Food Fight: The Fried Chicken Sandwich

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Art/Photo by Lauren Ng

The fried chicken sandwich wars heat up as contenders release new sandwiches on their menus. From left to right: Chick-Fil-A®️ Deluxe Sandwich, Popeyes Chicken Sandwich, Jack in the Box’s Cluck Sandwich, McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich.

Lauren Ng, Sports & Opinion Editor

   Imagine the first bite of a tasty fried chicken sandwich: the mouthwatering chicken filet, deliciously salty and covered in crispy breading; the soft bread bun, serving as the perfect vehicle for flavorful chicken; perhaps with some fresh lettuce and tomatoes, crunchy pickles, or a creamy mayonnaise sauce. 

   Fried chicken sandwiches have a history of popularity in the United States. Mrs. Hall, who teaches Foods, and Personal & Family Management at West High and has a background in Family and Consumer Sciences, attributes the sandwiches’ widespread appeal to the fact that they simply have chicken: “I think people are being manipulated into thinking, ‘Well, it’s at least chicken!’” As opposed to red meats such as beef, chicken is often considered a healthier protein option. 

   Coupled with this is the taste factor: as Mrs. Hall stated, “the truth of the matter is frying makes things taste good.” As a result, many fried chicken sandwiches have seen large success, leading to culinary competition between fast food restaurants striving to create the nation’s favorite sandwich. 

   The famed fried chicken sandwich wars were sparked by the release of Popeyes’s sandwich in August 2019. Triggering a Twitter feud with Chick-fil-A, the original creator of the chicken sandwich, a rivalry formed between the two chains. 

   Fast forward to 2021: the last one and a half years have brought about unique chicken sandwiches from many different restaurants. The chicken craze pervades as several contenders re-enter the war with new sandwiches, crafting their own variations of the delicious classic. Fortunately for Torrance, many of the biggest players in the game have locations around the city.    

 The Origins: Chick-Fil-A

   Serving chicken sandwiches for decades, Chick-Fil-A is quite experienced in the chicken world. The Chick-Fil-A®️ Sandwich is known for its simplicity: pressure-cooked boneless chicken breast with dill pickle slices, quite literally sandwiched between a buttered bun. The sandwich’s kicked-up counterpart, the Chick-Fil-A®️ Deluxe Sandwich, adds cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. 

   Chick-Fil-A also released the limited-edition Grilled Spicy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich on January 25. With a multigrain brioche bun and Chick-Fil-A’s Cilantro Lime Sauce, this newcomer brings unique flavors to the plate, perhaps expanding the current chicken sandwich wars to the realm of the grill.

The Chick-Fil-A®️ Deluxe Sandwich. Art/Photo by Lauren Ng.

Sparking the War: Popeyes

   Tension began to brew as Popeyes Chicken Sandwich entered the fast food world. Selling out within two weeks of its launch on August 12, 2019, the sandwich became contagiously popular all over the country. Still on the Popeyes menu to this day, it features a piece of all-white chicken breast breaded in buttermilk batter and fried until crispy and golden-brown, providing a satisfying crunch with each bite. Served with slices of barrel-cured pickles and a choice of Popeyes’s Classic or Spicy Mayonnaise, the sandwich became Chick-Fil-A’s main competitor, setting the fried chicken wars in motion and foreshadowing the fried frenzy to come.

The Popeyes Chicken Sandwich. Art/Photo by Lauren Ng.

New Players: Jack in the Box

   December 17, 2020 marked the debut of Jack in the Box’s Cluck Sandwich and Cluck Deluxe Sandwich. The Cluck includes a fried chicken filet with cut pickles, presented on a brioche bun with its own Mystery Sauce. The Cluck’s more extravagant counterpart is the Cluck Deluxe, which adds iceberg lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and melted cheddar, along with bacon, guacamole, and mayonnaise.

   Delana Baker, a cashier at a local Jack in the Box, described how the restaurant sets itself apart: “I think that there’s a lot of chicken sandwiches out there nowadays, and they all eventually start to taste the same… by adding our secret sauce and guacamole, it definitely brings it over the top.”

   Having recently arrived in Torrance, the new sandwiches are already popular. As Baker explained, “at least every other car that comes through our drive-thru [or] in the front [gets] the Cluck Deluxe or the Cluck regular chicken sandwich.”

Jack in the Box’s Cluck Sandwich. Art/Photo by Lauren Ng.

Bigger and Better: KFC

   KFC’s Crispy Colonel Sandwich is receiving an upgrade. On January 7, the KFC Chicken Sandwich was officially released on menus. The double-breaded fried chicken breast weighs in at a quarter pound, served on a brioche bun with thick pickle slices along with a choice of mayonnaise or a spicier sauce. 

   While currently unavailable in Torrance, the new sandwich is expected to roll out soon. According to KFC, it will become available in all U.S. locations by the end of this month.

Kentucky Fried Chicken KFC chicken sandwich

The new KFC Chicken Sandwich. Photo courtesy of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Triple Threat: McDonald’s

   Not one, not two, but three fried chicken sandwiches will be coming to McDonald’s nationwide on February 24. Currently, the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich is the resident fried chicken menu item at McDonald’s. But in a matter of weeks, there will be some new sandwiches in town. 

   The simplest of the trifecta is the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, which includes crinkle-cut pickles on the new McDonald’s potato roll. The second sandwich includes a new Spicy Pepper Sauce, making for a hotter version of the original. Rounding out the trio is the Deluxe Chicken Sandwich, distinct from the others with the addition of mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, and Roma tomatoes.

The McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich. Art/Photo by Lauren Ng.

While there are many fried chicken sandwiches currently in play, there are still plenty more to come. Stay tuned for new releases at your local McDonald’s and KFC, as well as another incoming player: Raising Canes. Its new Torrance location is expected to open doors on March 2. But as more and more crispy competitors enter the ring, only one question remains: who will win the war?