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Which chicken is “wing”ing?

Pranav Chillappagari and Amanda Lin

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Fried chicken is a comfort food that originated in the South, but it is taking the North by storm. Today, chains providing fried chicken dishes like Popeyes and KFC are widely popular and are rapidly expanding. The Tribune ventured to discover which fried chicken chain is the best and why.  

In order to determine which brand provided the most favorable outcome, we based it off of four major categories: crispness, tenderness, sides and seasoning. We tasted fried chicken from three different chains: Kentucky Fried Chicken, Popeye’s and Safeway.

Amanda’s overall opinion:

Popeye’s sides were incredible but the chicken was disappointing. It had such a good spice and seasoning but the meat was a little too dry for my liking. The batter was nice and crispy but after a while it got to be too chewy.

The fried chicken from Safeway was edible and would be enjoyable if not compared to Popeye’s and KFC. After a few bites, I simply could not continue eating it. The quality was average and could definitely be improved. Along with that, the chicken could use more seasoning, flavor and less breading.  

I really enjoyed the tenderness of the Kentucky Fried Chicken and even though the batter was not crispy, I liked how the skin was soft but not soggy. The seasoning was delicious and gave the meat so much flavor that it kept me wanting more. The sides did not meet my expectations, but the quality of the chicken outweighed the sides.

KFC was definitely my favorite as it excelled in most of the categories used to determine the most flavorful fried chicken.

Pranav’s overall opinion:

Similarly to Amanda, I agree that the sides from Popeye’s lived up to its Southern background. The chicken, however, was lackluster compared to KFC. The crispiness of Popeye’s provided a satisfying crunch that carried through every bite. The spice never played through until the very end, which was very dissatisfying.

KFC was overall the best in terms of tenderness. It provided a wholesome taste that was both juicy and able to melt in your mouth. The sides were not very good, providing an inconsistent taste, and most flavors were over exaggerated, like the coleslaw and the flour in the biscuit. Seasoning was light, but distinct.

Safeway’s fried chicken was definitely the most disappointing, but considering it is the only one not truly southern, it got some leeway.  The pricing was fairly cheap and the tenderness mediocre, but overall it ranked the lowest out of the rest.

In all honesty, Safeway wins on convenience, Popeye’s on sides and crispiness and KFC on tenderness and actual quality of chicken.

Popeye’s

Popeye’s is a chain claiming to  make food of “Louisiana Origin.” The fried chicken ranked the second best, but the sides easily beat the rest of the chains.

The first bite really was the best. It came with a satisfying crunch that warmed your mouth. Overall, the crispiness from this chain beat the rest and the  only criticism is that the batter to chicken ratio was too high. The tenderness of the meat was the biggest downfall; it had a consistency of a processed chicken nugget.

There was no seasoning on the batter except for salt and pepper,  which was hardly noticeable, but the chicken itself had a consistent spice that made us addicted.

The sides from Popeye’s were the best; the biscuit was buttery, smooth and warm. It melted in our mouths and the flavor was rich. The cajun fries had a delicious seasoning, but they were not too crispy. The coleslaw did not have a very good consistency, and it tasted more like Taco Bell sour cream than actual coleslaw. The Jambalaya was cold and hard and tasted more like uncooked burnt rice. The spices and seasoning were used perfectly, which was disappointing considering the poor texture.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)

KFC is regarded as the most famous fried chicken stop in the world. With more restaurant chains in China than the U.S., it shows its dominance in the fast food industry.

Starting with the chicken, the skin was soft and easily fell off. It was tasty but lacked the crunch of  typical fried chicken. The seasoning on the skin however, added flavor to the chicken. When you first bite into the chicken, it has a salty start, a little too salty, but the spicy kick evened it out. It took advantage of all the spices in its arsenal.

The chicken itself was heavenly and captured the essence of “comfort food”; the meat fell right off the bone and melted in your mouth. It was juicy, smooth and just delicious. Nothing more to be said.

Arguably the most exciting part of any fried chicken experience is the wide variety of sides, starting with a classic: a warm biscuit. The biscuit itself was a let down. It was too doughy and tasted like flour, and the salt was very overpowering and diverted from the actual texture of the warm treat. The coleslaw on the other had a suitable consistency and was tasty. The mashed potatoes were too thick but the gravy had great flavor, except it did not do anything to help the mash potatoes since they had a hard texture that overpowered the gravy.

Safeway

Safeway was the most convenient and cheapest stop for fried chicken.

The batter right away was a letdown. It was not soggy, but it was not crispy either. It had too much breading and parts without actual chicken meat. It did not have the nice crunch we were looking for and it was not enjoyable. The chicken itself was not juicy or tender. It was dry, and paired with the batter, was not overall pleasing.

Sides were not provided with the chicken, which was not surprising considering Safeway is a hot bar.

There was no evident seasoning on the batter or the chicken itself. After the first bite, we noticed the lack of seasoning or even salt. However, after a few seconds, a hint of pepper could be tasted but we had to really pay attention. Once we noticed the pepper, the rest of the experience was improved.

The food came hot, which made the experience all the more enjoyable, but the downfall was the soggy. Safeway was definitely faster than KFC and Popeye’s, ironically making it faster than the fast food chains.

Overall:

Each chain had its own strengths and weaknesses and everyone has  his or her own personal preferences. Popeye’s blew us away with  its sides but its chicken did not live up to our expectations. Safeway’s fried chicken was decent but could  not compare to the standards of Popeye’s or KFC. On a general scale, we both agreed that KFC’s fried chicken was the best due to its tenderness and flavor.

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Which chicken is “wing”ing?