KFC’s Double Down and the Skull of Doom

The KFC Double Down with a skull hidden faintly in the background.

Against all odds, things have managed to get even worse for America in 2023. Prices for everything are going up while wages get cut. Our nation continues to divide against itself. In my most recent trip to the food bank (something I didn’t even need to go to until I moved out), I had to sit in line next to a working-class guy talking very animatedly about how the government was slowly killing us (true), while also taking forks in the conversation to say that he had heard Wal-Mart was putting reproductive sterilizing chemicals in their face masks (WHAT).

That is why I regret to inform you that, in this time of great catastrophe, KFC has had the audacity to re-release the Double Down.

Haven’t we had enough? Isn’t life hard enough? Isn’t America in enough strife, without having to remind us of our deepest shames? No. Now we have to deal with the Double Down, all over again.

“What the hell is the Double Down, anyway?” I am so glad you asked! On April Fool’s Day of 2010, KFC announced a most devious product so absurd people thought it to be a prank: two fried chicken patties, two pieces of bacon, two slices of cheese, and sauce. No bun.

Okay, does it really not sound that weird nowadays? This is some Seinfeld Is Unfunny shit. Look, this was one of Yum! Brands’ very first bizarre food stunts, way before they started doing stuff like the Triplelupa (three chalupas attached to each other Human Centipede-style). And it was iconic, dammit.

I did not try it at the time of its release, for some pretty simple reasons: KFC was goddamn awful at this point in time. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I stopped liking it – maybe around when they introduced the Famous Bowls? Once I started dating Paula, she agreed she also hated their chicken. Then all of the KFCs in my area closed down and were replaced one-by-one with Popeyes, a far superior restaurant.

And so the Double Down remained a vacancy in my life… until this year. It’s back, baby!

Promotional image for the KFC Double Down.

Okay, I usually use the intro of these articles to list the individual ingredients as the official promotional material describes them, but finding this information is the hardest it has ever been for any fast food item.

Wikipedia claims that the Double Down is made with bacon, cheese, and “a sauce”. What cheese? What sauce?! I would love to give you these answers but the KFC official website is not here to help me. It merely claims to have “melty cheese”, and if I go to the customization options, my only cheese option is “regular”. As for the sauce, it merely has mayo or an optional spicy sauce.

A trip to the Wayback Machine (note that the Double Down was old enough that sites still used Flash) reveals a little more information: the cheese is one slice of monterey jack and one slice of pepper jack; the sauce is “Colonel’s Sauce” (ummm). Googling the sauce, the very first result was a Reddit thread of people debating what exactly it is. The best I can tell is that it is an incredibly generic flavored mayo. Since they’re just advertising plain mayo now… they’ve evidently made some tweaks since its first incarnation. Hmm.

Enough speculation. Here it is!

Me holding the KFC Double Down, in all of its terrible glory.

It’s huge. It’s difficult. It’s everything you imagined to be. And here’s the most disappointing part: it’s seriously delicious. I was hungry going in, but I could not get myself to stop eating this once it was in front of me.

The patties are great. I find myself avoiding chicken in general recently – as depressing as it is, in my blogging absence I seem to have developed some sort of texture aversion to the meat, something that I always think is merely psychologically-driven disordered eating up until I eat a really good example. Like, damn, most chicken sucks nowadays.

And, oh my God, the bacon. It’s brilliant. I eat so little chicken, I always forget that chicken and bacon is actually a really good combination.

But, the cheese… I don’t know what the hell is up with the cheese. It was the low point, and it really bothered me. My best guess before Googling was Swiss; my partners guessed maybe White American (ha ha). Whatever the hell it is, it’s definitely not any ‘jack’-type cheese, which makes me wonder about what the original was like.

I actually don’t think I noticed the mayo. There’s a spicy option, which swaps the mayo out for a spicy sauce, which I really wanted to get a taste of to review but Paula got so little on hers that I couldn’t even get a photograph of it. Let alone taste it. She insists it’s the same hot sauce they put on their take on “The Sandwich”, sooo, yeah.

Things got substantially worse within the last few bites. You see, no matter what you do, this sandwich will do everything in its power to transform into a terrible ball of protein that you cannot wrap your jaw around. Good fucking luck with this one!

And so, my life divided itself into Pre- and Post-Double Down.

I went home. I immediately needed to use the bathroom. My body was desperate to evacuate any trace of the Sandwich of Horrors. Sorry for this information, but you really need it to understand the scope of things, lest you think eating this sandwich is a good idea: I would use the bathroom several times within the next few hours.

And then I collapsed in bed. I was exhausted. I needed to sleep.

This is where everything went to hell. Something happened here that I do not fully understand. I was sweating buckets, and suddenly I was overcome with some of the most intense dread I had ever experienced in my life.

This was a lot for me to deal with. You see, two years ago, my wife experienced the rapid failure of one of her organs – a condition that caused me to google every possible symptom she could be experiencing. One of those was a “sense of impending doom”.

Yes, apparently that is a real medical symptom, not just for having a self-destructive brain like mine but also for when your internal organs are trying to kill you. Cool! For the next two years of my life, every time I would have my normal pre-panic attack aura, I would wonder if my insides were enacting their revenge upon me. Mercifully, it would never come to be the case, and I would live another day.

But this… this felt different. Worse. Something dark was inside my body, and now something horrible was going to happen.

I began to have bizarre, feverish terror. At the worst of it, I was overcome with sincere, paralyzing fear that The Skull was going to manifest in my home.

I have struggled my whole life with some fairly bizarre random fears. When I’m having them, I’m always at least slightly aware that I’m being ridiculous, but that only makes it feel worse. I knew The Skull wasn’t real. But it had developed in my mind fully formed the moment that I had finished digesting the horrible sandwich. And I knew exactly how it would act: the moment I had relaxed my body, even for a little bit, it would appear – and scream.

So my wife eventually kicked me out of bed, where I stumbled into the TV room and sat down in silence. My head was swimming and I felt horrible. I looked briefly at the radio, but could not bring myself to turn it on. The idea of turning on any form of noise-making electronics that I had no control over felt horrible – what would play? Fucking Paul McCartney? With a guest appearance from Screaming Skull?

Paula came in. She immediately walked over and turned on the TV. I panicked – no! The Skull would be there! She had no idea what I was on about. I was too exhausted to explain. She watched America’s Test Kitchen in relative silence, where I interrupted every 5 minutes to say “The Skull is going to be there.” She tried her best to follow along with my narrative, reassuring me that if the Skull was there, “he would make delicious meals with these beautiful women.” It did not comfort me.

On top of this, the sandwich proved to have some sort of cognitive time-distortion ability. It became dark surprisingly fast. At one point, asked to guess when the Double Down was first released, I said 2005 with relative confidence.

I need to take this moment to explain that I am not particularly concerned with the caloric quality of my food. This is to say, I don’t think I was in a loop of freaking myself out thinking “oh this sandwich is so unhealthy, I’m going to get sick”. The ill effects of this sandwich are primarily spiritual; the ghost itself of Double Down was manifesting skeletons.

A close-up of the KFC Double Down, with a skull faintly superimposed on top.

On that note: the original release material for the Double Down claims that it was 540 calories. I am sorry to say, I found myself thinking “that’s really not that many” – at least not for how much memetic value the sandwich would carry for years to come. The Taco Bell Quesarito is 650 calories, for God’s sake, and people love that thing.

Well, it only gets more confusing from there. The current promotional material states it is 950 calories. That’s nearly twice as much! What gives? I have no reference point to compare to the original sandwich, since I never had it. The photos aren’t particularly enlightening, I can’t tell if the chicken pieces are bigger. Could be a side effect of how large chicken breasts have gotten. But what if it was the switch from monterey jack to “Regular” cheese? Did the Colonel’s Sauce have negative calories? Have calories, the measurement of energy itself, changed? Frightening stuff.

Speaking of calories, back in 2010 the Double Down came with a grilled counterpart. “Who the FUCK is getting a grilled Double Down?” my wife asked me. Unfortunately, the way I found this information was through people talking excitedly about how it was a good carb-free option for their diet – maybe some proto-keto shenanigans?

Well, not only has the grilled option been banished from the face of the earth, but they are now selling an alternative bun-on sandwich (what’s the fucking point?) version of the Double Down, which they are choosing to call the “Bacon & Cheese Chicken Sandwich Combo”. Maybe to trick normal people into ordering their cursed chicken.

Jesus. Between this and the Fruit Gums (which I still have, by the way, the bag is infinitely full, because owning a bag of Fruit Gums is like placing a Minecraft spawner, they just keep coming until they break the thing), I just have a bad relationship with food lately.

In closing, some wise words from Paula:

What exactly makes the Double Down a sandwich, anyway? There’s been a lot of discourse on what foods are and aren’t a sandwich, which has all been extremely stupid. The worst has been over if a hot dog a sandwich, which has in reality been a deliberate effort by New York hot dog producers to get a better tax break on their products. That isn’t a joke, look up New York tax codes.

So the Double Down is a breadless “sandwich”, with the two patties functioning as “buns.” The USDA defines that a sandwich “must contain at least 35 percent cooked meat and no more than 50 percent bread”. That cuts the Double Down right out, so what do they have it registered with the USDA as? Does the USDA even need to know about this? Is the USDA even aware that KFC is selling the Double Down? The mind reels.

Does it even matter if the Double Down is a true sandwich or not? It’s an abomination and trying to classify it further is a waste of time. It simply is, and exists as itself: the Double Down. God help us.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.