What Makes Chick-fil-A's Chicken So Good?

It's more than just the super-secret spice recipe.

Chick-fil-A Sandwich
Photo: Chick-fil-A/Allrecipes

With dozens of fast-food chicken restaurants in the U.S., being the largest and most profitable is a pretty huge feat. But seeing how darn good Chick-fil-A's chicken is, it should come as no surprise that they blow the chicken competition out of the water.

While indulging in a crispy chicken sandwich or an eight-count of chicken nuggets, have you ever wondered what makes Chick-fil-A's chicken superior to all other fast-food chicken—or maybe even better than the chicken you make at home? We know we think about it a lot and we needed answers.

So, what exactly makes Chick-fil-A chicken so good? The answer is a little more complicated than you might think because it's actually a lot of things, including the chickens themselves, the marinade and breading recipe, the cooking method, and the assembly (when it comes to the chicken sandwich). Let's dig a little deeper.

What Makes Chick-fil-A's Chicken So Good?

The Chickens

Chick-fil-A has incredibly high standards when it comes to the chickens they use in their restaurants. First, the restaurant chains' chickens are raised in farms or barns without any antibiotics—in 2019 the brand made a commitment to "No Antibiotics Ever."

This just means the chickens aren't given any unnecessary antibiotics and if they do require antibiotics to treat an illness, Chick-fil-A will not use their meat. This is a healthier and more sustainable option for consumers because when animals are pumped with antibiotics and a human eats the meat, the person can be susceptible to antibiotic resistance. Meaning, if that person got sick, a normal antibiotic may not treat them because their body has a higher resistance to the antibiotic.

Additionally, Chick-fil-A uses real, whole chicken breasts that are not separated or ground—unlike some other fast-food restaurants whose chicken products are made from multiple sections of the chicken ground together. Each piece of chicken is hand cut before being marinated and breaded.

The Secret Recipe

Creating the recipe for Chick-fil-A's delicious chicken was not an easy task. Truett Cathy, Chick-fil-A's founder, experimented with multiple different seasoning blends before he landed on the one that we know and love. However, much like KFC's coveted 11 herbs and spice mix recipe, Cathy's recipe is locked away in a vault at Chick-fil-A's headquarters in Atlanta.

So we'll never know for sure what goes into the breading. But what we do know is that the mixture has over 20 seasonings in it that give it the classic Chick-fil-A taste. The seasoning mix is the only thing that Chick-fil-A confirms goes into the chicken recipe—besides a milk and egg wash that keeps the breading in place.

However, for years the internet has speculated that Chick-fil-A's chicken is marinated in pickle juice to give it its signature flavor. The company has never confirmed this statement, but many Chick-fil-A employees have added their two cents to the rumor.

One Reddit user, who claims to be a former Chick-fil-A manager, says the chicken is marinated in pickle juice and then quickly dipped in buttermilk before breading. If that's the case, it would certainly make sense because Chick-fil-A's chicken does have a slightly tangy, vinegary flavor to it.

Pickle juice is also known to tenderize meats, and Chick-fil-A's filets are definitely tender and juicy—though that could also be because of the restaurant's cooking method.

The Cooking Method

There are two key components to Chick-fil-A's cooking method: the cooking vessel and the oil.

At first, Cathy didn't want to sell chicken at his original restaurant because it took too long to cook during the lunch rush. So, he used his mother's old method of mimicking a pressure cooker to make the meat cook faster—see, mothers really do know best.

Instead of using his mom's pan and lid trick, Cathy bought a commercial pressure cooker to make the chicken. With this pressure cooker, he could have tender, juicy chicken that was fully cooked in just four minutes.

Into the pressure cooker, he added the chicken and 100% refined peanut oil. Cathy thought the peanut oil had a mild enough flavor that wouldn't take away from the chicken—so Chick-fil-A has been cooking in peanut oil ever since.

The Assembly

Obviously, if you're ordering chicken nuggets, there's really no assembly needed. But, assembling the chicken sandwiches is an art—specifically the Original chicken sandwich.

Cathy really followed the "keep it simple" idea with this sandwich because, as you likely know, it's just a chicken filet and two pickles on a toasted, buttered bun. No veggies, no cheese, no condiments. Sure, there are now menu items that have those things, but the OG chicken sandwiches don't need all that pomp and circumstance.

The warm bun is the perfect balance of soft and toasted with a subtle buttery taste, and the two dill pickle chips are intentionally placed to add extra flavor. Those two curated additions coupled with the already-delicious chicken create a sandwich that just doesn't need much else.

Though, of course, we won't judge you if you enjoy it with a big helping of Chick-fil-A sauce—because that's just too scrumptious to pass up too.

You might have never imagined that much thought could go into a piece of meat, but it's what keeps us coming back to Chick-fil-A again and again (except on Sundays).

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