Monday, April 12th, 2010

The Definitive KFC Double Down Review

DOUBLE DOWN MORE LIKE DONT EAT TWO OR YOUR BODY WILL TURN ON YOUYou are almost certainly aware of this, but today is not just any Monday. In the same way that we all remember September 26, 2006 as the debut of Burger King's Chicken Fries, April 12th, 2010 will be seared upon our historical consciousness as the premiere of the new KFC sandwich, the Double Down. I'm afraid I must confess that when I-a connoisseur of speedily-prepared foodstuffs-first heard about this sandwich, I found the concept distasteful and thought myself unlikely to sample it. But here I am, having eaten both of the available versions and writing about them on the internet.

If you aren't familiar with the Double Down, here's some marketing language from the Colonel's website that breaks it down:

The new KFC Double Down sandwich is real and it's coming April 12th! This one-of-a-kind sandwich features two thick and juicy boneless white meat chicken filets (Original Recipe® or Grilled), two pieces of bacon, two melted slices of Monterey Jack and pepper jack cheese and Colonel's Sauce. This product is so meaty, there's no room for a bun!

One of the best things about this blurb is that they had to make sure people understood that this was not actually some sort of amusing prank or illusion. Which makes sense really. If someone told you KFC was coming out with a sandwich that used either grilled or fried chicken in place of bread and bacon as the "meat," accompanied by multiple layers of cheese, and then a sauce, you might assume it was some clever comment on America's obsession with fast food and subsequent obesity. So I suppose an assertion of the product's actuality is both warranted and necessary.

Also, KFC is not lying. An accurate review of the sandwich is pretty much: "This product is so meaty, there's no room for a bun!" In fact, I should probably stop wasting everyone's time because that's the most systematic description of the sandwich that could ever be written. But you know what? I ate both of these things. You're going to sit here as I walk you through each component of this "sandwich"/"product" and like it.

So let's get to it and break the Double Down piece by piece.

The "Buns"/Fried Chicken and Grilled Chicken

There are two options when ordering a Double Down: one can either select the grilled version or the fried version (or, in my case, both). The grilled version offers the breakout (right?) KFC item of last year: the Grilled Recipe filet. It evokes a less ambitious Boston Market/Kenny Rogers' rotisserie chicken. It's not terrible, and is actually probably better than you would think it to be, but it's definitely not good. (to clarify the comparison, let's establish in the context of this review that the Boston Market/Kenny Rogers' rotisserie breasts are adequate but not exceptional.)

The fried option is essentially the chicken breast they serve in the buckets that you may or may not remember from your childhood depending how awesome or unawesome your parents were. While undoubtedly palatable, I've never found the Colonel's blend of flavors to be my cup of tea. Which should not be taken as a disparagement of all fast food fried chicken; I am no stranger to Bojangles' and Popeyes-the former being much better than the latter, but both ranking significantly above KFC for me.

What I'd point to as the major flaw in this sandwich-in its underlying principle, really-is that both varieties of chicken, particularly the fried, out-muscle and overpower the rest of the sandwich with the intense taste of saltiness. Make sure you get a drink. Actually, if you're ordering the Double Down, you should probably get water instead of a fountain soda, because you are going to be really parched both during and after the act of consumption. Also, you don't NEED a soda.

The Bacon

Sadly, the belly of the hog is pretty much an afterthought. To be frank, by the time I had turned my attention to the grilled version I was unable to perceive even the existence of bacon. I thought to myself, "Hey, maybe the grilled one is the 'healthy' version! Maybe I could try this again!" But nope, that wasn't the case: There was bacon in that one too, only I just couldn't tell. It's either because the chicken, cheese, and sauce are all so flavor-full/salty and the bacon is kind of "meh," or because the bacon is kind of flimsy and afterthought-y. Or maybe it's because I was eating my second KFC Double Down in the span of 15 minutes and at some point your palate gives up and says, "F you, if you're not going to treat me with respect you don't deserve to taste." I'm still not sure.

The Cheese

If you like gooey cheeses that promise the suggestion of a flavor with which you are familiar without actually presenting such flavor, this is going to be up your alley. The cheese, much like the chicken-or perhaps because of the chicken-has sort of a salty and nutty thing going on. It's more identifiable than the bacon while eating, but this may be more a product of consistency than actual flavor.

The Colonel's Special Sauce TM

It's pretty much Thousand Island dressing. I think it's safe to say that when a fast food chain promises a special sauce, it's going to be Thousand Island dressing. If you're share my affections for the McDonald's Big Mac, note that that special sauce is also Thousand Island dressing, although if have waded this far into a review of a fast food sandwich that uses chicken instead of bread this is almost certainly a fact of which you had prior knowledge.

(Sidebar: Did you know that there's actually a place in the world that is called Thousand Islands, somewhere between us and Canada, that may be the origin place for Thousand Island dressing? It turns out that there's a pretty interesting-relative, perhaps, to this review-debate about it on the Thousand Island dressing Wikipedia page! Spoiler alert: passive aggressive comments arguing about salad dressings are behind that link!)

Nutrition (LOL!)
So KFC claims that the two Double Downs only have 540 and 460 calories each (fried and grilled, respectively). At the risk of being unfortunately unpleasant, I'm forced to express my disbelief of those numbers, because there's no way that these things have less calories than a Big Mac (without cheese!). Also, if you look on the board at your local KFC (or at least at my local KFC), there's a calorie count for the meal, which comes with potato wedges and a drink (you fatty!), that counts the calories at 475-1080.

Further to this issue, Susan Levine, the nutrition education director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, has issued a letter to Yum! Brands Inc. (operators of KFC, obvs) insisting that the shouldn't advertise the Double Down to children. Levine feels that the "sandwich" is a "troubling symbol of corporate irresponsibility." She also believes that the FDA should restrict Double Down advertising in a similar manner to the way it handles tobacco advertising. Sorry, phallus-faced Camel who's eating bacon surrounded by pieces of fried chicken, your kind isn't wanted here.

(Sidebar 2: Did you know that KFC also offers a Double Chocolate Chip Cake that is 1700 calories? I mean, truth be told, it looked pretty dope, but 1700 calories? Holy crap.)


Should you eat this? Probably not. It is very much what you think it is, a sloppy and salty mess, and will make your stomach hurt for several hours after you've consumed it.

Still, I asked the KFC employee behind the counter how the Double Downs were doing, mostly in the hope that I would have been the first one to order this creation. It was not to be: Apparently my local KFC affiliate has been serving them for "a few days" already. In fact, they are "selling a lot so far." So I guess that's cool. America, we did it! We, like the Double Down, are pretty much exactly what people think we are.

Awl publisher David Cho previously reviewed the products prepared on the new Burger King broiler. The Awl has no financial arrangements with KFC or its parent company Yum! Brands, which should be pretty obvious right now.

128 Comments / Post A Comment

garge (#736)

I was waiting for this review in delicious anticipation, which is not *at all* a backhanded way of saying you've become predictable.

Moff (#28)

Dammit. I was simultaneously horrified by and excited to try this one, but what you say about the salt and the bacon and the cheese makes me pretty sure it will be as disappointing as the Famous Bowlsâ„¢. I think KFC really peaked when they introduced the biscuits and crispy recipe in the '80s.

Side note: One of my favorite things when I had a girlfriend with an apartment near Delancey and Essex was getting off wherever that combo Taco Bell/KFC is, buying bean burritos and biscuits, and then eating them and watching TV. It should go without saying that I was pretty high!

garge (#736)

Re: side note: I felt that way about burritos and breadsticks at the Taco Bell/Pizza Hut Express combos!

David Cho (#3)

Yeah, that doesn't exist anymore. :(

Multiphasic (#411)

Though there is still the Taco Bell/Dunkin' Donuts in Gowanus, which is puzzling, not least because the Taco Bell half is basically NEVER OPEN.

(also, the Carl's Jr./Green Burrito on Market in SF, which, let me tell you, the 99c chicken sandwich can be made into a bazillion dollar chicken sandwich with a quick trip to the salsa bar! Also, crack everywhere)

propertius (#361)

In SF, from both Market St and Western Addition Taco Bell/KFC combos you can hurry you bloated self to a nearby Safeway to raid the donut cabinet.

metoometoo (#230)

I used to live in the Marina in SF, near both the Safeway and the Taco Bell/KFC. That KFC is so gross and slow, I managed to rid myself of the habit. Now I live on Market, even closer to a different Safeway and a Taco Bell/KFC that is, relatively at least, very clean and fast! And I smoke a lot of weed. A lot. This is a terrible situation to be in, I assure you.

Multiphasic (#411)

I used to live in the Richmond and go all the way to said Marina Taco Bell/KFC, and would sometimes have to use their bathroom, which is not only outside but located mere inches away from the narrow parking lot exit onto Fillmore. SO MANY WAYS TO DIE, FUN. (said bathroom was nominally clean, though, and for various irrelevant reasons SHAKE FIGHT I was banned from the Mel's)

jacksonwest (#637)

I think you just gave me the addictive trigger necessary to make me go binge on one of these right now.

At least it's uphill from me, which should negate about ten calories.

nicole (#2,443)

I think there is still a white castle/church's chicken combo on myrtle ave in clinton hill. i've never quite worked up the nerve to eat something from both categories simultaneously there though…

HiredGoons (#603)

"second KFC Double Down in the span of 15 minutes"

Christonhisthrone! I thought you were implying you had eaten both of these IN SEPARATE SITTINGS! You ate TWO CONSECUTIVELY!?

Have fun not taking a shit for a month!

(I was waiting for this).

HiredGoons (#603)

Also: Wow, the calories are not as high as I thought they would be.

kneetoe (#1,881)

No, but that is A LOT OF GRAMS OF FAT!

HiredGoons (#603)

I'm fairly certain the entire sandwich is fat; plus the remnants of chicken between breaded fat.

kneetoe (#1,881)

The combination of very high fat count and bad is truly a sin against the food gods.

HiredGoons (#603)

What's really funny is though, if it was still some kind of meat besides bacon, say… turkey sausage; this shit would still be kosher.

kneetoe (#1,881)

Any talk of updating those rules?

HiredGoons (#603)

I'll have to ask the Elders of Zion.

kneetoe (#1,881)

Hah! I knew you knew those guys.

Several of those guys hang on in this comments section.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

I was disappointed to notice that Double Down is not yet on the menu at my local Kennedy Fried Chicken.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

I couldn't eat more than one half, and I still can't get the salt taste out of my mouth. This review would have been very helpful, like, an hour ago.

Also, I have a stomachache.

I've got a stomachache just from reading this. I love me some junk food, but JEBUS.

Flashman (#418)

The Awl: So meaty, there's no room for a bun!

myfanwy (#1,124)

Or, "So meaty, there's no room in your buns."

City_Dater (#2,500)

It looks so menacing, peeking out of its little paper pants, melted cheese gleaming. How can such a thing be consumed without a knife and fork?

That sodium count has to be a lie, and is still something like half the RDA.

David Cho (#3)

Your hands get really gross. As do your insides.

Bittersweet (#765)

Are the paper pants how you can eat this thing and not have completely greasy fingers afterward? Or does KFC just give you a personal ketchup-sized hand sanitizer to avoid major greasage?

David Cho (#3)

There's like a wax paper thing, but you're better off not even trying and washing your hands multiple times soon thereafter.

Mindpowered (#948)

K there Dr. Nick Riviera.

Mindpowered (#948)

Or was that way too insidery?

David Cho (#3)

I don't get it… :/

David Cho (#3)

Ah…I should have gotten it.

katiebakes (#32)

I still think I really want one. Also, I am a bridesmaid in a Thousand Islands wedding this summer, trufax! It is a lovely place.

garge (#736)

Please let us know if it is anything like the Hidden Valley!

Bittersweet (#765)

Yes, the Thousand Islands are great. Almost as awesome as the Land o'Lakes just to the north.

kneetoe (#1,881)

Presumably all those islands require quite a few lakes to give them their island-ness.

Mindpowered (#948)

The trick is to have one big lake and dump them all in there.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

What good is a wedding without an endless supply of the secret sauce(TM).

The Land O'Lakes URL is THE BEST.

Bittersweet (#765)

That's why I picked it.

josh_speed (#97)

Yes, it is near Kingston and Gananoque, Ontario–and it is some of the best sailing anywhere…

josh_speed (#97)

The Thousand Islands, that is…

hockeymom (#143)

Can we get a part two where you go to KFC and report back on who actually orders these things? Besides bloggers?

Mindpowered (#948)

For the agahast lurker inside us all.

NicFit (#616)

And who doesn't love gooey, greasy, salty processed crap that gives you a stomach ache?

Atencio (#399)

Sadly, it doesn't exist. Yet.

narnio (#38)

I think it should be place for D'Awl readers to submit THEIR Double-Down experiences!

Rod T (#33)

Did you take out a workman's comp policy before doing this?

KenWheaton (#401)

And then I clicked "Close Tab."
'I am no stranger to Bojangles' and Popeyes-the former being much better than the latter, but both ranking significantly above KFC for me'

You, sir, should have your food-reviewing license revoked.

David Cho (#3)

What are you trying to say here? That Bojangles' isn't significantly better than Popeye's? Because that is bullshit.

katiebakes (#32)

Do all Popeyes have this? The one I used to go to in college did: when you checked out, right before you got your change, a little screen would flash and be like "for just 79 cents more you can get [random food item]!" It was so genius, I pressed "OK" every time.

kneetoe (#1,881)


Moff (#28)


Multiphasic (#411)

Kennedy's? Good god, that's like bringing a hand grenade to a duel.

Moff (#28)

But using it like a knife.

KenWheaton (#401)

They quit doing that. Sadly.

KenWheaton (#401)

That's exactly what I'm saying.

@bakes: YES! And the tinny voice saying, "You got a deal!" right after the weird roulette/slot machine foodstuffs wheel stopped spinning. Just like being in Vegas!

riggssm (#760)

1,700 calories for a piece of cake? My intake should be about 2,200-2,800 daily, depending on my level of activity. I aim to eat 1,500-ish (so I can drink 1,000 calories of vodka each night).

I mean, there's tubbers everywhere and shit. They're like rats and pigeons in that I've desensitized to not seeing them.

But seeing Cho's numbers: it kills me that by eating just one "meal" with dessert at KFC, someone could intake triple the calories of my food for an entire day. Cripes.

HiredGoons (#603)

"1,500-ish (so I can drink 1,000 calories of vodka each night)"

Um, call me?

I believe drunk-texting would be the medium of choice here.

cherrispryte (#444)

If you're ordering cake from KFC, I think you are long past the point of caring about calories.

Also, really, thanks for comparing fatties to rats and pidgeons.

garge (#736)

I want to know the mass density of this cake. If it really is cake-slice size, it sounds like it should be utilized by the army, NASA, and the Red Cross.

saythatscool (#101)

So I take it that Cherry Sprite is you beverage of choice rather than a description of your body type?

cherrispryte (#444)

Blergh, no, I rarely drink soda.
Do Sprites have a specific body type?

saythatscool (#101)

I always think of "spritely figures" as lithe. Perhaps I am the only one though.

HiredGoons (#603)

I think of them as prepubescent. Pervert.

saythatscool (#101)

They all want the dick, HG. Even when they say "no." They all want it.

cherrispryte (#444)

How delightfully rapey!

Also, per the earlier comments, I am neither lithe nor prepubescent. I am fat. My username's origin is a long stupid story.

HiredGoons (#603)

So naturally I'm dying to hear it.

saythatscool (#101)

Me too! Is it related to the car?

cherrispryte (#444)

It is not long as much as it is exceedingly stupid:
I was an adorable small child. Blonde curls, chubby cheeks, big eyes, etc. At some point in high school, upon showing toddler-age pictures of me to a friend, he remarked "Awww, you're almost Shirley Temple!" Indignantly, I replied "Almost? So what am I then, a cherry Sprite?" …… and he started calling me cherry sprite and it sort of stuck. And I spelled it wrong because I was a teenager and an idiot. When I signed up for Gawker, I used it as my username, and now I am forever on the internet as cherrispryte, eternally sounding like fifteen year old obsessed with fruit and fairies.

HiredGoons (#603)

"obsessed with fruit and fairies."

We'll get along fine then.

saythatscool (#101)

"eternally sounding like a fifteen year old"

Yeah me too.

brent_cox (#40)

KFC cannot be unhappy with the number of impressions it is receiving today.

barnhouse (#1,326)

I begin to fear for the innards of David Cho, if this is going to be an ongoing thing. That I really enjoy reading.

Maevemealone (#968)

Maybe Lipitor could do some sponsorship for further food reviews.

David Cho (#3)

Correct me if I'm wrong Choire, but I'm pretty sure I'm the most svelte Awl staff member.

myfanwy (#1,124)


garge (#736)

Be careful, Mr. Cho, I hear you can be svelte on the outside, but fat on the inside ..

barnhouse (#1,326)

It's a conspiracy to make him fat.

WindowSeat (#180)

How does the grilled version compare to the Chicken Paillard with Frisee at Balthazar?

David Cho (#3)

It's night and day, but that's because it's seasoned differently. I would say if you were going to compare it to a Balthazar dish it would be more analogous to the roast chicken, just because it's a lot more herby and the paillard is not so herby.

propertius (#361)

Maybe a side order of melted Crisco would improve the Chicken Paillard?

David Cho (#3)

I just don't love chicken paillard! There's a ton of other ways I'd rather eat a chicken???

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Make mine on a fluffy biscuit, thanks.

WindowSeat (#180)

Making the paillard is much more interesting than eating it. Bang-bang-bang! With the mallet and what you're left with is a protein tortilla.

Murgatroid (#2,904)

If biting into the Double Down signaled the shriek of an annoying "foodie", I would eat the whole entire damn sandwich.

dailyny (#3,326)

It's 30 grams of fat in 500 calories of food stuff. In foodie terms, that ratio should be near-orgasmic. As far as I'm concerned, KFC can suck it.

maebefunke (#154)

I distinctly remember eating BK Chicken Fries in summer 2005.

Maybe you wanna be a French fry.

Ronit (#1,557)

If Popey's did this, I'd be all over it.

KFC? No thanks.

Swass LikeMe (#1,317)

I totally agree with this. Therefore it's a good thing that this is a KFC exclusive.

mrschem (#1,757)

Popey's-Vatican City Fried Chicken

deepomega (#1,720)

I used to love the shit out of KFC, as a lad. I would eat nothing but KFC chicken nuggets for maybe a year. Then I didn't go for maybe ten years, from 10 years old to 20. It was late at night, I was moving into a new apartment/dorm at college, and I had no food in my kitchen, so I went to the closest fast food, which was KFC. I have never had my childhood memories so thoroughly violated. The chicken was like fried granite.

BadUncle (#153)

I wish Lugar's would do a "sandwich" using two shell steaks surrounding a pork chop.

FWIW, you can already get a hamburger topped with 1/4-inch-thick slabs of bacon there.

HiredGoons (#603)

So this is like a fast-food terducken.

WindowSeat (#180)

I hate to correct anyone's spelling, but you can't spell "turducken" without the "turd"

gumplr (#66)


Paul Prudhomme is rolling in his grave down the street.

gumplr (#66)

cue strike tags…. NOW

HiredGoons (#603)

In my defense, my brain is bleeding right now.

I would say it is closer to fast-food Chicken Cordon Bleu, chicken wrapped around pork and cheese and then fried.

jetztinberlin (#392)

Because this is the only servicey thing I have to add to such a thread as a vegetarian: UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES FOR THE LOVE OF GOD EVER EVER EAT THE BURGER KING CHILI CHEESE NUGGETS. Unless you want to throw up, I mean.

Beau Cadiyo (#4,383)

ABSURDLY SALTY. But not horrible. That sandwich sleeve is going to catch on, though, I think:

Abe Sauer (#148)

I want my $10.

David Cho (#3)

To be fair, we weren't the first. So I guess you owe someone (or all of us) $10.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Ha. Probably true. You guys win for sincerity though!

PropSword (#2,870)

KFC Boardroom, Fall 2009:

A group of 10 executives sit in silence around a table, struggling over how to improve the KFC menu. They've already created the "Famous Bowls" sensation and have long been reaping the profits from their "Popcorn Chicken" mainstay. Where to go from here? What can possibly recapture the hearts and minds of America? And then the quietest guy in the room speaks:

"Chicken instead of bread"

The room breaks into applause.

Pandemic Endemic (#3,825)

Thanks a lot for reminding me of how much I miss Kenny Rogers Roasters!

missdelite (#625) some point your palate gives up and says, "F you, if you're not going to treat me with respect you don't deserve to taste."

That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?

FeyBoohoozer (#410)

Double down and double over.

davidwatts (#72)

I have in fact stayed at the Thousand Islands Inn, the birthplace of the dressing. The whole region was a Gilded Age playground, and there are actually something like a thousand goddamn islands up there, many of them with castles built by obscenely wealthy men with mustaches.

The site plays a midi "New York, New York. Enjoy!

HiredGoons (#603)

I want to eat that fish.

davidwatts (#72)

God, at first I was SO WORRIED you were referencing that McDonald's Filet O'Crap ad that for some reason PEOPLE ENJOY, but then I remembered there is a huge fish on that page i linked to. Phew!

David Cho (#3)

Let's not hate on the Filet-O-Fish.

taylor smith (#4,394)

Ourexam provides the latest HP0-003 exam, which can help you pass the exam easily and safely.

josh_speed (#97)

A partial list of those rolling rapidly in their graves: Claiborne, Craig; Child, Julia; Brillat-Savarin, Jean Anthelme; Careme, Marie-Antonin…

worst_1_yet (#681)

Jesus. Wrap the motherfucker in a pancake already.

ragold (#2,746)

1700 calories is just 1700 calories you don't have to eat later.

West (#4,412)

"They call me the feeder, I've been searching low and hi-high…."
* The Who-cover mode: off/ *

light101 (#4,425)

Seriously, This is more of Double "UP". Double chins, double belly and double weight. Personally, I rather stay away from it!

Avery A Smith (#4,801) I just did this with a friend. do not try. *do NOT try*

Robert Church (#8,982)

The Double Down is actually a pretty darn good sandwich. Although I'm not a huge fan of the Colonel's special sauce the pepper jack cheese gives it a little kick that I really enjoy. This is also the kind of eat on-the-go food item that would go over great at fairs and carnivals and is more like something you would get from a food truck. I think a nice twist on this would be replacing the bacon & pepper jack with swiss and mushrooms.

@Robert Church – You're also fat!?

Post a Comment