McDonald’s Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich earns participation trophy

Photo: Allison Robicelli

It’s pretty clear what went down in McDonald’s corporate offices a few weeks ago:

Executive 1: We need a chicken sandwich thing.

Executive 2: We already have several chicken things.

Executive 1: Well then we need a brand-new chicken thing and we need it now!

Executive 2: What if we pour a full cup of barbecue sauce on four chicken tenders?

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Executive 1: Goddamnit, man, you are a genius!

And both of them got bonuses of eleventy jillion dollars.

What we, the consumers, have been bestowed is McDonald’s new Spicy BBQ Glazed Tenders and Spicy BBQ Chicken Sandwich, both available for a limited time only. I had high hopes for the sandwich, thinking that perhaps I would be able to taste faint whispers of the magical McRib. I also ordered the chicken tenders purely in the spirit of things, ignoring the fact that I could could have ordered regular chicken tenders, which do come with sauce, for 70 cents less.

Photo: Allison Robicelli

First, let’s take a look at the sandwich.

As you can see from the autopsy photo, this is a combination of several different McDonald’s items: a crispy chicken patty, a sesame seed bun, pickles, onions. Then they threw some barbecue sauce on it. I’m not saying that it’s terrible, but when you eat it, all you’re going to think is “I could have ordered McNuggets instead” and then beat yourself all day for it.

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What I am saying is terrible is this:

Photo: Allison Robicelli
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This should have been served with a straw, and I am very appreciative of the McDonald’s employee who delivered these to my table with a 2"-tall stack of napkins. This needs to be eaten with a knife and fork and, since I refuse to eat chicken tenders with a knife and fork as a matter of principle, I had to nearly half-shower in a McDonald’s bathroom in Baltimore and I do not wish to speak of this event ever again.

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But let’s say, hypothetically, my food looked more like the sandwich and tenders that McDonald’s has been using in its promotions and on its website, which are photographed with a very reasonable amount of spicy barbecue sauce. If you take a moment to really concentrate on that sauce, you’ll be able to detect a faint backnote of smokey heat—perhaps chipotle powder? It’s hard to discern further, as it seems McDonald’s chose to temper that heat with far more corn syrup than any barbecue sauce needs, overwhelming every component of the respective chicken dishes and turning each into a cloying, sickly sweet mess with no flavor payoff.

If you go to McDonald’s and need chicken, stick to the always excellent McNuggets, which will never let you down or hurt you.

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About the author

Allison Robicelli

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, host of The Robicelli Argument Clinic Podcast, the author of three books, and a swan meat influencer.