From where we are in 2020, it’s hard to imagine McDonald’s was once a major innovator in the world of fast food. The McDonald brothers and Ray Kroc were the inventors of the fast food concept, after all! The modern-day craze for chicken can even be traced back to the Chicken McNugget, which solidified the idea of molded ground chicken products into the consciousness of America. Now, it is lonely at the top, and McDonald’s is looking more and more decrepit in the face of fresher competitors. Without a doubt the biggest thorn in their side is Chick-fil-A, the notoriously homophobic fried chicken sandwich business that is the most beloved fast food chain in America.
McDonald’s has been desperate for a decent chicken offering to keep up with modern tastes, but nothing has really landed. They’ve tried chicken wings, chicken tenders, all kinds of new chicken sandwiches, but none of them have compared to the juggernaut power of established chicken chains. But there’s another front to the fast food war going on: breakfast. Taco Bell introduced a new breakfast menu in 2014, and Wendy’s is planning to bring back breakfast this year – so why not, McDonalds thinks, combine the two hot new things?
And here we are, with McDonald’s adding the new McChicken Biscuits and Chicken McGriddles to their menu. If there’s anything McDonald’s has been solidly entrenched in, it’s breakfast. Their Egg McMuffins are still the byword for “fast food breakfast”. What could go wrong?
Well, a lot.
McDonald’s is running this as a “2 for $3” promo, so it was the perfect opportunity to try one of each. There’s… really not a lot to say about these. They are McChicken patties in different buns. They do not come with sauce, cheese, or any other kind of topping. If you don’t like lettuce, mayo, or hamburger buns, but absolutely LOVE the taste of McChicken, you might like these a lot.
The use of plain old McChicken patties is a bit disappointing, really. This doesn’t “feel” special. It doesn’t even feel notable. This is a menu hack slapped onto the main menu. You might as well look out for Noah’s Ark or McGangbang for their next LTO. Was it too hard to introduce some new kind of chicken experience for breakfast? Considering they’re fighting Chick-fil-a and Popeyes to be the chicken top… dog, this is like showing up with a feather to a gunfight.
So let’s start with the more interesting of the two: the Chicken McGriddle. It’s… well… it’s fine. It’s okay. We’d eat this any time of day. The McGriddle buns are soft and squidgy and positively reek of fake syrup flavor, but it’s a good stench. The combination of McChicken and McGriddle is naturally supposed to be reminiscent of chicken and waffles. It’s a good combo – sweet McGriddle, peppery McChicken, moist McGriddle, dry McChicken… The main issue here is textural. Both the McGriddle and the McChicken are very soft, and eating this feels like you’re choking down sludge after a few bites. The flavors are good, but the textures leave a lot to desire.
The McChicken Biscuit, however… Oh, no. Oh, no no no. We really thought the biscuit would be the preferable of the two sandwiches, but it is by far worse. A good biscuit sandwich works when the meat is very moist, allowing its grease to drip into the crumb of the biscuit, making a pleasantly textured experience between moist meat and crumbly biscuit. This is why sausage patties on a biscuit are the “default” breakfast sandwich: fried sausage has the perfect amount of fat to keep the biscuit soft. The McChicken has no juice to offer. It is a hockey puck. Putting this thing on a biscuit is a legitimate choking hazard. The combination of dry and salty biscuit and dry and salty McChicken become a chore to eat about halfway through. It’s not bad-bad, but it’s not good-good. It’s mediocre. It’s utterly skippable. This would be improved tremendously by the addition of some kind of sauce. Some honey mustard would make it practically delicious, but we haven’t tried it ourselves.
But we’d like to share a menu hack that the good people at The Takeout turned us onto: for the best eating experience, get two, and put one of each bun on each sandwich. This is revolutionary. It turns a middling, mediocre sandwich into something genuinely worth eating again and again. The contrasting texture fixes the issues the buns were having on their own: in one bite you have crumbly, crunchy biscuit and soft, marshmallowy McGriddle and your mouth no longer feels bored. You combine the salty and the sweet for a genuinely complex flavor with each part demanding your attention. Best of all is the fact you get to eat two of these! We do find that a single McChicken is just shy of a decent meal, so being able to eat two is a filling breakfast in itself.
McChicken Biscuit: 2 out of 5 – Not Worth Trying
Chicken McGriddle: 3 out of 5 – Worth Trying (Wouldn’t Get It Again)
Combo: 4 out of 5 – Worth Trying (Worth Getting Again)
For breakfast at McDonald’s, you could do a lot worse, but if you’re out and about at 8 in the morning you could do a lot better too. If you’re a serious McChicken fan already, you’ll like these. If you’re not, you definitely won’t. Either way, you can kind of forget about it after a while. Personally, we’d just wait for Popeyes to open and get a decent sandwich there.Oh, and there’s one additional small comment we’d like to make: what kind of unmitigated gall does our local McDonald’s have to charge us nearly TWO WHOLE DOLLARS for a SINGLE HASH BROWN? What kind of math are you doing behind that counter to value your fryolator sweepings at TWO dollars!? A hash brown is barely ONE dollar’s worth of french fries, and you would even THINK to charge over TWICE that amount? Good god, McDonald! Get it together! No wonder you’re lagging behind! It’s the EXPENSIVE HASH BROWNS!