Every Chick-fil-A entree, ranked

The term "expert" is tossed around pretty haphazardly these days. It actually means "having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience," according to the experts over at Webster's. Experience is the key word there, and there are many different ways to gain experience. Some will study sinkholes or motor vehicle accidents and become court-approved experts. Others (let's not name any names) will eat their way through an entire fast food menu over 70 times in a calendar year (yes, I know that's a lot of food) to know the ins and outs of each and every item and tell you which is best (and which are massive disappointments). I'm not saying I'm a Chick-fil-A expert, but I do know a lot about their food. It's with that extensive knowledge, plus additional research, that this ranking is compiled. Here is every Chick-fil-A entree, ranked, for your dining pleasure. 

The factors involved

The most important element to any restaurant is taste, so naturally that will be paramount in ranking these. However, there are a lot of things that go into how we enjoy food — we taste with our brains — so the presentation and aroma play a key role in how you like your Chick-fil-A. All these were taken into consideration in determining which dish reigns supreme.

Everything you'd reasonably eat for lunch or dinner is evaluated and ranked. You might reasonably eat only fries for a meal, but you'd be reasonably eating all wrong. So just ignore those delicious fries sitting perfectly framed up in that image. Entrees only; no superfoods and no shakes either. Just salads and chicken. And you'll find no secret menu items here, so keep your grilled cheese to yourself, thank you very much. Starting at the bottom, this is the quintessential Chick-fil-A entree ranking.

14. Grilled nuggets

Let's just get this out of the way: the grilled nuggets aren't that bad. What they are not, however, are nuggets. When Robert C. Baker invented the nugget, it had crispy coating. We can't just haphazardly cut up food and call the bits "nuggets." This is really not debatable; you can't "nugget" without a fried exterior. You can make the claim of healthy eating and all that stuff, but if you think you're eating healthy and you're eating nuggets, you're doing it wrong. Sorry grilled nuggets. You taste good, but in the big picture of rankings, you're last.

13. Cobb salad

The Cobb salad and grilled nuggets are twins. Chick-fil-A's Cobb salad simply isn't a "Cobb salad." CFA isn't the only establishment to make this mistake, but when The Brown Derby debuted the salad, everything came finely diced. Chick-fil-A's Cobb isn't a Cobb — it's a salad with some chicken in it. They don't even chop up the tomatoes! For the principle of the matter, and to stop companies from naming things they're not — looking at you every chicken finger seller — this is a pass.

12. Chick-fil-A deluxe sandwich

The Chick-fil-A original sandwich is what made Chick-fil-A what it is today. There isn't a single person out there that doesn't have their own way of dressing up the sandwich; no pickles, extra pickles, CFA sauce, you get the gist. For some reason, Chick-fil-A decided to help you out a bit by adding lettuce, tomato, and your choice of cheese to the signature sandwich. The thing is, you don't really need it. There's nothing wrong with putting that stuff on a chicken sandwich. Wendy's made its bones on a formula like that, but it's simply not needed on Chick-fil-A's sandwich. It's really not worth the extra scratch to add it to your sandwich unless you're hacking the menu, but that's a different story.

11. Grilled chicken club sandwich

Of course, there isn't really anything bad at Chick-fil-A; the items at the tail end of this ranking all have a common theme — something simply doesn't work with the other stuff. Chick-fil-A makes a fine grilled sandwich. Bacon? Well … come on, is there such thing as bad bacon? The grilled chicken sandwich is great in and of itself, but there's no real reason to have a slice of bacon with it. The sandwich also has an odd build, with the cheese and bacon on the top then lettuce and tomato on the bottom. It's not a typical way you see a chicken sandwich with bacon – Wendy's and Burger King plop everything on top, and it probably works best that way.

10. Grilled market salad

If you're not heading to Chick-fil-A for a salad, maybe you should. The twist to this salad is the fruit — you'll find strawberries, blueberries, and apples all tucked away with the signature grilled chicken served on top. Add in one of the lighter salad dressings, perhaps a tasty vinaigrette, and you've got a 400ish-calorie meal that will fill you up and hit all the right flavors.

9. Spicy deluxe sandwich

The big difference between the spicy deluxe sandwich and the standard deluxe is how much better the veggies work with the heat. As you might guess, the spicy sandwich isn't a kid's meal at Chick-fil-A; it packs a wallop. To balance the heat, the lettuce and tomato work in concert to cool you down a touch. The cheese, however, does the opposite. The standard cheese accompaniment is pepper jack, which is really just a Monterey jack with chili spices in it. CFA is selling its own spicy sandwich short by adding the cheese; it doesn't bring much to the table and is an unnecessary add-on.

8. Grilled chicken cool wrap

Easily the most overlooked item on the menu, the grilled chicken cool wrap is an afterthought on most days. The ad wizards picked a fitting name, because the cool wrap definitely cools you down. Served cold, the wrap — loaded with diced chicken, lettuce, and a healthy mix of shredded red cabbage and carrots — really hits the spot on a hot day. Of your dressing choices, the avocado lime ranch is the single most unexpected sauce available in any quick-serve restaurant. The caloric intake isn't for the faint of heart, but man oh man is it delicious.

The drawback to the grilled chicken cool wrap is the bread. Damascus Bakery in Brooklyn, New York, makes the flaxseed bread, but it's largely inconsistent. It can be doughy at times, and depending on the storage methods, almost wet. Despite that, it's still worth a purchase, especially in the summer months.

7. Spicy Southwest salad

There are two things that make this salad stand out: the tortilla chips that garnish the salad (the same ones that accompany the seasonal chicken tortilla soup), and a wonderful chili lime vinaigrette that is a mere 60 calories per pack. Another nice touch is the roasted corn — with tiny little roast marks on the kernels — and black beans. You really don't expect a "complex" salad from a fast food restaurant, but this salad is a hidden gem. This is truly the salad you should work into your rotation.

6. Grilled chicken sandwich

Chick-fil-A reintroduced the grilled chicken sandwich in 2014, giving it more of a backyard feel and flavor. It might not be very "backyard," but it certainly is tasty. The key is a tangy marinade that includes apple cider vinegar, plus orange juice and grape juice. (Really!) It's got a refreshing bite that really hits the taste buds perfectly. Along with their suggested honey BBQ sauce, the sandwich really works. You can roll without the sauce — and honestly, they forget it half the time anyway — or just go with a sauce of your choosing and round out the flavors. It's a solid choice if you're looking to go a wee bit lighter than the usual fried fare.

5. Grilled spicy deluxe

The lucky people in St. Louis, Knoxville, and Orlando first tried the grilled spicy deluxe in October 2017. Oh how lucky they are! It's the same as the grilled chicken sandwich, except it's spicy. There's no fried coating to hide the heat, so it's all right there on a naked, flattened breast. And it's really good. The heat is real, so real in fact that they offer a cilantro lime sauce with it to cool you down. Chick-fil-A keeps creeping some spicy items into its menu; spicy nuggets and spicy chicken strips are available in some markets. You should absolutely consider any of these, especially the spicy grilled deluxe, if you like the heat game.

4. Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich

No, we're not trying to be cool. The Chick-fil-A sandwich is the fourth best thing on the menu. Let's not kid ourselves, the original sandwich still blows the … um … feathers off all the other quick-serve places out there, but there are other things you have to do to make it work. Think about it, how do you eat your Chick-fil-A sandwich? Do you take the pickles off? Ask for extra pickles? Hit it with a sauce? Or three? The sandwich is great, but it's not the type of thing you just pull out of the bag and start eating. It needs a little something. You can make the argument that nuggets do, too, but they're supposed to. A sandwich should be able to stand on its own, and the Chick-fil-A sandwich only kinda can. The plethora of awesome sauces might be the culprit here, but it's the truth — you don't eat a Chick-fil-A sandwich as-is very often.

3. Chick-n-Strips

The most underrated item on the entire Chick-fil-A menu is the Chick-n-Strips. You might think, "Why bother? I'm having the nuggets." The Strips are basically a step between a sandwich and nuggets. They pack the simplicity of nuggets and the lasting taste of a sandwich into each little strip, and you get three or four depending on your hunger. The Chick-n-Strips go with the dipping sauce of your choice, and are the perfect choice when the nuggets won't quite do.

2. Nuggets

Some markets offer a 30-count nugget, which sounds like the greatest thing ever. A standard order will get you eight or 12 nuggets, plus the sauce of your choosing. We're not going to debate which sauce is best, only that they all work. Or you can go sans sauce, and that's perfectly fine. The key to the nuggets is the size — they're perfectly bite-sized and the coating is just the right amount of crunch. The Chick-fil-A nuggets are outstanding and the easiest can't-miss item on the menu. It's the safety school of Chick-fil-A menu items; if you're introducing someone to the restaurant for the first time, the nuggets should knock their socks off.

1. Spicy sandwich

Now that's a spicy sandwich! Paprika and "spices" according to the ingredients list, are what bring the heat. There's a really good chance that cayenne and chili powder are a couple of those spices. Chick-fil-A also uses much-maligned MSG to cut the salt content a tad. (It's worth mentioning that MSG is safe.) The paprika and other spices are not messing around — you can easily build up a neck sweat while polishing off one of these. The wonderfully odd thing is that the heat doesn't really linger. It's just there, and poof! It's gone! That's the magic of the spicy sandwich, and why it's so amazing. However, if the initial heat is too much for your mouth, you can always cool it down a bit with the garlic and herb ranch sauce. It's the spiciest sandwich out there (sorry, Wendy's), and the best-tasting spicy sandwich out there. Chick-fil-A's Spicy Sandwich is number one.