The KFC Double Down is a joke that’s not value repeating


When KFC’s Double Down sandwich — which daringly subbed two hen patties for a bun encasing bacon, cheese and sauce — debuted in 2010, it was a bona fide cultural second.

Native information reporters interviewed individuals who had lined as much as strive the gluttonous discs in franchise parking tons. Stephen Colbert ate one on his late-night present and dubbed it “deep-fried madness.”

We had been collectively transfixed by each the surplus (1,380 milligrams of sodium?!) and the novel lawlessness of all of it. What, we requested ourselves, was a sandwich with out the bread?

The yr 2010 now appears a extra harmless time. Let’s assume again, lets? “Avatar” was nominated for an Oscar for finest image, skinny denims had formally taken over, and Beyoncé was nonetheless Sasha Fierce. So, a lot has occurred within the 13 years since. And never simply on the worldwide stage. (Ebola, coronavirus and the Trump administration, anybody?) Issues acquired fairly bizarre on the meals scene, too, with the R&D labs for the nation’s fast-food chains seemingly overtaken by Frankensteinian madmen.

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Pizza Hut grew bored with stuffing its pie crusts with cheese, and so it shoved scorching canine into them. Arby’s erected the “Meat Mountain” out of as many as 9 totally different types of animal protein. 4-pattied Huge Macs reached skyward. Doughnuts had been pressed into service as buns. There have been Triplelupas.

Such stunt meals have given strategy to hacks. On TikTok, folks now customise their orders to their explicit liking, getting their hen sandwiches topped with mac and cheese, mixing sauces — and making an attempt the endurance of fast-food staff making an attempt to maintain up.

Now KFC is bringing again the Double Down, which, if it wasn’t the sandwich that began all of it, not less than was the one which heralded what was inevitably to come back. Nick Chavez, the chain’s chief advertising and marketing officer for the USA, defined the rationale, saying that KFC is “embracing the chaos” of “some of the buzzworthy quick meals menu objects ever.”

However on this panorama the place we’re weary of all these turduckened portmanteaus, the Double Down simply doesn’t pack the identical culinary intestine punch that it as soon as did.

The return of the Double Down is the revival nobody requested for, stated Adam Chandler, the writer of “Drive-Thru Dreams,” which recounts the historical past of America’s love affair with quick meals. “It’s like seeing your ex at a marriage,” he stated.

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It isn’t like persons are clamoring for it, beginning petitions and Fb teams calling for its return, the best way they did with true fan favorites comparable to Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza, Chandler notes. Even on the time of its launch, the menu merchandise acquired tepid opinions, and the thrill round it appeared principally pushed by diners who loved its transgressive thrill greater than its style. “There’s nothing actually pleasing about consuming this aside from the truth that you achieved it,” Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema declared on the time. “It’s form of a poor man’s Everest.” The New York Occasions restaurant critic Sam Sifton referred to as it “a disgusting meal, a must-to-avoid.”

The Double Down reappeared for a bit in 2014, although it has existed all over the world in different permutations. In some areas, it’s made with turkey bacon to skirt dietary restrictions on pork. A Canadian model was original out of two hen patties embracing a Belgian waffle — and the entire thing was doused with “a Canadian maple aioli sauce.” Within the Philippines, KFC supplied a Double Down Canine, whose filling contained a scorching canine.

The chain’s choice to carry them again to the U.S. market this yr in all probability has extra to do with the underside line than with the cultural second, stated David Henkes, a senior principal with the restaurant analysis agency Technomic. Most quick-service chains are experiencing slower progress and better prices due to inflation, he famous, and they’re typically turning to limited-time choices to spice up enterprise. “Bringing again objects which have nostalgic enchantment, superstar meals — chains are doing what they will to chop via the muddle,” he stated.

In different phrases, we’d not be as disgusted/awed as we had been greater than a dozen years in the past, however hey, it’s one thing.

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Henkes notes that the Double Down depends on objects KFC places have already got available. “Everyone seems to be making an attempt to do extra with what’s within the retailer, due to provide chain and the concern of operational complexity,” he stated. “You’re deploying present merchandise for the next margin.”

After they made their 2023 debut Monday, I ordered a bagful and introduced them to the workplace to pattern with colleagues. First, let’s run the numbers: These sandwiches are massive, clocking in anyplace between 10 and 14 ounces. And at about 2.5 inches tall, they’re onerous to get your mouth round. If that appears greater than you remembered from the final go-round, you’re proper — the hen patties the chain makes use of for its sandwiches are bigger now, due to a retooling lately prompted by these notorious Hen Sandwich Wars. The value has additionally modified: Two places in suburban Maryland and Virginia charged $10.79 per sandwich.

Determining the Double Down’s dietary info is tough, since KFC’s web site lists solely 930-950 energy for the sandwich and doesn’t be aware different stats, so one has to calculate for themselves. Every of the 2 patties accommodates 1,100 mg of sodium, and that’s earlier than you add the salt within the bacon strips, cheese and mayonnaise. Even with out doing the mathematics, it’s evident that is one salt bomb of a sandwich.

Our first order gave the impression to be a sufferer of inadequate employees coaching on the brand new menu merchandise — there was no bacon in any of them. A second order from a special location acquired us the sandwiches we had been searching for. The double Double Down order was a reminder, too, that even at chains that attempt for uniformity, the meals can range. The breading on the patties of our first order was pleasantly golden brown, whereas the second batch was paler, with a coating that got here off on my fingers.

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And that brings us to the inevitable unpleasantness of the Double Down, an element so apparent that it appears pedantic to complain about: It’s simply form of gross to eat fried hen patties together with your arms. I’d relatively eat a bone-in piece of fried hen; not less than that wouldn’t collapse and depart an oily blob of mayo on my fingers. I just like the patties in KFC’s hen sandwiches, I actually do — they’re juicy and properly seasoned, with properly craggy crusts — nevertheless it seems that I don’t wish to eat two of them without delay, and positively not glued along with mayo and a small slice of unidentifiable cheese, and most actually not accompanied by small strips of aggressively smoky bacon. (The spicy model, with a kicky sauce rather than the mayo, is marginally higher because it not less than provides a bit of warmth to chop via all. That. Hen.)

There’s a purpose we love a sandwich. There’s a magnificence to it — a logic.

A colleague of mine who’s supremely rational fretted that the Double Down defies all of these rules. With out bread, there’s no softness to distinction the feel of the filling. There’s no sweetness to offset the saltiness. Much more essentially, there’s no automobile to convey the meal to your mouth, which when you ask the card-playing Earl of Sandwich is the entire level of the factor. “It simply doesn’t make sense,” she moaned.

Others weren’t as bothered by questions of nomenclature. “In the event you like KFC hen, there’s no purpose you wouldn’t like this,” reasoned one other taster. However they may wish to clear their calendars in the event that they do indulge — after sampling the Double Down, my colleagues and I all felt as if we had been dragging via the afternoon in a fog of dehydration and sluggishness.

Perhaps KFC’s nostalgia play will repay. In spite of everything, we’ve determined to offer Uggs and low-rise denim one other shot. Chandler puzzled if the Double Down’s return may make us lengthy, if not for the sandwich itself, for the less-splintered world that after seen it with fascination and revulsion. “There’s something good about it being one thing all of us knew about,” he stated. “Perhaps in some methods we lengthy for that mass information of a factor, what it meant for one thing to interrupt via culturally. It’s our deep-fried madeleine.”

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