Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fast Food Review: KFC Dip 'Ems

Have you ever seen a movie so comically bad that you can't turn it off? I don't mean a silly comedy where the actual act of watching it becomes the joke - I guess that's kind of what a stoner movie is - but rather something so atrocious that you just sit there dumbfounded. Is this really a movie?, you think to yourself. Someone actually watched the final cut of this and said "Okay, we're good to go!"?

Some movies that fall into that category for me: Open Water 2: Adrift, The Island of Dr. Moreau, Wild Wild West, and Lady in the Water.

That's kind of how I feel about KFC these days. Their products are so ridiculous, I can't look away. They are trying to get business by coming up with new ads... they just aren't actually willing to release any new products.

Thousands of people have already read my views on KFC's manipulative renaming of their Snackers as "Chicken Littles." And now KFC is jumping on board the dipping craze, releasing "Dip 'ems," presumably to compete with Popeyes Dip'n Chick'n or the Checkers Chicken Dippers which I wrote about yesterday. They even are copying Popeyes use of an apostrophe.

But, in true KFC fashion, they haven't bothered to do anything new with the chicken. These are the same chicken tenders that they have been selling for years.

The one new wrinkle, however, is that KFC is offering three new sauces: Creamy Buffalo, Orange Ginger, and Bacon Ranch. (I guess one could argue that this counts as releasing a new product, but I don't think so.) But... am I really going to go try chicken tenders that I hate just so that I can try new sauces?

Of course I am.

I headed to the KFC closest to me.

The ads claim that KFC is selling a three-piece box with one side, a biscuit and a drink for five bucks. So, if you've been reading for any amount of time at all - literally; I just mentioned this phenomenon yesterday - you won't be surprised to know that it was six dollars here in Brooklyn. Whatever.

As soon as I placed the order the girl behind the register removed three chicken tenders from a shelf under a heat lamp. I have no right to complain here: I know this is what KFC does. Yes, the chicken would be ten times better if it wer cooked to order, but what can you do? KFC is fine with leaving chicken out for a long time, that's how it goes.

But there were a couple of new wrinkles this time: I didn't get to choose my side, she automatically grabbed an already-filled container of potato wedges that were just sitting on the counter. And when she asked me what I wanted to drink and I said Diet Pepsi, she handed me a cup already filled with ice and the drink. I don't even want to think about what this all means. Is this the KFC policy now, to do everything ahead of time to minimize wait times for customers? Why not just put every single item on heated racks like a 7-Eleven and let the customers serve themselves?

The employee asked me what kind of sauces I wanted and I chose the Creamy Buffalo and Orange Ginger. (Both of which were in stock; despite the fact that Popeyes chicken is much, much better than KFC's, at least KFC bothers to stock their sauce.) She told me that she had tried the Bacon Ranch and that it was good, but ranch just isn't a flavor I much enjoy. I've had bacon-tinged ranch sauces before, and I admit the bacon makes it taste slightly better, but it's still not for me.

The chicken was terrible. No surprise there. Dried-out from sitting under heat lamps for God knows how long. Like I said, this is what I expect from KFC these days.

When I wrote about Burger King's chicken strips and Kung Pao sauce in March, I wondered why more fast food chains don't introduce sauces with an Asian flair. Marvo pointed out that many people consider sweet & sour to be an Asian sauce, and he's probably correct, but I meant something even more obvious. Orange Ginger is definitely a step in that direction.

It was pretty sweet, and without looking I knew the first ingredient was corn syrup. I don't care about the health aspects of high fructose corn syrup, I care about the taste, and, as usual, the flavor of it was too dominant. There was definitely orange in the background, that burnt-orange zing similar to orange marmalade, which I enjoyed. (I could not taste any ginger; the ingredients list "ginger puree," a blend of ginger with water and acid.) But it was too hard to get past the syrupy flavor up front.

The Creamy Buffalo sauce tasted exactly like McDonald's spicy buffalo sauce. (Not surprisingly, looking back at photos I see that the first five ingredients are exactly the same: cayenne pepper, water, vinegar, soybean oil, and food starch.) But that's not a bad thing. I like both. It is also, as you can see, a color not of this world

KFC's buffalo sauce, like McDonald's, is much spicier than I expected it to be. At one point I had to pause to take a sip of my watered-down-because-God-knows-when-the-ice-had-been-added-to-it Pepsi.

I'd like to tell you that I would probably try both these sauces again. But I doubt I will. I don't think I'll be returning to KFC. Their chicken is not good, and their insistence on cooking something as easy-to-prepare as chicken strips ahead of time is annoying. I will definitely return if they bring back their boneless "Tangy Teriyaki" wings, but, barring that, I don't see the need to go back.


ania said...

$3.00 per sauce.... but - you gotta live and be adventurous, right? I'm not rubbing it in - I appreciate you taking the hit in order to warn all of you readers.

I'm certain I've seen better/fresher-looking food as I walk past a Publix (grocery store) deli. Am I fooling myself when I think, that the staleness of the food comes through in the images?

Anyway - as always, I enjoyed this posts, so thanks!

JustinM said...

I went to a Publix for the first time when I was in Florida in April. I liked it. But you are correct, you will find fresher fare ANYWHERE they cook the food to order. Back when I lived in South Pasadena I often went to a local market, Vons, for their chicken strips. When they fried them up for you they were some of the best in town.

Mike N. said...

It's too bad KFC doesn't do like taco bell and leave buckets of their sauce packets out for the taking. Speaking of KFC, did you ever try their pot pie? It looked interesting, but KFC is so far off my radar I never tried it (don't know if it's still on the menu.)

Speaking of grocers, Wal-Mart of all places actually has decent chicken strips, potato wedges, buffalo wings, etc., and (at least around me) they do such a brisk business that they don't have time to dry out. Of course it helps that they put the hot case right near the exit where there's lots of foot traffic.

JustinM said...

No, I never tried the pot pie. There was a time 7 or 8 years ago when I ate at KFC at least once a week but I pretty much only got chicken littles and popcorn chicken.

I don't have much Wal Mart experience. I pretty much have only visited them on road trips.

ben wideman said...

I worked for Subway for about a year in high school. It was my awakening to the world of fast food promotions. During my time there Subway released several new subs. Each time it was simply using ingredients that were already stocked by the store, just mixed and layered in different ways to create a "new" product. On a very rare occasion they would add a sauce, and that seemed to be the most revolutionary thing they did. I remember being a bit surprised to learn that Subway's selection of breads are essentially the same preformed stick of white or wheat bread dough baked with different pre-packaged toppings to create the illusion of having 5-8 "different" breads to choose from.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Popeye's is like a 100x better than KFC and that is my go to place for fast food fried chicken. We used to hit up KFC like 6 years ago and earlier, it hasn't ever been the same, so we never go.

The best thing from KFC were the Honey BBQ wings and they continue to be on my mind to this very day.
And yeah the only bad thing about Popeye's is they never have the "limited" sauces that they put out with new promotions and the gross dry cajun shrimp I ordered this summer.

Jose Canseco said...

I like KFC tenders and I liked Lady in the Water.

Did you see The Happening? You'd probably have a similar, if not more pronounced reaction. I liked that one too.

Solaaris said...

Its wierd, over here in the UK, my local KFC pretty much cooks to order with the chicken very moist and tender! Downside is we don't get as much choice of sauces over here :(

JustinM said...

Jose Canseco: I wouldn't really say that I "liked" The Happening - although a lot of the deaths were really cool - but I felt like the point of that movie was to be a silly thriller, a throwback, so I didn't really think it was bad. Lady in the Water felt like pretentious nonsense. M. Night casting himself as a writer whose book changes the world is priceless in its arrogance.

Solaaris: I have a picture somewhere of me standing in front of a KFC in Belfast trying to get my brother to eat there with me. He would not.

Anonymous said...

KFC quit trying years ago. I loved them when I was a kid but they are crap now.

Solaaris said...

Justin - Must be just my local one then thats pretty good. In fairness I have been to a few around the country and they have been hit and miss.

Anonymous said...

I am lucky to live near a KFC that has a franchise owner who is more interested in serving quality than serving it quickly. Every order of chicken is cooked when you order it.

If it wasn't, I would request it to be... Why would you accept potato wedges that were already ready to go sitting on the counter, and an already prepared soda? It seems like you wanted to be as disappointed as you could be with the experience.

JustinM said...

I wanted to experience the meal as KFC served it, good or bad.

Anonymous said...

your reviews are absolutely terrible. are you really reviewing KFC based on the service? nobody goes to a fast food place because they have good service...and if you don't like what they're serving you, don't accept it.

p.s. popeye's chicken, while i agree it is much better, also sits under a heatlamp. fast food is fast food.

JustinM said...

At least I sign my name to them, unlike you anonymous chickenshits.

RLFallisJr said...

I agree, I'm 59 and I loved crispy KFC as a kid, but I've complained for years they changed the recipe. I think they went to crap when Col Sanders died, I don't think anyone cared any more.
Some day they will get bad enough that they will die off or someone with brains will buy them and take them back to there basic's and make a killing.
For now or until then, I don't eat there, because when I want chicken, I'll drive 65 miles one way for Popeyes

JustinM said...

It's probably a valid point about the Colonel. I've heard stories that he would go into a KFC and if he didn't like how the chicken looked he would instruct them to throw it all out and he would show them how to do it right.

(Similarly, Dave Thomas used to go into Wendy's and show the people how to properly make burgers. I definitely think Wendy's has gone way downhill in the last few years, too.)