Which fast food restaurant has the best crispy chicken sandwich? We tried 6 and ranked them from worst to best

CLEVELAND, Ohio – If you’re like me, you stand in the fast-food line to order, perusing the brightly colored images of meal offerings and wondering if it really can be as good as it gets. looks like it – or, perhaps, debating whether you should try something different, only to order “the usual”.

Full disclosure, I love chicken. That said, I tend to frequent fast food joints that specialize in red meat. Maybe it’s because I tend to be picky about how my chicken is prepared – the seasoning, the doneness, even the appearance.

After years of thinking, 2022 dawned and I finally made the commitment to jump on the register and order that chicken sandwich I’ve often considered and then rejected for a cheeseburger.

Methodology

– I chose seven local fast food restaurants that made their reputation solely on red meat. It just didn’t seem fair to pit them against these specialty chicken outlets, so I avoided places like Chick-fil-A, Popeye’s, and KFC for this tasting showdown.

– I ordered medium classic fried chicken sandwich combos and ranked them based on bread, toppings, texture flavor, and taste and quality of toppings and sides.

Editor’s note: Although I ordered medium sized combos at each restaurant, the size of the included drinks varies at each meal.

6. Rally’s/Checker’s

– photo by Brenda Cain, cleveland.com

Cost: $7.74

There’s a lot going on with this sandwich, but the chicken isn’t the star of this dish. The sauce – which tasted like a weak combination of ketchup and mayonnaise, with a slight peppery kick – completely overwhelmed every other aspect of this sandwich. The chicken coating was so crispy it almost looked like it had been fried twice. The shredded iceberg lettuce was generous and the tomato slice was thin. Neither tasted fresh. The bread was soggy with all that sauce. The fries were soft and greasy. The meal included a 22 oz soda.

5.Burger King
Meal Burger King ChKing

– photo by Brenda Cain, cleveland.com

Cost: $8.25

An excessive dollop of sauce robbed this sandwich of any chance of being crispy – and overwhelmed any other flavors that might have been part of this sandwich, including the pickles, which were the only toppings. The meat was dry and stringy, the bread soggy with all that sauce, and the fries were soft and unsalted. The meal includes a 30 ounce soda

4. McDonald’s
McDonald's Crispy Chicken Meal

– photo by Brenda Cain, cleveland.com

Cost: $8.86

McDonald’s is one of the largest hamburger chains in the world. His chicken sandwiches do little to add to his reputation. The patty appeared to be a whole chicken breast, but it was tasteless and slightly dry. The coating was crispy and well seasoned. The pickle was crispy and tart. The bun had spent a bit too long on the grill and was dry. The fries were typical McDonald’s fries, hot and crispy, but super salty. The meal includes a 20-ounce soda.

3. Wendy’s
Wendy's Classic Chicken Combo

– photo by Brenda Cain, cleveland.com

Cost: $9.13

This chicken patty was thicker than many of the others we tried and seemed freshly made. It was hot with a crispy coating. The chicken itself was juicy and well cooked and well spiced. The leaf lettuce was large and covered the bun although it was a bit wilted, probably from the heat of the meat. The bun was fresh. Despite Wendy’s recent ad campaign touting their “hot fries”, the ones we got were cold and soggy. The meal includes a 32-ounce soda

2. Culver’s
Culver's Crispy Chicken Meal

– photo by Brenda Cain, cleveland.com

Cost: $10.13

While the chicken patty, itself, was thinner than most we tried, it tasted more like chicken than most we tried. It was hot, the coating crispy and the meat was juicy and tender. The shredded lettuce and thin slice of tomato tasted fresh, and the two pickles were crispy and tangy. The bun was buttered and toasted. The crinkle fries were lukewarm, soft and salty. The meal includes a 22-ounce soda

1. Shake the hut
Shake Shack Chicken Shack

– photo by Brenda Cain, cleveland.com

Cost: $14.01

The Shake Shack meal was much more expensive than the other entrees in this taste test but worth the price. The chicken isn’t cooked until you order it, so it comes out hot, crispy and juicy and perfectly spiced. It was reminiscent of the chicken my grandmother served for Sunday dinner. The soft bun tasted more like a potato bun than a simple hamburger bun. The chicken is topped with a herb mayonnaise and crispy pickles. Note: Shake Shack doesn’t serve combo meals like most fast food places, so to fair the taste test, we ordered fries and a drink, on the side. The fries are the typical frozen fries you can get anywhere, but like the chicken, they were cooked to order so they were hot and crispy. The soda was 16 oz.

About Walter Bartholomew

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