We Tried The Lowest Rated Fast Food Fried Chicken. Here's How It Went

Has anyone ever eaten a bad piece of fried chicken? The entire notion of an unappetizing serving of fried chicken just doesn't compute in our calculations. Frankly, if any person is capable of saying "thanks, but no thanks" to a golden brown, zesty, juicy thigh, or can somehow turn their nose away when that greasy, oil-soaked, irresistible aroma activates their olfactory system, well ... we're not sure we'd want to meet that person!

Now, while we can't really fathom a person refusing fried chicken under the vast majority of circumstances, that doesn't mean all fried chicken is created equal — particularly when it comes to fast food restaurants. But like most issues here in the U.S., there's hardly a consensus on which fast food fried chicken restaurant deserves the title of serving "the worst" fried chicken. So to find out which chain can claim that unlucky distinction (among the eight major fried chicken-centric fast food chains), we conducted a recent survey of Mashed readers.

Somehow, with 23.55% of the vote, none other than the originator of fast food fried chicken, KFC, was "awarded" that label. Though we were fairly shocked, we're nothing if not open-minded here, so we put this result to the test. We decided to investigate the readers' surprising opinion, and see whether the company that "practically invented" fried chicken has indeed fallen from grace — allowing its signature product to devolve into a hollow husk of what Colonel Sanders once served.

KFC fried chicken overview

For the purposes of this review, we focused on Original Recipe in lieu of Extra Crispy or other options. After all, nothing better represents the classic fried chicken offered by KFC than Colonel Sanders' original creation.

Though the website shows it costs $18.49 for a bucket at our local KFC in Massachusetts, there doesn't appear to be any nationwide pricing for an eight-piece bucket, so the price may differ from location to location. A standard bucket comes with two breasts, two thighs, two wings, and two drumsticks.

According to the restaurant, it takes 25 minutes to complete the process of chicken preparation and cooking. The process involves employees inspecting each piece of chicken for quality, tossing it in a mixture containing the famed 11 herbs and spices, then cooking it at a low temperature in one of its patented pressure fryers.

KFC also states it only uses hormone and antibiotic-free chicken in its restaurants. Frankly, there doesn't seem to be any real reason to dismiss these claims — even if the ingredients found in an Original Recipe chicken breast list some seemingly-unnatural items amongst the group.

How does KFC fried chicken taste?

To start, KFC fried chicken is delicious, no matter how you slice it. We sampled each of the four standard pieces served in a bucker order, and the flavor first created by Colonel Sanders — in his original, humble restaurant — came across with each delightful bite. The chicken, whether it was the white meat in a breast, or the dark meat found in a drumstick, was moist and tender, with each bite evoking some of the 11 herbs and spices on our palate.

Unfortunately, though, we do need to quibble with the texture of the skin, which we're sorry to say was lacking in crispiness. We can concede that fried chicken, after sitting in a covered bucket for about 10 minutes (roughly the length of time between ordering and tasting it), is almost guaranteed to become a bit soggy, given the moisture and steam swirling inside. But we also can't help but think this particular restaurant's decision to pack biscuits in the same bucket as chicken (rather than in a separate container) exacerbated the problem — and only further reduced the chicken's crunchy outer layer before consumption.

Maybe it's simply the nature of Original Recipe, though, that keeps it from retaining the crunchy skin — that provides the exhilarating clash of contrasting textures found in fried chicken — over time. After all: there's a reason Extra Crispy exists as a menu option.

Was the survey correct?

In a word, no. Quite frankly, we can't say with any confidence that the survey was correct after our taste test, since it's hard to see how the various pieces of KFC fried chicken we sampled are definitively worse than any of the other seven options. Of course, like we alluded at the beginning, earning the title of "worst" fried chicken is like being voted the "worst" Super Bowl champion of all time — in other words, even the losers are still technically winners.

Perhaps being the biggest, oldest, and most successful game in town stirs a desire in consumers to take KFC down a peg or two. Because as far as we can tell, to declare the restaurant has the worst fried chicken of the well-known fast food chains feels more like a gleeful shot at an international conglomerate than an accurate assessment of the company's capabilities.

How can KFC improve its fried chicken?

Frankly, us offering KFC advice on how to improve its fried chicken recipe feels like giving acting advice to Meryl Streep. We can imagine Colonel Sanders rolling in his grave at the sheer notion of anyone telling him or his restaurants how to do business.

Generally speaking, we're hard pressed to offer any real solutions that could improve the internationally-beloved product served by KFC, because we still found it finger-lickin' delicious. The one thing we would offer though is a note on a possible improvement in packaging — or, say, just properly separating items — could help reduce the slightly soggy skin we encountered during our taste test.

Whatever real issues exist with KFC may not be easily fixable, though, since any legitimate problems likely lie with the inherent challenges found from operating so many locations. After all, ensuring the consistent quality of products served at a chain restaurant — like KFC, which has more than 24,000 locations worldwide — is virtually impossible to do. In other words, KFC may not have the worst fried chicken ... but it almost certainly has some poorly run locations and restaurants throughout the U.S.

This is the best fried chicken, according to our survey

While our survey didn't really produce a winner, per se, the fast food chain that earned the fewest votes for worst fried chicken was Raising Cane's, with 11.05%. Raising Cane's, which has been in business since 1996, may have an advantage over KFC as a much smaller chain in 2022, since it's more capable of focusing on quality over quantity at this point in its existence.

Of course, while we absolutely adore chicken fingers — a less-messy, cleaner food to eat than the bone-in variety — it's hard not to feel Raising Cane's has an additional advantage in a poll of fast food fried chicken. After all, Raising Cane's only serves chicken fingers, which is sort of like playing basketball ... but lowering the rims to eight feet while you play.

Now, we don't mean to take a shot at Raising Cane's, since we'd love nothing more than the opportunity to try its chicken fingers to compare to KFC. It's just that it feels a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Frankly, if you have the choice of ordering KFC or Raising Cane's, in our opinion? You won't be disappointed no matter what you choose.