The spicy chicken sandwich market has heated up (no pun intended) lately, from Jack in the Box’s Pepper Jack Ranch Spicy Chicken Sandwich to Wendy’s Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich to Burger King simply revamping their new Crispy Chicken Sandwich, and now – KFC’s new Zinger Spicy Chicken Sandwich!
Well, the Zinger is only new to the U.S. as it’s apparently already in 120 other markets. Per QSR Magazine, the Zinger was launched in 1984 and over 22 million Zingers are sold in Australia alone. ?
No offense, but our Australian friends’ taste buds must be coated from all the Vegemite they eat because the Zinger is incredibly uninspiring. Even the new Colonel’s (Rob Lowe) Parks & Rec self would lit-er-ally find this repulsive. Okay, repulsive is a harsh word – I’ll stick with uninspiring.
The ingredients are simple: 100 percent Chicken Breast Filet – double hand-breaded and fried – served with lettuce and Colonel’s mayonnaise on a toasted sesame seed bun. I should’ve suspected that this wouldn’t be very spicy because nothing about that description speaks to heat.
When I received the sandwich, I liked the orange-gold foil – guess it’s “zinger”-y – and that the label actually listed what the sandwich was – unlike other fast food chains.
When I opened it, I was happy to see that the chicken looked like a breast at least. Low standards, I know. Cutting it in half, it looked like a solid piece of juicy chicken breast. On the edges where the breast meat met the breading, there seemed to be some chili oil-esque looking run-off so I was thinking that maybe the Colonel would come through with the heat after all. But, nope. After taking a bite, I could only detect a little fleeting singe.
To give some context to the heat – in this same meal, I ordered KFC’s Nashville Hot Chicken just to try. The Nashville Hot is nowhere near the real heat level of Nashville Hot Chicken BUT that’s the amount of heat I expected from the Zinger. It was mainly just a salty crunch followed by an umami that I can only describe as the Colonel’s secret recipe blend of 11 herbs and spices.
But the “hard way,” which is hand-breading chicken daily which is supposed to make it juicier and crunchier, definitely paid off. I conducted a crunch-off between Wendy’s Spicy Chicken, Burger King’s Crispy Chicken, Chick-fil-A’s Spicy Chicken and the Zinger. The Zinger was significantly crunchier than the rest. The breading to chicken ratio was comparable to Chick-fil-A’s (and they’re the gold standard in fast food chicken sandwiches in my opinion). It’s not juicier than Chick-fil-A, but it is juicier than Burger King and on-par with Wendy’s.
As for the rest of the sandwich, I was 50/50 on the bun. On one hand, I really liked how soft the bun was. On the other hand, it flattened out really quickly which made the chicken play slip & slide with all the mayo in it. Speaking of the mayo, the Colonel’s mayonnaise just tastes like mayo. Also, they kept trying to upsell bacon & cheese but I don’t think the Zinger needs it. I think it would take away from the crunch and the subtle Colonel spices.
This uninspiring sandwich left me thinking: Where’s the zinger?! In the competitive fried chicken sandwich landscape, the Zinger sits right in the middle of mediocre land. I wouldn’t eat it over Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwiches but would absolutely eat it over all the other chicken sandwiches on the market right now.
(Nutrition Facts – Not available on U.S. website, but here’s the info from the KFC Canada website – 570 calories, 27 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 1220 milligrams of sodium, 58 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 25 grams of protein.)
Purchased Price: $3.99
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Deep-fried chicken breast actually looked like a piece of chicken breast. The Zinger wins the crunch off over Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, and Burger King.
Cons: Big statements for something pretty standard. Chicken played slip & slide with the mayo and flattened bun. Colonel’s mayo just tastes like mayo. Where’s the zinger?!