were easily accessible. She had hopes of trying out Taco Bell’s version of the fried chicken sandwich, but a local Taco Bell manager told her that they are currently testing them out in limited locations on the west coast. So we’ll have to table this one for now.
Meanwhile, in the Northeast, I went to Wendy’s, KFC, McDonald’s and Burger King. We each tested different batches of sandwiches, and neither tried out each other’s. As a result, we had to come up with a way to determine how to rank all the sandwiches against each other, and we soon settled on using a quantifiable format that would allow us to score the sandwiches and thus better rank them. But, to do that we first had to identify the features that the ultimate fried chicken should have. After comparing our notes we were able to come up with a list of characteristics. Here is what we determined to be the most outstanding characteristics. The best chicken fried sandwich has:
- A toasted and flavorful bun.
- A condiment that complements the sandwich and also covers the whole sandwich adequately.
- Accompaniments like pickles, lettuce or tomato that were fresh, crispy, and that added,not subtracted, from the overall flavor palette.
- A nice thick piece of chicken that is juicy and covered in a well-seasoned crispy batter.
- An appropriate price tag for the value and size.
In a spreadsheet, we then created a column for each of these characteristics, breaking them down a bit more. For each characteristic we would either add a point if that particular sandwich met the criteria or subtract a point if it failed to meet it. Not every sandwich had the same accompaniments or condiments so we would leave a zero where it did not apply. If a particular accompaniment and condiment added or detracted, we would value it with our point system accordingly. Using this methodology, a picture started to quickly develop. Prior to doing this we already had a rough list of rankings that we based off discussions of our written notes, and after comparing them against our quantifiable format it almost all checked out. Only one ranking discrepancy occurred between number 7 and number 6, but we’ll explain that later.
So without a further ado, starting from worst to best, here is the how all the chicken fried sandwiches stacked up!
So, who has the best fried chicken sandwich?
7. Burger King
Pros: The sandwich had a thick chicken thigh coated in a buttermilk based breadcrumb batter which made it nice and crispy. It had a very generous amount of pickles, lettuce and tomato (this was both a pro and a con). The price was comparable to the other ones but it felt proportionate to all the things you were getting and the size of the sandwich.
Cons: The chicken wasn’t very tender, and in the end there was just too much tomato and lettuce. The amount of lettuce made it hard to take a bite without lettuce falling out, and two slices of tomato was too much. Still, probably the worst thing about this sandwich was the mayo-based condiment. It is ultimately what led to its last place ranking. The condiment was a mayo-based ranch-like concoction that just had way too much vinegar in it. The strange sauce just overpowered the flavor palette of the whole sandwich rendering it somewhat inedible after a few bites.
What does Burger King’s fried chicken sandwich come with?
Mayo-based (unidentifiable) sauce, lettuce, tomato and pickles.
Pros: The overall flavor of the bun and chicken was good, but you had to overlook a handful of missteps.
Cons: The brioche bun was dry and burnt, and the chicken was thin with seemingly unseasoned batter. Fortunately, the chicken wasn’t dry. The sandwich came with only two pickles, a rather disappointing quantity that didn’t cover the whole sandwich. But, worst of all it had no condiment — no mayo or anything to save the sandwich from its shortcomings. The six dollar price tag seemed to be steep for everything you were not getting with this sandwich.
What does McDonalds’s fried chicken sandwich come with?
Side note: As we had mentioned earlier, there was an instance where quantifying our data fell short and we had to override. Here’s what happened. Martina and I debated the last place for a while. Using our quantitative method, McDonalds actually proved to be in the last place. However, in this particular case we were not able to accurately quantify the damage that BK’s strange vinegary ranch-tasting condiment did to the overall sandwich. Without the condiment the sandwich would have been better than McDonalds. However, this mayo-based blunder just overpowered everything in the sandwich. It tanked BK’s chances of beating McDonalds. In the case of these two fried chicken sandwiches, we had to manually adjust to better reflect the verdict.
Pros: The bun was nice and the chicken was juicy. The sandwich also had a healthy serving of mayo and pickles. You would get a piece of pickle, tomato and lettuce with each bite. The batter didn’t appear to have any seasoning, but in the case of this sandwich it didn’t really need any.
Cons: The chicken was on the thinner side, and the sandwich was breaded with just regular breadcrumbs.t Additionally, the six dollar price tag was hard to stomach. It seemed steep for the value and size.
What does Wendy’s fried chicken sandwich come with?
Mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickles.
4. Chick Fil-A
Pros: This sandwich had a nice brioche bun and the chicken was super juicy. It was accompanied by fresh crunchy pickles which added to the overall flavor palette of this sandwich. The price of the sandwich was fair and comparatively appropriate when compared to the fried chicken sandwich market.
Cons: Unfortunately, the sandwich didn’t come with any mayo. However, the juiciness of the chicken made up for this some. At Chick Fil A all condiments come as side in packets, so I suppose you could have added one of their signature sauces to the sandwich. Nonetheless, some mayo would have scored it more points. Lastly, there were just not enough pickles. In fact, Martina had to bite her way all the way to the end to get some pickle-chicken combo into her mouth.
What does Chick Fil-A’s fried chicken sandwich come with?
3. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
Pros: This sandwich had a really nice thick piece of chicken that was both juicy and crispy featuring a well-seasoned batter. It also had a nice amount of mayo. The four dollar price tag was pretty fair when compared to other sandwiches and when considering its nice chunky chicken.
Cons: It seems that with many sandwiches it’s a hit or miss with the pickles, and in the case of the KFC fried chicken sandwich it’s a definite miss. There were not enough pickles in this sandwich! Two pickles just doesn’t cut it.
What does KFC’s fried chicken sandwich come with?
Mayo and pickles
Pros: Overall, this was a great sandwich. It had a nice brioche bun, a really nice thick and juicy piece of chicken that was also crispy and well-seasoned. The sandwich also had a generous portion of mayo and pickles, and the price was appropriate for the size and value when compared to all others.
Cons: None of the sandwiches thus far have a toasted bun or at very least a noticeably toasted bun. Popeyes fell short here as well. The untoasted bun is what ultimately kept it from a tie with the number one spot.
What does Popeyes’s fried chicken sandwich come with?
Mayo and pickles
1. Church’s Chicken
Pros: This baby had it all! It had a toasted, sweet brioche bun. The chicken was super thick and juicy, and the batter was crunchy and crispy in all the good ways. The batter was also well seasoned, but didn’t overpower the overall flavor. The sandwich featured a generous amount of mayo and pickles. Every bite was consistent and super flavorful.
Cons: None other than the super long wait. However, we chose not to account for this in our rankings because the awesomeness of this sandwich made up for it, and this Church’s Chicken location happened to be overwhelmed with orders that day.
What does Popeyes’s fried chicken sandwich come with?
Mayo and pickles.
What did we learn from this experience? Well, three things really.
1. A chicken sandwich must come with certain basics.
If we have learned anything here, it’s that the perfect fried chicken sandwich should come with two crucial basics — a nice amount of mayo and pickles. Unless you have an aversion to mayo, both the mayo and the pickles greatly elevate the sandwich no matter how juicy and well battered the chicken is.
2. The difference between first place and second place is separated by a small yet crucial detail.
As you have seen Popeyes and Church’s Chicken were close in rankings, but ultimately a small detail propelled one to the frontline. Toasting the bun is like adding a cherry on the top of a sundae. It completes the sandwich, and makes it a finished product. This detail also ups the crunch and crisp factor which the fried chicken sandwich begs to have.
3. We recommend sticking to fast food joints that specialize in chicken for the ultimate experience.
Now we only taste-tested seven fast food joints (there are many more), so this may be a generalization. However, just based on this small sampling it appears that if you want the best fried chicken sandwich your best bet is to go to a joint that specializes in chicken. The burger restaurants just didn’t deliver. Perhaps, it’s because chicken isn’t their specialty, and joining the fried chicken sandwich wars is just part of their marketing tactic. The burger giants' steep six dollar price tags seem to create a barrier. It almost feels like they have fried chicken sandwiches because they have to. Yet, it's not their bread and butter, so they price high to deter it from being a go-to-purchase.
Well, that is all for now, but perhaps we’ll pick up our fried chicken taste testing again in the future. If you would like to see video review of our fried chicken sandwich experience visit our Instagram and stay tuned as we release it soon.