KFC Popcorn Chicken vs. McDonald’s new Chicken McBites


O.K., I know, I know. You’re as enthusiastic to read a review on a new menu item from a corporate fast food mega-chain on this blog, as you are about watching the latest episode of Life with the Kardashians, right?

Yet, you have to admit, like the Kardashians, once you get “sucked” into the utter hype (or insert your favorite term of opinion here) that these fast food titans attempt to hook us with — all wrapped-up in one neat, handy-dandy, well-honed, albeit controversial business model and marketing concept — makes them all that much more alluring and irresistible, right? No? Whatever. Think what you want. Click away to another website NOW, or get “sucked in” and read on! lol

So anyhow, I get this press release emailed to me about a week ago from one of McDonald’s Hawaii marketing reps that goes like this:

TAKE A BITE OUT OF McDONALD’S NEW CHICKEN McBITES

HONOLULU – Beginning January 24 for a limited time only, McDonald’s Restaurants of Hawaii is offering the Chicken McBites, a new menu selection conveniently packaged for today’s busy lifestyles.

The Chicken McBites are made with juicy pieces of bite-sized premium chicken breast meat and a savory home-style breading. Customers will be able to purchase the Chicken McBites in three convenient sizes to accommodate any appetite – Snack (3 oz.), Regular (5 oz.) and Shareable (10 oz). Chicken McBites come with the same selection of dipping sauce flavors as the Chicken McNuggets® and Chicken Selects, including the new Hot Habanero (for a limited time), Tangy BBQ, Creamy Ranch, Honey Mustard, Sweet & Sour, Sweet Chili, Spicy Buffalo, Chipotle BBQ and Hot Mustard.

 “The Chicken McBites are tasty and bite-sized treats perfect for our on-the-go customers or someone looking for a snack,” said Melanie Okazaki, regional marketing manager of McDonald’s Restaurants of Hawaii. “With a wide variety of dipping sauces to choose from, they’re also perfect for sharing.”

First of all, I’ve always been SO NOT A FAN of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, likening them as essentially breaded and deep-fried, nonnutritive, barely edible CARDBOARD.

Well, apparently McDonald’s is officially waging a full-scale fast food chicken WAR against KFC, with Ronald right in the face of Colonel Sanders with the introduction and aggressive marketing of not one, not two, but now THREE new chicken items on the menu that feature a spice-blended batter and real, whole, non-mechanically separated chicken meat.

Or at least what we THINK is “real” and wholesome, in case you’ve ever watched the eye-opening, appetite-reductive documentary FOOD, Incorporated. But that’s another story for another blog and/or day.

Those three key deep-fried chicken menu items McDonald’s now has in their arsenal against KFC (and Popeyes, and Jollibee, if you wanna’ go there too) would be their Premium Crispy Chicken Sandwiches, Premium Select Chicken Breast Strips, and now, their “limited time only” Chicken McBites. Although I have a feeling Chicken McBites will become a regular menu item. And I think it should, as you will soon find out!

First let’s check out the Colonel’s Popcorn Chicken…


KFC – Popcorn Chicken (5 oz.). $3.99

Now here’s Ronald McDonald’s answer to that…


McDonald’s Chicken McBites regular size (5 oz.). $3.99

Since you can’t see what’s inside McDonald’s box packaging, they had to print a photo to depict the product within, which surely must cost more to produce vs. KFC’s spot color design. Adding to that is the rather elaborate way MickyD’s McBites packaging is constructed. But hey, they’re huge, they can afford it.

While I like how you can can actually see the Popcorn Chicken in KFC’s typical fast food fried stuff package (or box) design, it’s too small (it really is tiny) to hold the 5 oz. of product, as about 1/3 of it spilled over out the top and into the paper bag they hand it out in…

Not to fret, as I had the luxury of a photo op’ to put it all back in place…

Otherwise, let’s be honest, if you were driving or walking, you’d probably dump the whole darned thing in the paper bag anyway so you can easily whack away at it.

Speaking of driving or walking, McDonald’s new Chicken McBites box packaging is CLEARLY designed with that in mind…


McDonald’s Chicken McBites

Some may find it an unnecessary or unused novelty, but I think this handy-dandy sauce holder integrated into the McBites lid design is BRILLIANT…


McDonald’s Chicken McBites

Add to that the size of the base of the container, which will fit nice ‘n tight in a standard-sized car cup holder, and you’ve got yourself some good-to-go, easy-access meals on wheels, sauce ‘n all, baby!

KFC’s Popcorn Chicken is available in only one size (5 oz.), other than various combo meals that include it with other menu items. While McDonald’s Chicken McBites are available in three sizes: Snack (3 oz.), Regular (5 oz.) and Shareable (10 oz). So in this shootout, we have an equal 5 oz. serving of each, which I’ve laid out on salad plates so you can see exactly how much is in there…

As you see, I have one each of EVERY sauce offered, which they’ll do if you ask… nicely. Otherwise, they’ll just give you one sauce of your choice.

To which, I don’t know about you, but for me, when it comes to fried foods, it’s all about the SAUCE!…

As expected, McDonald’s Chicken McBites sauces are the same ones offered for their Chicken McNuggets, including Spicy Buffalo, Hot Mustard, Creamy Ranch, Sweet ‘n Sour, Sweet Chili and Tangy Barbecue…

Come to find out WAY AFTER THE FACT of the tasting session, there was actually one more sauce in the form of Honey Mustard stashed under the HUGE pile of napkins in the paper sack…

There’s also supposed to be a new Hot Habanero sauce, but the Aina Haina McDonald’s didn’t receive them yet as of the time of my visit. From what I understand from someone who reviewed these on YouTube, the Hot Habanero basically tastes like a creamier, slightly hotter version of the Spicy Buffalo sauce, which is by far my favorite of all the McDonald’s sauces.

Back to the popcorn chicken, let’s have a closer look at the plates so we can see the variety of shapes and sizes they come in…


KFC Popcorn Chicken (5 oz.)

vs…


McDonald’s Chicken McBites – regular size (5 oz.)

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know what’s next. Yup, the venerable cross cut view…


Cross-cut view: KFC Popcorn Chicken on the left and McDonald’s Chicken McBites on the right

In that photo above, I chose the largest piece in the batch and the smallest piece from each contender. McDonald’s clearly has more meat. The crumb-sized pieces in KFC’s Popcorn Chicken don’t even have any chicken in it, but was just breading! They could just as well be called “Popcorn Crisp”, or more realistically, “Popcorn Crumbs”. Tasty crumbs though!

Let’s check another piece…


Cross-cut view: KFC Popcorn Chicken on the left and McDonald’s Chicken McBites on the right

Same deal. MickyD’s BLOWS KFC in the meat department. Wait, that didn’t sound right. lol

Seriously though, KFC, where’s the “beef”? This is just as bad as their Original Recipe Chicken thighs and drumsticks that seem to have come from chickens that were anorexic. Which is why we call them “Kentucky Fried Rat”.

Flavor-wise, KFC’s original “secret blend of spices” recipe is still one of my favorite fried chicken (with Soul Cafe right up there with them), but KFC seriously has some issues with their chicken supply, which I understand is through Tyson.

Enough looking. Let’s eat some, first trying KFC’s Popcorn — ehem — Chicken… cough-cough…


KFC Popcorn Chicken

Having first trying it without any sauce, it comes across as super crunchy; which would be great if there was MORE CHICKEN IN IT, but since the chicken within is so “manini” (lacking/small), it’s almost too “stiff”, being a battered morsel of tasty KFC-flavored “nothingness”, if there ever was a self-denying way to describe it.

Seasoning-wise, it only tasted like there was salt, and hardly any pepper. It certainly didn’t taste like KFC’s famous original “secret blend of spices” recipe, nor did it have the texture of that batter. If they can somehow capture the flavor of the original recipe while keeping this stiffer popcorn-textured batter, while putting more chicken MEAT in it, they’d definitely have a much better product. As it is in plain form, pass. I’d rather just have a side of their awesome seasoned Potato Wedges and call it a day.

Let’s try McDonald’s answer to that…


McDonald’s new Chicken McBites, featuring juicy pieces of bite-sized premium chicken breast meat and a savory home-style breading

Much, MUCH better. You can definitely taste the seasonings in it; especially, quite simply, yet distinctively, black pepper. The ample amount of chicken meat in it is tender, moist and flavorful, thanks to those spices in the batter. Texture-wise, the batter is crispy, yet noticeably more airy and light, compared to the cornstarch-stiff KFC Popcorn Chicken.

I think McDonald’s has a winner here, and really, with this on the menu now, I don’t know why anyone would order the now-INFERIOR Chicken McNuggets. Perhaps some folks will still buy McNuggets, preferring that processed taste and texture of the mechanically separated chicken meat. Whatevahz. To each their own.

Let’s go back and try the KFC Popcorn Chicken with some of their Creamy Ranch sauce…

The Ranch definitely helps, especially for KFC’s barely-seasoned batter. On the downside, what it does is drown out the flavor of the chicken even more, due to the shear lack of chicken meat within.

Let’s try the McBite all sauced-up…

First of all I must say, as far as sauces, while KFC has only three to choose, all three of them are WAY better than all but ONE from the seven McDonald’s offers. KFC’s Creamy Ranch and Honey Barbecue are particularly FAR BETTER than MickyD’s take on it.

McDonald’s sauces just have this super-processed artificial taste, and wierd, over-gelatinous texture. While KFC’s sauces taste more natural and familiar, if you will.

With that, KFC gets the win for sauce.

The only sauce I really liked from McDonald’s was the Spicy Buffalo, as it tastes like authentic Buffalo Hot Wings sauce, having just the right amount of vinegar-laden acidity, kick of cayenne pepper flavor and pleasantly silky creaminess to it…

A dip in the Spicy Buffalo sauce truly turns the McDonald’s take on popcorn chicken into a handy-dandy, “pop-able” Buffalo Wings Chicken McBite. Winnahz! Or, em… rrrr… “I’m lovin’ it®!” lol

And reiterating again, just about every bite of the McBites were generously made up of moist and tender chicken meat…

So the verdict is in: McDonald’s Chicken McBites for the win, having much more tasty seasoning in its delicately light and crispy batter, along with adequate to plentiful amounts of moist ‘n tender WHOLE (non-mechanically separated) chicken meat in each morsel.

While I didn’t care for most of McD’s sauces, with KFC’s quality vs. quantity array of sauces pretty much blowing McD’s away, the McD’s Spicy Buffalo sauce comes around and saves the day, in an enviable hot way at that. Add to that a handy-dandy box that fits nicely in a car cupholder, along with its “I’m cool and you’re not” sauce holder, Ronald gets the “W”. Or “M”.

I think I’m going to start a burger joint called “WcDonald’s”. lol

Not stopping there, I wanted to see who was better at doing Popcorn Chicken’s big sister, Chicken Tenders, a.k.a. Chicken Strips…


KFC Extra Crispy Strips ($5.49) on the left and McDonald’s 3-piece Chicken Selects ($3.59) on the right

Intently looking over the menu board at the Niu Valley McDonald’s, somehow I didn’t notice KFC offers an ‘Original Recipe’ version of their strips, which I surely would have chosen had I known. Oh well.

Let’s check out the cross-cut view…


KFC Extra Crispy Strips


McDonald’s Chicken Selects

What I realized after looking at the photos, is that I should have torn them apart with my hands instead of cutting it with a sharp knife, as cutting it doesn’t reveal how juicy it is between the meat fibers. Which it truly was, for both KFC and McDonald’s strips.

The generous cut of chicken meat in the “tenders”, compared to the relatively “itsy-bitsy” pieces of chicken in the Popcorn Chicken versions make these fingers-sized “tenders” truly as advertised: TENDER, moist ‘n juice-ay!

In fact, while most keiki will probably prefer Popcorn Chicken for their fun shape and “poppability” factor, if you’re older than say, 10, go for the strips. They’re much, MUCH better as far as fried chicken is concerned.

As for the comparison between the two, again the McDonald’s batter was much better seasoned with a distinct black pepper flavor, while the KFC’s Extra Crispy batter actually was an advantage here, since there was so much chicken meat in it. So you get that extra crispy crunchy texture from the batter, followed by a burst of super moist ‘n succulent chicken as you bite into it, where I also thought KFC’s chicken meat itself had more flavor than McDonald’s Chicken Selects.

So by points decision, KFC gets the win for Chicken Strips. Had this been the Original Recipe Strips, they’d probably win by a knock-out.

STILL not stopping there, we’re not done with this yet folks. Oh no we’re not!

Chicken Tenders ‘n Popcorn Chicken Katsu, anyone?…


KFC Popcorn Chicken and Extra Crispy Strips Katsu on the left, and McDonald’s Chicken McBites and Chicken Selects Katsu on the right

Ah yes my friends, I went there, oh YES I did. lol

And NO, you can’t find this at your neighborhood KFC or McDonald’s, as it’s not a menu item. At least not yet. But it may be one if their marketing reps sees this and thinks it has potential! I think it’s a freekin’ GREAT idea, and something that should have been done a long time ago, especially for the Hawaii market, as we all know Chicken Katsu is one of the most popular plate lunch dishes in the islands.

And you know what sauce MUST be used for this, right? Bull Dog…

A closer look at each plate…

Shucks, you know what I forgot to put on the plate, is Takuan. I LOVE Tsukemeno with fatty fried foods, as it helps to cut the heaviness from the grease. Thankfully the all-important bed of finely sliced cabbage helped to serve that purpose, as well as provide that crispy fresh contrast to the fried chicken.

Hai, itadakimasu! First let’s try the KFC Popcorn Chicken, served katsu style…

Oh man, that is sooooo ono! Sugoi! Oishii!

So much of an improvement that, you know what? See all those sauces from McDonald’s and KFC? Well, don’t even bother opening them, because Bull Dog has just made them all OBSOLETE.

There’s just something about the uniquely spicy, fruity, acidic, deep, bold and zesty Tonkatsu sauce — especially the Bull Dog brand (Ikari would be my second choice) — that takes any fried food from ordinary to EXTRAORDINARY. Umami x’s TEN.

Then you add the crispy freshness and texture contrast from the finely sliced cabbage when eaten in unison with the breaded chicken (whatever there is of it), and POW! Winnah, winnah, Popcorn Chicken Katsu Dinnah!

Let’s try McDonald’s Chicken McBites, done katsu style…

Goodness-katsu-gracious. You don’t even know how much BETTER this is.

Actually, in this case, I liked the KFC Popcorn Chicken better, as the super-crispy batter held up better to the sauce. But they’re both excellent this way, and you can’t go wrong with either one.

Let’s try the KFC Extra Crispy Strips Katsu…

This brings a tear of joy to my eye. The added surface area of the sliced chicken breast helped to soak in more Tonkatsu Sauce, so when you bite into it, it’s like an explosion of Chicken Katsu goodness.

All I can say is, go to the supermarket and buy a head of cabbage and a bottle of Bull Dog Tonkatsu sauce, along with a jar of Takuan. If you can’t find the Bull Dog brand, the nationally-distributed Kikkoman Tonkatsu Sauce will suffice. Then head to McDonald’s or KFC and pick up preferably their chicken strips. Then go home and prepare it just like you see here. Serve with Tsukemono and rice and enjoy. You can thank me later.


Extra Crispy Strips and KFC Popcorn Chicken Katsu on the left, and McDonald’s Chicken McBites and Chicken Selects Katsu on the right

Dang, that was oishii!

The KFC Popcorn Chicken and Extra Crispy Strips were purchased at the location in Niu Valley Shopping Center (East Oahu)…


KFC @ Niu Valley Shopping Center (east Oahu)

The McDonald’s Chicken McBites and Chicken Selects were purchased at the Aina Haina Shopping Center location (east Oahu)…


McDonald’s @ Aina Haina Shopping Center

The Tasty Island site related links:
McDonald’s Saimin
McDonald’s Haupia & Taro Pie
Taco Bell Goes Hawaiian
The Great Tonkatsu Sauce Shootout

External link (latest news!):
(Ray) Kroc Center Hawaii set to open


Comments

KFC Popcorn Chicken vs. McDonald’s new Chicken McBites — 29 Comments

  1. You have outdone yourself in the research department, my friend! While we’re not frequent McD eaters, I did notice their signs for the new McBites and assumed they were just mini versions of the Chicken Nuggest, so I’m glad to know they’re tastier. My favorite sauces there are the sweet chili (a milder, thinner version of the Thai sweet chili sauce I have in a bottle at home) and hot mustard.

    I’m ambivalent about the increasing trend to make foods more driver-friendly. On the one hand, I don’t think it’s healthy for our society to be eating so many of our meals behind the wheel. On the other hand, I get most of my McD foods from the drive-thru, so go figure!

  2. Your tonkatsu sauce experiment made me think of using Sugoi’s garlic sauce. Surely not as good as getting real Garlic Chicken from Sugoi, but I’m on the Mainland.

  3. Pomai, now I know what to get with my 1,00 Mcdonald salad and that a Mcbites. I would mix it into the salad and have it honey mustard sauce instead of salad dressing. Why I could try so many of their other sauces and have a different kind of taste every time.

  4. Too funny. I had yanked the McBites coupons out of the paper and was hoping to try them soon. I’ll sneak a little Bulldog sauce in a Tupperware for dipping but will have to live without the cabbage since I don’t think that would go over well if I were to eat in the restaurant.

  5. Pomai-san outdoes himself again! No have McDonald’s or KFC here on Kwaj, just Burger King, though there’s a reasonable suspicion that the fried chicken at the American Eatery at the DSC (Dock Security Checkpoint – where the local Marshallese catch the ferry to Ebeye) gets their chicken from Popeye’s. All we need is someone to smuggle us some Bull-Dog sauce when they come back from Honolulu back to Kwajalein! Booger King does have their Tendercrisp chicken sandwich (or salad) that could be used for a field-expedient Kwaj chicken katsu! :)

  6. Average dietary daily intake of sodium (salt) for an adult should be 2,300 mg of sodium (salt) and children aged 4-8 should consume no more than 1,200 mg of sodium per day. Too much salt in diet leads to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart problems and early death.

    *KFC Crispy Strips (3) 165 (g) serving size has 0 (g) Trans Fats, 390 calories, 85 mgs cholesterol and 1130 mg sodium.

    *KFC Popcorn Chicken individual 122 (g) serving size has 0 (g) Trans Fats, 400 calories, 45 mgs cholesterol and 1040 mg sodium.

    *KFC dipping sauces add 110 mg sodium Honey Mustard, 230 mg sodium Creamy Ranch and 310 mg sodium Honey BBQ.

    *McDonalds Chicken Selects Strips (3) 124 (g) serving size has 0 (g) Trans Fats, 380 calories, 55 mgs cholesterol and 750 mg sodium.

    *McDonalds Chicken Selects Strips (3) 124 (g) serving size with Spicy Buffalo Sauce has 1290 mg sodium. McDonalds Tangy BBQ sauce 1000 mg sodium, McDonalds Creamy Ranch Sauce 920 mg sodium, McDonalds Sweet ‘N Sour Sauce 900 mg sodium, Sweet Chili Sauce 890 mg sodium, McDonalds Honey Mustard Sauce 860 mg sodium and McDonalds Honey Sauce 750 mg sodium.

    *McDonalds Chicken McBites regular 120 (g) serving size has 0 (g) Trans Fats, 470 calories, 50 mg cholesterol and 730 mg sodium.

    *McDonalds Chicken McBites regular 120 (g) serving size with Spicy Buffalo Sauce has 1270 mg sodium; McDonalds Tangy BBQ sauce 990 mg sodium, McDonalds Southwest Chipotle Barbeque Sauce 910 mg sodium, McDonalds Creamy Ranch Sauce 900 mg sodium, McDonalds Honey Mustard Sauce 850 mg sodium and McDonalds Honey Sauce 730 mg sodium.

    • “Anything worthwhile doing is either illegal, immoral or fattening… and oh so onolicious!” :) As my late maternal grandmother would have said in Spanish, “una vez al año no hace daño” (once a year won’t hurt you)!

      • After finding out how much salt is in national chain restaurant food I seriously cut back eating at them or selected which chains I would eat at plus what individual meals they served. I eat mostly HI local grown now and even that I pick and choose according to the food vendor, cart, truck or restaurant. In 1 year my blood pressure and cholesterol has dropped and I’ve shed 65 pounds. Yes once a year will not hurt you but there is a cumulative effect on the body if you don’t watch what you are doing and eating. It’s all about balance!

  7. Pomai the much beloved Bull-Dog Vegetable & Fruit Tonkatsu sauce will add 360 mg of sodium (salt) to a single serving (1 Tbsp (15 mL)) of what you are eating according to my bottle far less than the 540 mg sodium added by McDonalds Spicy Buffalo Sauce but a lot more than KFC Honey BBQ 310 mg sodium.

    No matter what, I think McDonalds McBites comes out on top of KFC.

    KFC is owned by Yum! Brands, Inc., which is the world’s largest restaurant system with over 32,500 KFC, A&W All-American Food™,Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and Pizza Hut restaurants in more than 100 countries and territories.

    Oh by the why, the saltiest meals served by restaurant chains in the USA are at Red Lobster (Admiral’s Feast @ 7,106 mg of sodium), Chili’s, Olive Garden and Denney’s. KFC and Jack in the Box were nosed out by the leaders.

  8. Pomai, you are the master! Your pictures and preparations almost made me go right out and buy some of that fast food. Your pictures were so amazing, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Chicken Bites and Popcorn Chicken. You may have missed your calling: Fast Food Food Photographer! Thanks, my friend. albert grande

  9. Doomo arigato for this great post. I’ll have to try the McBites one of these days. I was wondering about the Burger King chicken pieces too. They sound so cheap, but I don’t know what it tastes like. I love the idea of the tonkatsu sauce. Thanks for the great idea.

  10. LMAO! I can’t believe you ‘went there’ and did chicken katsu with fast food! Awesome. One of my favorite comfort foods is pork katsu with Bulldog Tonkatsu sauce and Kewpie mayo. Ahhh…Oishi.

  11. Pingback: Huki-Links: January 30, 2012 | Hawaii Book Blog

  12. McDonald’s says “Chicken McBites are bite-sized morsels of chicken breast meat”

    I ate some today and found them actually to be “small over-cooked pieces of fried chicken-flavored batter”.

    I guess McDonald’s thought their sales pitch sounded better than mine.

  13. Pomai, I visited McDonalds yesterday 02/07/12 and got a regular order of Chicken McBites for $3.65 in Kapolei. They looked nothing like what you showed in your photographs. Small and mostly breading and very little to no chicken also very tasteless without out adding the sauce! It was $3.65 spent on worthless fast food!

    • I’m pretty sure looking at the pictures of the chicken Mcbites and popcorn chicken that they are mixed up once they got on the plates. You may have inadvertently switched them which would make this review make more sense. Mcdonals Mcbites are dry overly breaded pieces if nastiness with almost no chicken. Popcorn chicken from KFC is much better.

  14. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your breakdown on the Chicken McBites. I’m in Chicago and just tried them for the first time and can say I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve recently told myself that I would stop eating fast food, but am a sucker for a new product. Plus, I’m a huge fan of habanero flavored things and they totally suckered me in. I’ve always felt the way you felt about KFC Popcorn Chicken. Just always lacking. The McBites were flavored very well. Great meat to batter ratio in just about every bite. I may of had one that seemed to have more batter than meat, but overall very impressed. I just wanted to say that it if you like the spicy buffalo you’ve got to rock the hot habanero. Really good stuff and I don’t generally eat creamy sauces and was somewhat turned off when I opened the pouch, but was very happy with the flavor and knocked off the whole container. Well done and please keep up the great work. You’ve been bookmarked! Cheers!

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  16. Found your blog today and being new to the area, I am thankful for your detailed pics and descriptions of rea restaurants. This fast food post is hilarious! Having just moved from Texas, the chicken bites and their packaging is exactly like Sonic’s jumbo popcorn chicken. It is like a taste of home for my family as we had Sonic nights every Tuesday. Thanks again for having a great blog!

    • Sorry but no Sonic in Hawaii but there is a A&W and Long John Silver in Town Center of Mililani off of H2 before Schofield Barracks.

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