We taste-tested Chick-fil-A, KFC, and Popeyes and found the best fast-food chicken chain

Katie Canales/Business InsiderThe menus at KFC, Popeyes, and Chick-fil-A sport similar items, but whose takes on fried-chicken staples are the best?
  • When a craving for fast-foodfried chicken hits, a number of options are available to fulfil your deep-fried desires.
  • Chick-fil-A,KFC, and Popeyes are three of the most popular chicken chains in the US.
  • We traversed the San Francisco Bay Area’s fast-food scene to hit all three chains and collect some of the most popular menu items at each.
  • Chick-fil-A is clearly the winner for mastering its iconic chicken staple items.
  • And while KFC brought nothing noteworthy to the table, Popeyes came in at a close second for its high-quality crispy chicken.
  • Take a look:

The chicken tenders, the nuggets, and the chicken sandwich — these are staples at any go-to chicken spot and ones that you’ll find on the menus at KFC, Popeyes, and Chick-fil-A.

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But what helps brands distinguish themselves from each other is offering unique and distinct takes on these items. So we set out to see for ourselves how some of the best fast-food fried-chicken joints set themselves apart from each other.

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We sampled the most popular or best-selling menu items from each chicken chain, referencing rankings posted by the companies, other publications, and public forums.

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That meant different dishes from each chain.

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We went with Chick-fil-A’s chicken nuggets, Popeyes’ spicy chicken tenders, and KFC’s original fried chicken, to name a few items.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderDisclaimer: Those are two Chick-fil-A chicken nuggets stuck together in the middle. A KFC original fried-chicken tender is on the left, and a Popeyes’ spicy chicken tender is on the right.

KFC’s pieces were large in size, but they were lacking in overall flavour, taste, and crispiness. On top of that, the breading on the KFC chicken was the most uneven out of all three dishes.

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They were easily overshadowed by Popeyes’ and Chick-fil-A’s warm, juicy chicken pieces.

But that’s just the chicken on its own — how does each chain measure up when it comes to its take on the chicken sandwich?

Katie Canales/Business InsiderFrom left to right: KFC’s Smoky Mountain BBQ-flavored Crispy Colonel Sandwich, Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich, and Popeyes’ Chicken Po’ Boy.

Let’s preface this by saying that, hands down, Chick-fil-A’s sandwich reigns supreme — the restaurant has mastered the art of the chicken sandwich.

Katie Canales/Business InsiderOn the left is KFC’s Smoky Mountain BBQ sandwich, and on the right is Chick-fil-A’s chicken sandwich.

But KFC and Popeyes have some appetizing equivalents.

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KFC’s Smoky Mountain BBQ-flavored Crispy Colonel Sandwich, with its BBQ-sauce-soaked fried chicken nestled alongside pickles between two buns, packs a mean punch. There wasn’t much of a crisp to the chicken, though, which was disappointing.

But Popeyes’ Chicken Po’ Boy was especially delicious. Chick-fil-A may have the winning sandwich, but the sheer quality of Popeyes’ crispy chicken makes its Po’ Boy more than memorable.

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For the sides, we went with french fries at Chick-fil-A and Popeyes because both menu items have been ranked as some of the best that the chains have to offer.

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KFC tries to pass its seasoned potato wedges off as french fries, but we don’t think that counts. So we opted instead for KFC’s classic creamy gravy-topped mashed potatoes, which were pretty tasty.

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Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries took the No. 1 spot as the chain’s most ordered menu item in 2018. And for good reason — the fries alone, with their unique shape, perfectly salty taste, and texture, would warrant a trip to Chick-fil-A.

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So while Popeyes’ spicy Cajun crispy french fries were delectable, Chick-fil-A wins for its perfectly salty waffle fries.

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KFC came in dead last when compared with its two competitors. The chain offered nothing noteworthy in its chicken tenders and sides.

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And while Popeyes came in at a close second, Chick-fil-A wins this taste test for truly mastering its iconic chicken staple items.

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But that in no way diminishes Popeye’s downright superb fried-chicken quality. The crisp, the breading, the texture, and the taste – Popeyes nails it every time.

But Chick-fil-A singles itself out by taking its menu items and making each one entirely its own.

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From its chicken sandwich to its chicken nuggets and chicken strips, Chick-fil-A isn’t the only fast-food restaurant with these items on the menu, but it crafts them in such a way that its competitors don’t stand a chance against.

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