I tried everything on McDonald's breakfast menu and saw why it can't just rely on iconic classics to fend off new competition

Irene Jiang / Business InsiderMcDonald’s breakfast has stood the test of time, but will it withstand the test of taste?

McDonald’s has long been the king of breakfast, but recently, the iconic chain has been tweaking its menu here and there in an effort to boost disappointing sales.

Times are tough and getting tougher.

After the Chicken Wars of August 2019, McDonald’s chicken sales slumped. Then, one of McDonald’s biggest rivals, Wendy’s, announced in September it would be launching a breakfast menu nationwide in 2020 – replete with finger-lickin’ chicken sandwiches of its own.

Then, McDonald’s decided to add chicken to its breakfast menu in 2020.

Old dogs need to learn new tricks if they want to compete with the pups. McDonald’s breakfast has so far stood the test of time, but will it withstand the test of taste? I tried everything to find out.


For the whole shebang, my total was $US56.58 with promotional pricing. I ordered all of the entrees on the breakfast menu except for sandwiches that contained just egg or just sausage. I also ordered three drinks from the McCafe menu.

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DRINKS — McCafe’s selection is extensive but also can be overwhelming. I got an iced coffee, strawberry banana smoothie, and iced mocha.

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ICED COFFEE, $US2.69 — I didn’t realise that the iced coffee came with milk added.

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It was milky enough that the coffee flavour was muted. Although pleasant and drinkable, it’s not for black coffee drinkers.

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STRAWBERRY BANANA SMOOTHIE, $US3.69 — It’s nice that McDonald’s has smoothies now, although this one tastes like jam and ice blended together.

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Sadly, the smoothie is sickly sweet to the point of being undrinkable. It’s not healthy, and it doesn’t taste good. So what’s the point?

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ICED MOCHA, $US2.99 — Of all the drinks in this lineup, the iced mocha does the best job at pretending to be fancy.

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It’s gorgeous with a deep, rich flavour and more than just a hint of chocolate.

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First on my table, biscuits. I bought three: the classic bacon egg and cheese, the sausage with egg, and the upcoming McChicken biscuit.

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BACON EGG AND CHEESE BISCUIT, $US4.19 — These golden butterballs are meant to be punctuated by the crisp of red, smoky bacon.

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The biscuit, egg, and cheese are a power trio but lack the savoury kick they need to punch it up a level.

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Alas, McDonald’s scant bacon does little to power up the flavour of this sandwich.

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SAUSAGE BISCUIT WITH EGG, $US3.99 — When McDonald’s gets a biscuit right, it gets it right. But its biscuits are inconsistent.

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At their worst, they are bland and dry. At their best, they’re crunchy, golden, and hot. But they’re usually good with sausage.

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McDonald’s sausage is reliably salty, soft, and fatty enough to bring out all the other flavours in a biscuit sandwich.

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MCCHICKEN BISCUIT, $US3.19 — This one hasn’t arrived on national menus yet, but will do so in 2020.

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The New York location of McDonald’s I went to was one of the test locations selling the upcoming chicken breakfast items.


However, it truly doesn’t compare to its chicken biscuit counterparts at Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A.

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It really is just a McChicken patty on a biscuit. And that just feels a little low-effort.

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There are bagels on McDonald’s breakfast menu? When did that happen?!

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I spent most of 2018 living abroad, so there’s a good chance it happened then.


BACON EGG AND CHEESE BAGEL, $US4.49 — Bagels can be powerfully good — when they’re good. They’re the opposite when they’re bad.

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And sadly, McDonald’s bagels are bad.

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Even though everything else on this sandwich is fine, the dry, floury bagel makes everything else taste like dust.

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SAUSAGE EGG AND CHEESE BAGEL, $US4.39 — McDonald’s sausage usually seems to fare better against stiffer sandwich buns.

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But in this case, the sandwich is unsalvageable due to its bagel bun.

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I’m baffled as to why anyone would choose these bready flats over the far superior biscuit or McMuffin buns.

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Speaking of which, McDonald’s most iconic breakfast item has got to be the McMuffin.

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SAUSAGE EGG MCMUFFIN, $US3.99 — McMuffin sandwiches have one main advantage over McDonald’s other sandwiches: they come with a full cracked egg cooked on a griddle.

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I’m also personally a fan of the soft, chewy, English muffin bun that has a lovely dusting of grit.

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All in all, this sandwich has a great bite, solid and varied flavours, and ingredients that all taste relatively fresh and high-quality.

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EGG MCMUFFIN, $US3.99 — The name of this sandwich is a little misleading. If a sausage McMuffin also has egg in it, then this should be a ham McMuffin.

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What’s a McMuffin by any other name? Perfection. Hot ham, soft egg, chewy bun, and cheesy cheese make for one Benedictine egg sandwich.

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But the one I ordered for this taste test was less than perfect. I learned that hard ham and burnt bun break a McMuffin.

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SAUSAGE BURRITO, $US1.99 — As far as burritos go, breakfast burritos are the least exciting, in my opinion. However, other people clearly feel differently.

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It’s an extra ingredient to keep track of (a tortilla) without the added excitement.

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It’s essentially the same ingredients in all McDonald’s other sausage sandwiches, except in a tortilla. You’d think they’d toss in a slice of pepper or something.

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McGriddles satisfy that special sweet spot that only a combination of salt and sugar can hit.

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BACON EGG AND CHEESE MCGRIDDLE, $US4.19 — The sweet and sticky McGriddle needs a strong salty beast to bring out the best in it.

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Unfortunately, McDonald’s bacon is chronically wimpy.

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And the pillowy, watery egg doesn’t do much to boost this sandwich’s flavour profile.

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SAUSAGE EGG AND CHEESE MCGRIDDLE, $US4.29 — However, the mighty McGriddle meets its match in McDonald’s soft, salty sausage.

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This sandwich could use a bit of a texture upgrade, though.

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Even thought the balance of flavours is perfect, everything in the sandwich is kind of mushy.

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CHICKEN MCGRIDDLE, $US3.39 — This is the second of the McChicken items McDonald’s is adding to its menu in 2020.

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I like McChickens. I like McGriddles. But there’s nothing in this sandwich that makes me say “they should be together.”

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Like its biscuit counterpart, this sandwich feels like a low-effort attempt to get in on the chicken action.

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BIG BREAKFAST WITH HOTCAKES, $US5.69 — This breakfast platter contains hotcakes, a hash brown, and a deconstructed sausage biscuit with egg.

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For hotcakes that come in a plastic box, McDonald’s fluffy rounds are actually pretty good.

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I imagine that they sell like hotcakes.

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Another classic still going strong at McDonald’s is the hash brown, which is the perfect potato pal for any solitary sandwich.

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Whoever invented this crispy, pocket-sized spud probably didn’t know that they were changing the world.

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The rest of this breakfast isn’t anything new. It’s just egg, sausage biscuit, and a sausage patty.

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But if you prefer your breakfast in non-sandwich form, McDonald’s has you covered.

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McDonald’s is kind of the King Lear of breakfast. It’s reigned long and well, but recent decisions have caused some to doubt its judgment, and there are many waiting to take its place.

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Its classics are where the golden arches are strongest. Some of its best items, like its McMuffins, are also its oldest.

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However, McDonald’s hasn’t brought any good new items to the breakfast table in recent years.

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Even though its classics are often better than what the competition has to offer, McDonald’s can’t rely on the past to save it in the future.

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It’s going to have to innovate to keep up with changing tastes. And slapping a McChicken patty on a biscuit just won’t cut it in a Popeyes chicken sandwich world.

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