Battle of the Dishes: Fried vs. Grilled KFC


The bombardment of hype surrounding the new KFC grilled chicken naturally made Fork in the Road curious. Would it be better than the usual fried product? Would it, ostensibly devoid of breading, prove once and for all the myth that Kentucky Fried Chicken had bred birds that were no longer, technically, chickens? To answer these questions, I went to the outlet nearest the Voice offices, the one at 14th Street and Second Avenue, which is always a madhouse. A long line snaked out the door, some hapless customers still brandishing Oprah coupons. And the place was decorated with signature buckets of chicken, with grilled on one side, and fried on the other. Which would be better?

I’ve spent an hour trying to get these images to line up, but, really, WGAF? This blogging software (Moveable Type) sucks!

I forced my way inside, expecting to be comparing three kinds of chicken–regular fried, extra crispy fried, and newfangled grilled, but when I got to the menu board, there was only one kind of fried available. That kind turned out to be more like extra crispy than original. For comparative purposes, the $6.19, three-piece “dark” box was ordered, consisting of a pair of sides, a lumpen biscuit, two thighs, and a drumstick. Both assortments come in a black plastic tray as big as a serving platter. Perhaps it’s recyclable, but I kinda doubt it.

The fried chicken was a bit soggy, but then the branch at 14th and Second is notorious for dealing an inconsistent product. It constitutes a sort of rogue KFC. The fried chicken was damp and salty, with little crispness to the skin, though it was well browned. The saltiness became annoying after downing the first piece, and I had to go to the fridge for extra selzer.

By contrast, the grilled, though it had zero smoky flavor, was perfectly cooked. It had seemingly been brined and then dusted with herbs. It was like a supermarket rotisserie chicken, or maybe a chicken from one of those Peruvian joints. It was far superior to the KFC fried in every way, though in one particular aspect it fell short.

In comparative physiographic testing (actually, just putting the pieces side-by-side on a plate), the grilled version proved far smaller than its fried counterpart. Is it just a matter of breading? I think not. I believe KFC is using smaller “chickens” for the grilled, making you pay extra for enhanced “healthiness.” And cynically figuring that no one in their right mind is going to buy both and compare them.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 5, 2009

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