Ah yes, deep-fried chicken has always been a cornerstone of culinary history. And as the culinary world evolves with the invention of the sandwich, so too does humankind as we naturally progress towards the creation of the fried chicken sandwich, arguably one of the great foods of the world and one that can be found on all corners of the globe regardless of location and culture.
But as the number of fast food chains grows, so has the number of easily-accessible fried chicken burgers. Mass pandemonium amongst the population erupts as man became spoilt for choice, unable to decide on what to eat or simply lacking the knowledge on which options hold undeniable superiority over the others.
Fear not, IEF is here to impart the grand wisdom upon you using a totally scientific and objective process: I’ll eat some burgers and tell you which ones I like and don’t like.
- Must be from a fast food chain with the following requirements:
- At least three locations islandwide
- No local exclusives (pre-emptive apologies to Chic-a-boo, Omakase Burger, and Project Warung)
- Semi-exclusive items from international chains are allowed, provided that said item is available in more than one country.
- No time-limited exclusives
- “Fast food” litmus test: if a waiter comes to your table to take your order, it’s disqualified.
- Only one entry per brand.
- The most “iconic” menu item which match the following criteria will be selected:
- A burger with a battered, deep-fried chicken patty.
- No other protein additions are allowed (bacon, ham etc.)
- “Original” flavours take priority if there are multiple flavour options.
- The most “iconic” menu item which match the following criteria will be selected:
After some research and careful deliberation using the criteria above, here is our list of entrants in alphabetical order:
- 4Fingers: B.F.F.
- A&W: Chubby Chicken Sandwich
- Burger King: Long Chicken
- The arguably more iconic “Tendercrisp” burger was unavailable for order. Only the “Ultimate Tendercrisp” was available which did not fulfill the entry criteria.
- Fatburger: Crispy Chicken Burger
- Jinjja: Chicken Burger
- Jollibee: Chicken Burger
- KFC: Zinger
- McDonald’s: McSpicy
- Mos Burger: Chicken Burger
- Popeye’s: Chicken Sandwich
- Shake Shack: Chick’n Shack
- Texas Fried Chicken: Tex Supreme
Notable exception: Mom’s Touch, despite technically having three locations islandwide the most recent third outlet has not opened at the time of testing. Should probably go back and add it in now but I’m lazy and also basically sick of chicken burgers at this point.
Various criteria that include but are not limited to:
- Overall freshness of ingredients
- Batter crispiness
- Patty juiciness
- Overall seasoning (batter + inner meat)
- Condiment synergy
And of course, just how it tastes in general.
For the test, all items were consumed immediately upon receiving the order, and all within 48 hours of each other to minimise the amount of “taste memory” in the judging process. An average of a quarter per item was consumed, and the rest shared with friends to prevent food wastage.
#12: Mos Burger's Chicken Burger
"The Mystery Meat"
Weebs, look away now.
Look, I had high expectations for Mos. Whenever I’m there I usually order the beef stuff and it’s typically pretty good, and some of the rice-bun burgers are some of my favourite fast food items too. Now it is to be noted that this is the first time I’ve ever had this burger, and so I was very unprepared for how awful this thing actually is.
The overall flavour profile of the burger itself isn’t too bad; it’s expectedly Japanese with the whole mayo-cabbage combo and the buns are decent, though nothing noteworthy. The big problem here is the patty.
I have no idea what I’ve tasted. Compacted, dry, and texturally almost-indistinguishable from the buns that sandwich it. A mealy, semi-congealed blob of sadness that makes me want to cry with every bite I took. And I only took two before I gave up.
I do remember Mos Burger having some sort of a karaage burger as a limited-time menu item, which was far better than this pathetic excuse of a sandwich considering that it was properly deep-fried whole chicken pieces. Yes Mos, keep the karaage. That’s Japanese; that’s your whole shtick!
This is the only burger on this list where I’d completely refuse to take another bite of. And so I dub Mos’ chicken burger as “The Mystery Meat”, a mystery I never want to solve and the worst fast food chicken burger I’ve ever had in my life.
#11: KFC's Zinger
"The Salty Spitoon"
Here we have the first chain on the list that is branded as a “fried chicken specialist”. And not just any chain either; here we have the biggest in the world: the colonel’s own.
And so… they disappoint. For something called the “Zinger”, there is a distinct lack of zing in this burger. Where’s the spiciness? Where’s the heat? C’mon Mr. Sanders, don’t give me promises of a burning tongue and then yank the carpet from under me, god. Talk about a complete misnomer.
The batter crispiness of the Zinger is also extremely inconsistent from restaurant to restaurant, and within each restaurant it’s even inconsistent from day to day. Sometimes you get a decent crunch, other times you get a sad, limp chew.
But really, the lack of spiciness and batter inconsistency is the least of the Zinger’s problem. What’s the big dealbreaker you say? Consider its flavour profile: salt. That’s it, all you would taste out of a Zinger burger is… salt. Salt overwhelmingly dominates the palate and it is virtually impossible to finish one of these without a whole jug of water.
And so, what better way to honour such a burger than with the name “Salty Spitoon”. A salty sandwich only for the saltiest of individuals.
#10: Burger King's Long Chicken
"The Last Resort"
One of those ground-emulsified chicken protein patties; thankfully not as bad as the ones from Mos Burger but still, not very ideal.
It’s a fairly typical “cheap chicken sandwich” similar to that of the McChicken, so it comes to no surprise that it’s not going to be ranked highly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a horrible sandwich and I’d still eat a whole one when hungry, but clearly this is not meant to be… gourmet.
And so, I dub Burger King’s Long Chicken burger “The Last Resort”. Not sure why you would ever order this item at a Burger King; perhaps you’re tight on cash and need to save some money. In which case here you go: never the first thing you’d get, but you do when you can’t get anything more. Your last resort.
#9: A&W's Chubby Chicken
A&W is one of those general fast food places that don’t really specialise in anything but basically have every standard fast food item in their menu. And of course, that includes the fried chicken burger.
The Chubby burger uses a breast patty, the first breast patty in this ranking list thus far. As an Asian I’m obviously more biased towards the dark meats instead, but for the purposes of this shootout I am willing to separate my personal preferences from the judging process.
I’d say that the Chubby burger gives off aggressive “Eh, it’s alright” vibes and isn’t horrible, but also not a craveable burger. It’s not a great burger by any means; the batter could use some extra crunch and the protein’s on the drier side, but it’s also embodies the spirit of the fried chicken burger. Fried whole chicken, sesame bun, shredduce (“shredded lettuce” for the uninitiated) and mayonnaise to round it all off.
A simple burger that shall so be dubbed “The Simple”. Easy, inoffensive, but also not a repeat order.
#8: 4Finger's B.F.F.
And we get into into fancier territory with the homegrown brand “4Fingers”, a fast food chain that specialises in fried chicken with more Asian flavours. The Soy Garlic option was chosen for this comparison.
So as a burger that is made on order, the B.F.F. has one of the crispiest batter on the list. The batter itself is on the lighter, fluffier side, which gives it all that clean crunch, even being able to withstand the sweet sauce that it’s slathered with. But now I guess you’ve realised that despite its ostentatious presentation it’s ranked fairly low on the list, so let me explain why.
First, the patty itself. Yes, the batter is top-tier and well-seasoned with the sweet-savoury soy garlic sauce, but it stumbles at one crucial aspect: the protein itself. The meat in the centre is rather bland and is hinging on the sauces which it’s paired with, which is the combination of the sweet soy garlic layer as well as a generous helping of sesame sauce reminiscent of goma dare.
And that’s where the second problem rears its ugly head: the sauce. The flavour profile is completely imbalanced in favour of the cloying sesame sauce, which meant that I could barely taste the chicken or the soy garlic sauce, and so what I got was simply an overwhelming taste of sweet-acidity.
And so, such an imba sandwich only deserves and equally imba name: “Sesame Overload”. Less sesame, more saltiness, and only then might we have a winner.
#7: Jinjja's Chicken Burger
"The Skin-deep Burger"
The Koreans have now entered the fray.
Jinjja’s chicken burger, like 4Finger’s own, has an extremely crisp batter no doubt due to the fact that it’s prepared only on order. Slathered with a savoury-sweet korean sauce (probably something similar to bulgogi?) and if I’m not wrong, this is the only chicken burger on this list with cheese! Not that I can really taste it though considering that the sauce overwhelms it.
Thankfully the flavour profile of the burger itself doesn’t seem to be as skewed as 4Finger’s B.F.F., but it is certainly the sweetest burger on this list by far. But there is one major problem: the meat is unseasoned. Again, like with the B.F.F., the chicken itself hinges on the sauce and while I don’t think that’s a sacrilegious concept per se… it does come off as having a “hole” in flavour when eating one. Doesn’t help things when the protein is somewhat on the drier side too, even as a thigh patty.
What nickname would I give this? Clearly “The Skin-deep Burger”. A beautiful burger in aethestics and beautifully seasoned, but all its beauty is only surface-level. Needs a little more love in the inside, too.
#6: Texas Fried Chicken's Tex Supreme
"Mayo Lover's Burger"
Believe me, I’m not exaggerating when I say that the Tex Supreme has a lot of mayo. In fact, in terms of sheer volume it’s probably the top dog in this regard.
But surprisingly, it actually all balances out given the relatively large size of the fried chicken patty itself. The batter is sturdy with good crunch, the protein is well-seasoned with decent juiciness and as someone who would consider mayo as the king of condiments… I like it a lot. Though it is to be said that this really is, objectively, a lot. Maybe too much for some.
Easy nickname here, the “Mayo Lover’s Burger”. If you’re someone who likes that tangy-sweet white sauce, look no further than Texas Chicken.
#5: Popeye's Chicken Sandwich
"The Limping Champion"
Ah yes, the sandwich that was memed on for while as being the best fried chicken sandwich.
Personally and purely in terms of flavour, this is my favourite. The flavour profile is fairly brioche-forward, even in comparison to the only other burger with brioche buns on this list (Fatburger’s). The spicy mayo pairs excellently with the patty and the pickles just round it all off with a nice bright finish, and of course providing much-needed textural diversity.
With is a shame, because while this burger has easily my favourite flavour profile out of everything else in the list… the underwhelming batter is too big a dealbreaker to put it any higher on the rankings. Not sure what goes on in the kitchen, but the batter feels like someone fried it and then left it steaming overnight. Which might be a pretty close guess considering that all Chicken Sandwiches are served in an aluminium bag.
What name does a renowned burger like this deserve? I’d say “The Limping Champion” is pretty apt. Certainly a champion in many people’s hearts, including myself, but Popeye’s themselves struggle to do their sandwich justice. And so champion limps, just like its batter crust.
#4: Fatburger's Crispy Chicken Burger
"The Purist's Choice"
We’re getting to fancier and fancier places as we go down the list, I guess for good reason.
Fatburger’s Crispy Chicken Burger is essentially a better, more refined version of A&W’s Chubby Chicken burger. This is what the Chubby Burger wants to be but can’t. A relatively simple burger with not a lot of bells of whistles; a thick breast patty with enough mayo, the requisite shredduce, and a tomato slice to top it all off because why not.
For a breast patty this is very moist, perhaps the juiciest breast patty in the list. It’s slightly on the bland side though; one could call it a more purist fried chicken burger but I’d argue that it could use more seasoning.
Regardless, this is a burger where the raw taste of chicken is the main star of the show which may or may not be up your alley. Personally I’d value a little more complexity and flavoural diversity in my burgers regardless of classification, but no doubt that this is a very good fried chicken burger.
And so I dub thee “The Purist’s Choice”. A burger that knows what it’s supposed to do and does it well. For those looking for good chicken, and probably nothing more.
#3: Jollibee's Chicken Burger
"The Pinoy Powerhouse"
Talk about a dark horse entry! This is actually the first time I’ve ever had Jollibee’s chicken burger and I must say: wow.
But before I get into any of that, allow me to make just one complaint…
Look at that. Just look at that. This is easily the worst patty-to-bun ratio in this list. Jollibee, step up or step down.
But ignoring that (because that’s not really a factor in this ranking), Jollibee’s chicken burger is what I’d consider a flavour bomb. The flavour profile is salty-dominant for sure, but it’s not salt-salt like on the Zinger but rather a more complex savouriness with a decently moist inside.
In fact, the size of the patty itself may have contributed to the balance of flavours considering that if it were your standard large patty, it might’ve been too overwhelming. The batter is not the crunchiest though thankfully not as limp as the ones from Popeye’s, but points need to be docked accordingly.
And as the representative of the Philippines and her prideful citizens, there’s no more appropriate nickname for Jollibee’s chicken burger than “The Pinoy Powerhouse”. Probably wasn’t on most people’s shortlist, but really should be.
#2: Shake Shack's Chick'n Shack
"The Boujee Burger"
Huh, the first burger on this list where the actual burger actually looks better than the specially-curated corporate photos. Neat.
Shake Shack is probably the fanciest fast food place on this list, and so it’s no surprise that its Chick’n Shack burger is also the most expensive burger on this list as well clocking in at a whopping S$9.20 a la carte. But in this case, I’d say that more money does get you a higher quality burger.
The Chick’n Shack has a stronger, more acidic flavour profile that the average burger on this list but it’s also necessary to balance out the well-seasoned batter and protein of the patty itself. The pickle-mayo combo does lend itself to comparisons to the Big Mac for sure, but I wouldn’t really consider that an insult considering that it’s just a really well-done chicken burger.
The patty is made out of breast, only the third one on this list but arguably the best one. It’s not as juicy as the one from Fatburger’s but it is better seasoned, and while overwhelming on its own does synergise well with everything else on the burger, shredduce included.
A fancy burger with a high price tag only deserves the name “The Boujee Burger”. You may prefer the cheaper ones but you cannot deny, the Chick’n Shack is the one to get when you’re in a splurging mood.
#1: McDonald's McSpicy
For those who have ever tasted a McSpicy: there was never any doubt.
For those who haven’t, allow me to sing its praises.
The McSpicy is what I’d affectionately refer to as the “default” of my local McDonald’s menu. Some friends invite you to Macs for a late-night dinner? You’d probably grab a McSpicy. Craving Maccas randomly in the day? It’s most likely the McSpicy. Lived overseas for a few years and craving some local food? You bet that one of those foods would be the McSpicy.
The McSpicy has a full chicken thigh patty, none of the McChicken’s emulsified BS here. Salty-spicy flavour profile and what is probably the juiciest patties within this ranking list. Beyond that, the batter is also consistently crunchy and never once had I gotten a McSpicy with a limp patty.
Any hotter and the spice would start intruding on the flavour of the patty itself; any milder and I’d be complaining about how it could use more. I mean, someone out there could probably use more or less heat, but for me alone the McSpicy just strikes that near-perfect balance that keeps me coming for more, McLaosais be damned.
Probably the only reason I’d go to McDonald’s willingly and repeatedly, the McSpicy shall be crowned “The Default”. Get one, enjoy one, and get one again. And again.
Happy first of April, y’all.
Support me on Patreon to get access to tentative ranks and/or the exclusive “Clubhouse” Discord server! My usual thanks to all my current supporters and shoutouts to my big money boys: