Finding the best chicken sandwich


Kyllian Simon

A collection of chicken sandwiches from the different fast food restaurants.

Out of all the fast food restaurants, KFC makes the best chicken sandwich. To determine this, I went on a journey across Midlothian and the Greater Chesterfield area late one night collecting eight of the mainstay fast food restaurants’ chicken sandwiches and enjoyed the fruits of their underpaid labor.

 I visited KFC, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, McDonald’s, Arby’s, Hardee’s, Wendy’s, and Bojangles. Bite after bite I was met with varying degrees of disappointment, surprise and satisfaction. 

On a spectrum from one being the most disappointing and ten being God’s work I give you my take. I shall start with the most disappointing and work my way up.

As a disclaimer, it is in my opinion that fast-food is nothing but food that is fast, sacrificing quality in favor of quantity and saving time. As such, I lowered my expectations for the sake of this article. Also, all the chicken I ate was dry. Try any sandwich without mayonnaise, I dare you.

Starting us off with a last-place ranking of three out of ten is Arby’s, who may have the meats but chicken should not be one of them. It was not so much a sandwich as it was a slider. It was so small with so little flavor and a dastardly grainy crust. There is more bun than chicken; the bun single handedly makes up 60% of the sandwich. Their only saving grace was their curly fries, but sadly curly fries are not chicken sandwiches. 

At second worst, scoring four out of ten, we have a tie. To put these next two into perspective the chicken sandwiches in the lunch lines would score better than the paper thin patties of Wendy’s and McDonald’s. Admittedly these two do not specialize in chicken and so naturally they fall short, but the abominations they put to market are not even worthy of the descriptor “food.” While I have always been more than a little disappointed in general with McDonald’s I am surprised at Wendy’s for the lack of care they put into their chicken sandwich. First let’s start with the trials and tribulations I underwent twice when trying McDonald’s chicken sandwiches. 

After trying McDonald’s “Classic McChicken” my folks decided I did not give it a fair shot. It was so utterly sad, dripping with mayonnaise, tasting of nothing but lettuce, and ultimately unholdable with such a soggy excuse of a bun that they took pity on it. I went a second time and instead tried the Deluxe McChicken. It was dark and overcooked, on a greasy bun that was almost as bad as the mayonnaise soaked bread from before and lacking in any sort of flavor that even resembled chicken. Need I say more?

Now while Wendy’s may be able to correctly cook a chicken sandwich they suffered from a lot of the same faults as McDonald’s. They had a grease soaked bun, lacked flavor and deviated from the tried and true southern standard: mayonnaise and dill pickles. Even McDonald’s had the southern sensibility to include mayo and pickle in their Deluxe McChicken, even though they only had one slice and an ironically pathetic dollop. Wendy’s crime? They put tomatoes on a chicken sandwich.

Next in line is Hardee’s who may not be known for their chicken but still earn themselves a five; their sandwich was decent for the price and still what I could actually describe as a chicken sandwich. Somehow Hardee’s manages to score in the middle in nearly every aspect. The bun is bland and greasy but is not soaked and just barely holds together long enough for you to eat it. The flavor is anything new or exciting but at least it tastes like a chicken sandwich. The crust is unpleasantly grainy and just barely flakey.  At least we can all agree that it is indeed fried and it is in fact chicken. 

Further up the totem pole is Bojangles’ who find themselves scoring a seven out of ten. Bojangles’ at least has the cajun flavor I expected, though the texture and size is not very impressive. Strangely I might have put Bojangles’ on par with Popeye’s sandwich if not for this and one other fault: the bun. There is nothing like a bun as dry as the desert to complement the dryness of their chicken that, unfortunately, all fast food chains fall victim to. In other words, I should not have to wash down every bite with watered-down Bojangles’ sweet tea.

Next up is a tie at eight out of ten between Chick-fil-A and Popeyes, who were disappointing in some ways and immaculate in the rest. Chick-fil-A, the long hailed king of chicken, is rich in flavor but sorely lacks in texture. A grainy crust makes for an uninviting sensory experience. There is not the satisfying crunch when you bite into a Chick-fil-A sandwich like there is with either Popeyes or KFC. If not for its dill pickles and the butter dripping out from their toasted buns I would have put Chick-fil-A at a seven for price alone. At least, comparatively, you are getting quality for your choice.

The same could not be said for Popeyes whose sandwich has one of the best crusts I have had the pleasure of biting into, comparable to their bone-in chicken. However it was terribly disappointing in its flavor. It turns out that Popeyes chicken sandwiches derive their cajun flavor from the Popeyes sauce instead of the batter the sandwich is fried in like with their bone-in chicken. Why they do this I cannot tell but ultimately they have lost out big time in this ranking because of it. 

However, considering I am a benevolent chicken critic, even despite the sauce the chicken itself still retains the spice traditionally found in its cajun seasoning even though the flavors seem dull. Case in point, it was a very substantive chicken sandwich which rivaled KFC in size and if its flavor had come through our top rank might have been a tie instead.

And now, KFC, who earns itself a solid nine and the first-place ranking. Nothing is perfect folks but I would say the flaky crust paired with the signature 11 spices and herbs that make KFC distinct chicken champions give them a solid sandwich. A thick brioche bun, truly a classic choice done right. Dill pickle and a near perfect amount of mayonnaise. A beautiful, golden flakey crust with speckles of black pepper and red cayenne. Typically my first choice for bone-in chicken is Popeyes, but between the Colonel’s carefully crafted sandwich and the unfortunate circumstances of Popeyes’ pitiful pallet, KFC has a very comfortable spot on my personal ranking. 

Overall my verdict is this: the Colonel knows what is up, Popeyes and Chick-Fil-A came close and are still excellent choices, and the rest are purely optional. I think for the most part no one can doubt that the top three chicken chains are uncontested in their reign. 

Finally, there is a small dishonorable mention, Zaxby’s, who did not even make it on the list because their chicken sandwich was by far the worst and this article was getting too long with critiques as it were. They should stick to tenders.