REVIEW: KFC Hot Honey Chicken

KFC Hot Honey Chicken

With an adorable new Colonel mascot in the form of a sweet ol’ honeybear, the indubitably fine, mostly Southern kinfolk at Kentucky Fried Chicken (or Kitchen Fresh Chicken, if you do so prefer) continue their sauce-filled fried chicken domination of America with the tasty-enough Honey Hot flavor now on the KFC dinner table.

Ordering a three-piece Extra Crispy Tenders Meal complete with mashed potatoes, a biscuit, and one lonesome lil’ pickle slice, the Honey Hot variety is the stickiest mess of a sauce yet, soaking everything in its vicinity with a mouth-watering, eye-stinging clarity. The red-staining bit of generic honey was drenched all over the chicken tenders, seeping to a peppery puddle underneath them, creating a delicious dipping sauce as that famous KFC crust stayed undoubtedly firm and harmonically crunchy.

By the second try, I twirled my chicken tender in the settled sauce to get a little more of that Hot Honey taste. Like a Kentucky Fried shock to the system, the sweetness is almost immediate, cooling your taste buds with the much-loved taste of nothin’ but honey. Give it a few seconds though, because that hot comes rushing down the track like a peppery freight train, doing itself a grand service of providing a nice little burn that goes down easy enough.

But, even better, even with more sauce to soak it in, the extra crunchy skin continues to stay remarkably extra crunchy while the sauce manages to get deep into the tasty sinews and musculature of the beast, making almost an edible massage oil that, greasy bite by greasy bite, holds up with a tightly tangy fervor.

With plenty of the Honey Hot drainage left on my plate — even though the delicious Extra Crispy Tenders were a thing of dusty memory now — I used my remaining biscuit to selfishly sop up the sauce, to great effect. The pepper had made a suspended section unto itself in the sweet goop, giving me a nice headrush as I ate a thick, sticky sliver on my breadstuff. You’ve got to sell this stuff as a dipper, KFC!

Feel free to take a sip or two of water, just in case though, but not because of the heat, mind you. Once the sweet has passed and the hot is long gone, you better prepare to get a mildly weird aftertaste that is best described as taking a shot of soy sauce, swishing it around and swallowing it deep. It’s not a bad thing, just generally surprising and a little off-putting. Though great if you love soy sauce shooters.

Aftertaste aside, this might be KFC’s best chicken experiment yet, finally finding the perfect balance of one thing that people routinely screw up so often and so royally: the sweetness of the honey and the heat of the pepper. Cómpralo ya!

(Nutrition Facts – 570 calories, 36 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 1460 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 30 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: 3 Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Perfect balance of sweet and heat. Doesn’t make the chicken crust soggy.
Cons: Alarming “soy sauce” aftertaste.

REVIEW: KFC Pickle Fried Chicken

KFC Pickle Fried Chicken

KFC’s Pickle Fried Chicken is the latest addition to their lineup of southern-inspired sauced chicken options. Described as “crunchy fried chicken covered in a delicious dill pickle sauce,” at first glance KFC’s Pickle Fried Chicken appears to veer closer to a Double Down-style stunt offering than the Nashville Hot, Georgia Gold, or BBQ Smoky Mountain varieties.

As a Yankee from the Midwest who’s only occasionally traveled below the Mason-Dixon line, even I’m aware that the South can do some pretty creative things with pickles. Don’t misunderstand me, as a fan of all things salty, sour, sweet, and weird in various combinations, I wholeheartedly approve.

I’ll try your Kool-Aid pickles, pickled watermelon rind, and pickled pig’s feet. I can’t guarantee I’ll try them twice, but I’ll certainly give them the benefit of the doubt. It turns out Kool-Aid pickles don’t deserve that benefit, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

KFC Pickle Fried Chicken 2

So, if I’ll eat a koolickle, why am I skeptical of this chicken? It must be because my only experience with the chicken+pickle flavor combination is Chick-fil-A’s namesake sandwich, whose only adornment is dill pickle slices. It’s always left me a bit underwhelmed with its plainness.

I know. Boo! Hiss! Thrown Tomato! But pickles don’t seem like a substantial enough addition to elevate a fast food item.

I ordered a Pickle Fried Chicken Tender Basket, which comes with mashed potatoes, gravy, and a biscuit. I also got a Pickle Fried Chicken Little. (The mashed potatoes and gravy is school cafeteria-level, but the biscuit is fantastic.)

KFC Pickle Fried Chicken 3

Despite my skepticism, these tenders are very impressive. They’re juicy, and I’m pleased that the extra crispy chicken remained so after the 20-minute drive home. These aren’t heavily sauced, but the dill pickle flavor asserts itself well. It’s not a novelty flavor like I initially suspected.

Instead, the dill compliments the chicken and a slight vinegar tang cuts through the grease. Make no mistake, these are greasy, but when it comes to fried chicken, I consider that a feature and not a bug. Taking a bite with the accompanying pickles is peak-dill, and good enough that I wish KFC had given me more of them.

KFC Pickle Fried Chicken 4

The Chicken Little is good, but a bit less impressive. The addition of bread and mayonnaise serves to mute the dill pickle flavor of which I’m a newly converted fan. By the way, why doesn’t KFC serve sandwiches on their biscuits? Their current biscuit would be perfect for a slider, and a more massive biscuit sandwich would be a real winner. I’ll take my royalty fee in coleslaw, Colonel.

After tasting KFC’s Pickle Fried Chicken Tenders and Chicken Little, the problem with Chick-fil-A’s sandwich becomes clear: not enough pickle. This is a limited time offer, so I recommend trying it before it’s gone.

(Nutrition Facts – Unavailable on KFC’s website.)

Purchased Price: $5.59 (Chicken Tenders Basket/$1.39 Chicken Little Sandwich
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Chicken Littles Sandwich)
Pros: Well balanced dill pickle flavor. Crisp coating with juicy chicken.
Cons: Perhaps too greasy for some. Pickle flavor can get overwhelmed by bun and mayo.

REVIEW: KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich

I’ve often wondered why KFC doesn’t join the 21st century and put a regular chicken sandwich on its menu. And no, I’m not talking rectangular-ish chicken sliders or carbless heart-attacks-waiting-to-happen, I’m talking about a regular-sized bun with a decently-sized fried, all-white chicken breast in the middle.

The introduction of the new Crispy Colonel Sandwich ends my hypothetical smatterings when it comes to this question; available in variations featuring KFC’s various chicken flavors (Nashville Hot; Georgia Gold; Smokey Mountain) it’s also available in a regular extra crispy version with mayo and pickles, the seemingly now standard fare when someone decides to put fried chicken between a bun.

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich 4

The good news is that the chicken steals the show and lives up to its crispy billing. Actually, I was blown away by how good the all-white meat chicken patty was. Granted, calling it a patty is a bit of a misnomer -— think a supersized extra crispy tender, or perhaps a boneless, skinless chicken breast. But the balance of crispy breading and moist interior meat nailed the texture element, while KFC’s much-beloved herbs and spices provided more than enough flavor.

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich 3

The problem is that it’s a rather kindergarten-ish attempt at sandwich construction, at least as far my local KFC is concerned. The bun – already ridiculously thin, tasteless, and crumbly – was absolutely murdered with mayo, which both drowned out the pickles and failed to enhance the flavor of those famous 11 herbs and spices.

With the laws of physics working against me, I abandoned the soggy underside, which had already marred the underneath crispiness of the chicken. While I realize mayo can be more divisive than cilantro (which I decline to comment on at this time), I do try to keep an open mind to such things. But I have to say the addition and amount of the globby mayo brought the sandwich down a few notches.

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich 2

And yes, for the record, a simpler treatment, such as Chick-fil-A’s buttered bun, would have been preferable. As for the comparison, everyone seems to want when it comes to these chicken sandwich faceoffs? It’s hard to say; Chick-fil-a cooks their chicken differently, in different oil, and with different spices. In some ways, it’s an apples to oranges comparison. I will say, though, that from a chicken element alone, I like KFC’s Crispy Colonel more than similar offerings from Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s.

All in all, KFC’s rather pathetic treatment of everything outside of the chicken in its long-awaited chicken sandwich answers a lot of questions for me. Namely, why KFC hasn’t committed to a regular sandwich in the past. That said, the execution of a nearly perfect chicken patty — crispy outside, juicy inside, plenty of flavor in the breading — makes me wonder if the colonel just needs to plan a different line of attack — one that pairs his famous chicken with a bun and condiments that enhance and don’t detract from the sandwich.

(Nutrition Facts – 460 calories, 25 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 1170 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, and 24 gram2 of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99 (sandwich); $5 (Fill-up Box)
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Excellent balance of extra crispy breading and juicy, moist interior chicken. All white meat. 11 herbs and spices. Good value as a $5 Fill-up Box.
Cons: Bun is a complete afterthought. Mayo detracts from flavor of the sandwich and reduces underside crispiness. Expensive as just a sandwich. A bit small. Not being able to give a 7.5 rating.

REVIEW: KFC Nashville Hot Chicken

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken

What I know about Nashville: Mrs. Coach from Friday Night Lights has a show about it and something called “hot chicken” was invented there.

A handful of Food Network shows have signal-boosted the wet-looking fried bird in the past decade and, based on the various hosts’ reactions, it’s amazing. If my hazy memory is correct, most of the purveyors of the Music City specialty are tight lipped about the recipe, but a cursory bit of internet sleuthing reveals some sort of cayenne pepper paste mix as the secret.

Enter KFC. Never mind that Nashville is in Tennessee and the “K” in KFC stands for a state that geographically stifles Tennessee like a big brother sitting on top of you trying to squeeze out a fart.

The Yum! Brands conglomerate will have your local delicacy and good luck trying to trademark something with two words as simple as “hot” and “chicken.” They have the balls to put an exclamation point in the name of their company. They have the balls to do anything. Anyway, KFC serves Nashville Hot Chicken. And it’s okay, if not for the typical KFC pitfalls.

The advertisements for Nashville Hot Chicken promise a good amount of heat, one that builds, based on a “secret” recipe that includes cayenne and smoked paprika. On this, it delivers. I had the two-piece basket, which includes a biscuit, a sprinkling of pickles and a side of cole slaw.

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken 2

The breading on the chicken was nice and chunky, crispy. The initial heat factor was low but as the meal went on it chugged into a nice hum. It’s a dull, pleasant spice that is never overwhelming and contrasts well with the smoother tastes of the buttermilk breading and dark meat.

Since it’s being sold with sides as a package, I’ll go into those. The cole slaw is KFC cole slaw. It’s a bit too sweet but the coolness really acts well against the chicken, and basically serves as a palate cleanser whenever you need a respite from the spice.

The flimsy pickles, which are thrown onto the chicken, are an afterthought and do not possess any value whatsoever. They have no bite or any flavor and have wilted onto the greasy bird.

The biscuit touches the chicken and, through magical biscuit powers, absorbs some of the hot chicken oil, which makes an awesome hot oil-dipped biscuit, improving the already-great side.

KFC Nashville Hot Chicken 3

This does, however, bring up the oil situation. KFC calls the entire thing a “two-piece basket” but it came in a plastic container. It traps in all the oil that was on the chicken, KFC-style, but this is hella oil. Hot chicken already looks wet and saturated, but this is for real the most oily chicken I have ever had. Two dozen napkins later, I had dripped the red-colored oil on my sleeves and my notepad, which was on an adjacent table.

Sure, chalk it up to me being a disaster, but this stuff got everywhere. I quit eating the thigh three-fourths the way through because it got too gross. The breading was slipping off like a cummerbund after prom and it was making a gigantic mess.

I had hot chicken once before (in Los Angeles, go figure). It was served on a slice of white bread, to soak up all the oil. Nothing was done like this here, and it was unbearable. The previous experience also had nice homemade vinegar to go along with the chicken, which made me lament the pickle situation even more.

The taste is fine, but the oil is harsh. Yum! Brands, what hast thou wrought?

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Item: KFC Nashville Hot Chicken
Purchased Price: $5.49 (includes cole slaw and biscuit)
Size: 2 pieces basket
Purchased at: KFC
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Nice amount of heat, a low simmer of spice. Good breading.
Cons: Unbearably oily. Pickles were flimsy, not bright.

REVIEW: KFC Big Boss (Canada)

KFC The BIg Boss 2

When it comes to fast food gimmicks, few items can claim to be quite as successful as KFC’s Double Down, the cheese and bacon sandwich with two pieces of fried chicken as a bun. That thing hit the cultural zeitgeist like nobody’s business, and for a while there it seemed like everyone was talking about it.

It was with that in mind, I’m sure, that KFC Canada introduced the Big Boss, which is essentially a Big Mac, but with fried chicken patties instead of beef. It’s a tantalizing proposition that sounds just crazy enough to be delicious.

If you’ve had a Big Mac, then you know exactly what to expect: the shredded lettuce, pickles, onions, Thousand Island-esque special sauce, the three layers of bun, and the single slice of cheese. It’s literally a Big Mac with fried chicken instead of beef; KFC has done nothing to shake up the flavours to make it more chicken-appropriate.

I was actually pretty excited to try the Big Boss. I like excessive novelty sandwiches more than I should probably admit. You wanna replace the bun in a hamburger with grilled cheese sandwiches? Yeah, I’ll eat that! Wanna add more patties than any reasonable burger should contain? Sure, I’ll try it. Replace the bun with fried chicken? I’m all over that.

So it is with no small amount of sadness that I must report that the Big Boss is not particularly good.

KFC The Big Boss

The first thing I noticed was that this was maybe the most haphazardly-assembled sandwich I’ve ever been served at a fast food joint. I was planning on cutting it in half so I could get a picture of the midsection, but the whole thing was so precarious that I was honestly afraid that it would crumble into pieces if I messed with it too much. But of course, you can’t expect anything too pristine from a place like KFC; what really matters is the taste.

The patties are similar to what you’d find in a Big Crunch, but thinner. The breading is standard KFC fare, and it’s expectedly tasty. But man, the chicken itself is absurdly dry. It is surprisingly, unpleasantly dry. I’m not sure if it’s the thinness of the chicken or what, but it is considerably more dry than a standard KFC Big Crunch patty.

Compounding the dryness issue was the surfeit of bread which, like the chicken, was weirdly dry. I think it might have been a little bit stale, or maybe it was microwaved? I have a hard time accounting for how it got so dry. The lack of moisture from the sandwich itself certainly didn’t help matters.

My first few bites were just a punishing mass of dry chicken, bread, and unmelted cheese, not dissimilar in texture to trying to eat a handful of saltines. Things improved somewhat once I hit a pocket of sauce, onions, and pickles around the centre of the sandwich. Even then, this just made me long for the comparative magnificence of a Big Mac, as the sauce tasted almost identical to Mac sauce. I like Big Macs well enough, but it’s pretty much the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten compared to this ill-advised monstrosity of a sandwich.

I got unlucky, with a sandwich that appeared as though it had been assembled by an arthritic chimp. But even if it had been picture perfect, I still don’t think it would have been particularly good. The flavours just never cohere in any meaningful way. Beef and chicken are two very different things; just because something works with one, doesn’t mean it’s going to work with the other.

Sadly, the Big Boss is more conversation piece than viable sandwich. I’m sure a lot of people will try it, just out of sheer curiosity (the “LOLWTF a Big Mac with fried chicken patties!” factor), but I can’t imagine many will order it a second time. It’s pretty bad.

(Nutrition Facts – 600 calories, 30 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 900 grams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 7 grams of sugar, 29 grams of protein.)

Item: KFC Big Boss (Canada)
Purchased Price: $4.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: KFC
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Tasty breading on the chicken patties. Sauce tastes a lot like a Big Mac’s.
Cons: Dry chicken. Dry bread. Dry overload. Unmelted cheese. Big Mac flavours taste incongruous with chicken. Messy if not assembled properly. Makes the ghost of Colonel Sanders cry.