Tasting KFC’s Most Infamous Sandwich: The Double Down

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Tasting KFC’s Most Infamous Sandwich: The Double Down

KFC’s Double Down looks to settle one of the most persistent food debates with the curl of a monkey’s paw. 

The question: Is a sandwich really a sandwich without bread?

The answer: Maybe, but does it really matter?

Subbing out buns for fried chicken tenders and placing cheese, sauce and bacon in between its fowl buns, the Double Down is inarguably one of the Louisville-based fast-food chain’s most absurd and cursed offerings. It’s both better than it has any right to be and serves as an affront to sandwich-dom.

Whether you’re trying one out of sheer curiosity, to secure a chance to check out the beta for Diablo IV or because you’ve missed it ever since trying one during its original run over a decade ago, you’re in for a treat.

Before my first bite, I was dubious. Fried chicken from fast food restaurants frequently runs the risk of having its crispy skin slide off of the meat after even just one or two bites, so I could only imagine what kind of saucy, cheesy mess could come from doubling down on that risk factor. I was shocked (and relieved) to find out that the sandwich fully maintained its structural integrity while I ate it. Toward the end of the sandwich, it certainly became difficult to tell which end was up as the sauce and cheese became one indistinguishable mass. I needed a napkin or two after the final bites, but that’s something I expect out of any good sandwich.

Surprising no one, the Double Down is exactly what it tastes like: fried chicken, cheese and bacon. I ordered the spicy version, so there was also spicy mayo on mine. Given that KFC has staked its reputation on its trademark 11 herbs and spices, it’s no surprise that the chicken was the star of the show here. Crispy and flavorful, the chicken is solid for a fast food restaurant. The bacon, cheese and sauce enhanced each others’ flavors the way they would on a standard sandwich.

Almost as if chicken filet ala king was turned into a sandwich, it’s no surprise that rich cheese, sauce and bacon play well with the crispy chicken and spicy mayo to balance everything out. I’ve seen some people lament the lack of pickle on this sandwich, and while I am usually the first to point out that something could be improved with pickles, I don’t think the Double Down necessarily needed any. There are already a lot of bold flavors competing with each other, and adding another salt bomb into the mix might push things over the top for me.

I was surprised to find myself not really missing a bun. Some rare exceptions aside, like the bun Popeye’s uses for its chicken sandwich, bread from fast food joints tends not to be very good. It’s often sweet, gummy and unsatisfying. Don’t get me wrong: I certainly do crave an oddly sweet McDonald’s bun every once in a while, but for the most part, they wind up feeling like filler. I’m not advocating for some pro-keto end to fast food buns. After all, fried chicken is more or less the only sandwich item in fast food that the Double Down’s stunt actually works with. Fish is too flaky and soft, while burger and sausage patties are usually too hot and greasy.

Could the Double Down inspire the next fast food trend to rival the chicken sandwich wars? Almost certainly not. In fact, the other two major fried chicken chains, Popeyes and Chick-fil-A, probably couldn’t compete even if they wanted to. Popeye’s tenders are too narrow to hold much chicken, and Chick-fil-A’s chicken lacks the necessary structural integrity. Beyond that, it seems like an impractical item to sell long-term, which is probably why it’s only now resurfaced on KFC’s menu after its long-term banishment.

Born out of an April Fools’ Day prank, the Double Down is perfectly designed to garner controversy, clicks and general buzz. But when you get down to the nitty-gritty, the Double Down is just another fast-food chicken sandwich. I found it more satisfying than most, too. Where many fast food sandwiches leave me ready to scarf down a second helping, the Double Down with a side was just enough to satisfy my often out-of-control appetite without making me feel overstuffed or leaving me hungry. I’m glad I gave the Double Down a chance; it’s not the end-all be-all of the chicken sandwich wars (I think Popeye’s is still king in that regard), but it is an interesting alternative that’s sure to please anyone with a large appetite.

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