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Chick-fil-A's Chicken

I'm not starting a political discussion here--I just have a simple question about their chicken. I stopped going to Chick-fil-A a long time ago because I found their food close to inedible, sort of a combination of Wonder Bread and defrosted chicken cutlets (obviously, I am in the minority). Do they use frozen chicken in their stores? And there's nothing wrong with that; I'm just curious, because I scoured their website and saw no mention that they don't use frozen chicken.

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  1. Apparently the chicken they use for their sandwiches is brined and frozen in central locations, then shipped out to the stores where it is thawed, seasoned, dipped, coated, and fried in peanut oil. The seasoning, dip, and coating are all also prepared in a central location and shipped to the stores in bags. Both the seasoning and the seasoned coating contain a variety of ingredients including MSG, that certainly contributes to the final result.

    Much more information here:

    5 Replies
    1. re: johnb

      I stopped eating eat after the first time I tried it (long time ago) because it has too much MSG in it.

      1. re: Christina40

        I stopped eating it after the first time I tried it because it was down right terrible.


        1. re: Davwud

          Agreed. I was first introduced to Chik-fil-A in North Carolina by some friends who were natives and simply raved about it. I not only didn't get the hype, I thought the food was horrible and have never set foot in a Chik-fil-A since. Never will again.

          1. re: biondanonima

            Everyone has an opinion, and I love Chic-fil-a. A lot of people love McDonalds, but I find it down right terrible and will never set foot in one again. The last time I had a quarter pounder with cheese it was so bad, I fed it to a pack of stray dogs, literally. I had five free coupons, and gave the other four away. I went to Chick-fil-A last weekend and ordered my usual, a sandwich with no pickle, like jessiecheese suggests, a good, fresh hot filet. I do not like the bun, however. It is fed to the birds on my patio, they fight over it, and I eat the plain filet. Who needs crappy bread? Another thing, I find the nuggets and strips a different flavor, and I don't like them as much as the fila, but the wife loves them. I also can do without the waffle fries. I've heard the breakfast fila on a biscuit is good, and I have to try that.

        2. re: Christina40

          I never got it myself. It's plain bland fried chicken on a plain bland bun with a scattering of a few pickles.

          To be honest I don't each much fast food at all, on a road trip a year ago I had some wendy's spicy chicken sandwich, and a frosty. Both were editable and had some taste to them. Better than Chick- Fil-A.

          Sodium, MSG, and other dietary restrictions would keep you from going to most fast food joints.

          You can make a proper chicken sandwich at home, won't save you money but it will be tastier and healthier.

      2. I worked in CFA in high school and took part in the chicken preparation. It came to us frozen and was thawed in a very methodical FIFO system. I honestly can't recall 100% if the frozen product was marinated, but I want to say that it was marinated after the thaw. The first team would trim and flatten the chicken breasts. I believe that was when the marinade was added and it was either set aside (grilled chicken) or coated. The chicken was fried in small batches. Few thoughts from my time there:
        *I worked in a crummy mall location and even there, I was surprised at the cleanliness and the methods that were in place at our location. I worked all positions and still ate there after I left, which is not what I can say for all places that I've worked.
        *If you ask for a revision to your order (no pickles, extra pickles, no butter, etc) they'll make you a fresh sandwich instead of serving one from the warmer. Much better quality.

        2 Replies
        1. re: jessicheese

          I worked at and then managed a chickfila for 5 years in highschool/college. Even though that was ten years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday (I really loved working in the kitchen and routinely opened the store on sat mornings to prep for the day, so I made everything on the menu on a regular basis.)

          The chicken for the original sandwiches was, at that time at least, not marinated. It was a whole chicken breast (not a half as some suggest) that comes frozen and is dethawed, filleted and then prepped with a milkwash solution, dredged in a flour batter and cooked in peanut oil in a pressure cooker. The nuggets are cut up pieces of the same breast meat (they come pre cut, but sometimes we would cut it ourselves if we were running low.)

          The grilled sandwiches are filleted, have the fat trimmed from them and are marinated in what basically amounts to an italian seasoning blend, pickle juice and water. The chicken strips are tenderloins marinated in the same solution, then battered and pressure cooked.

          My absolute favorite thing from the CFA, which I have not had in years since I've moved to the northeast, is to batter and fry a marinated fillet out of the "grilled" batch. Its basically a giant chicken strip and the flavor is awesome. I used to always dig the piece out of the bottom of the bucket, batter and fry it and top it with battered, fried pickle chips (pickle chips always ended up in the marinate and since they were tainted with raw chicken we would batter and fry them as a shift snack.) I don't know if you could get a store to do that for you, however I would say they probably wouldn't object if it wasnt busy.
          For what its worth, the quality of the product was really great. The chicken we got was better than what I see at the grocery store- its not freerange or organic but it came in looking better than stuff I've seen working at way pricier restaurants. And all the produce was always handled with great care and rotated very regularly. That job taught me about food safety and, honestly, was the cleanest kitchen I've ever seen professionally. Political views aside, I would never hesitate to eat at a cfa.

          1. re: jessicheese

            I agree that from a business and customer service perspective CFA is one of the best run operations I've seen. The cleanliness is impeccable, the staff is high quality, and the service is top notch. Huge kudos to the managers for their consistent abillity to choose and train their staff.

            On the other hand, I too can't stand their food. It all just tastes like very salty slabs of something on squishy white bread. Yuck. When I had to eat there I would choose a wrap. All the veggies and dressing hid the taste of the chicken. Spouse would choose a salad as the veggies are pretty fresh and decent quality. I no longer eat at CFA, though, as a matter of principle.

          2. " I stopped going to Chick-fil-A a long time ago because I found their food close to inedible, sort of a combination of Wonder Bread and defrosted chicken cutlets (obviously, I am in the minority)."

            You aren't alone. For anyone who has actually had or made a good piece of fried chicken, Chick Fil A tastes like bland, soggy crap.

            1. My (late) mother is cousin by marriage to Dan Cathy, the infamous, and his father Truitt. (I should say here that I am extemely far removed from that family politically and religiously).
              I have been receiving cards for free chik fil a all my life, it seems.

              That said, I never eat there. Ever. Good gracious I find them gross and bland.
              Yes the stores are clean. But the food is overpriced goo.


              And I'm not a food snob, I absolutely will cruise in to chain/fast food stops on occaison and enjoy them.
              Just not Chik Fil A.

              1. This isn't about Chick-Fil-A specifically but about fast food generally. I like a McDonald's hamburger sometimes as well as anybody but I will say this: I often walk past a Popeye's Chicken and when I pass by there I see a big truck is offloading boxes of the food they are going to serve. The boxes are labeled chicken, mashed potatoes, etc. I am not at all usually a natural-foods enthusiast but when I see these boxes all I can think of is how far that food has traveled, how long it has already been prepared, and how many chemical additives are necessary to allow such distance and time. The result is not conducive to appetite. I would rather go home and bake an actual chicken breast and an actual potato than buy fakey virtual mashed potatoes full of butylated hydroxylate and dimethyl Gorbeduc. But maybe that's just me.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Querencia

                  "... all I can think of is how far that food has traveled, how long it has already been prepared, and how many chemical additives are necessary to allow such distance and time ..."

                  I don't think the time is very long. The large chains have sophisticated supply chains, and a key aspect of supply chain management is reducing inventory at every step (because inventory means money sitting and not earning you anything). So I think the time for fast food from factory to consumer's stomach is probably shorter than it is for the domestic route (factory to warehouse to supermarket to home to stomach). That being said, you are indeed eating factory-processed food that has been frozen.

                  Btw, that dimethylated gorbeduc sounds tasty!

                2. I'm sure it's frozen just like every other fast food joint out there. Apparently the people standing in 100+ heat haven't bothered to question that aspect of their chicken.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: latindancer

                    So you never eat food that has ever been frozen? I don't understand your point.

                    1. re: rasputina

                      That's what I was wondering. I mean, they don't have chickens in the back yard of the restaurant. I would hope it's frozen.

                      1. re: wyogal

                        We all eat food that was frozen somewhere along the way, and I'm cynical enough to believe that very few can tell the difference, in spite of their self-image. For example, nearly all sushi fish is frozen at some point -- in spite of all the comments one reads, it simply isn't "fresh." Here is a video showing tuna at the Tokyo market, destined for sushi all over the world -- note how "fresh" it is; this is typical:


                        1. re: johnb

                          I know. I have no problems with frozen chicken, hence my post.

                            1. re: johnb

                              We had another thread on this where it was suggested that in the US the fish used for sushi/sashimi is REQUIRED to be frozen at some point. For details, see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/799881

                          1. re: rasputina

                            Sorry if I confused you.... I could care less if something is frozen/not frozen as long as it tastes good.
                            I like Chick-Fil-A's....the 2 times i've had it and I'll continue to enjoy it when I've got the chance.

                            1. re: rasputina

                              I am referring not to frozen food but to what is held refrigerated with a pull date three or four months in the future. They must have to embalm cooked food to make it hold that long. Creepy.

                              1. re: Querencia

                                Rasputina's post that you responded to was in turn a response to latindancer, not you. If you look in the upper right hand corner of each post, it displays the name of the 'hound that is being responded to.

                                I doubt any restaurant keeps chicken refrigerated for 3 or 4 months.

                          2. I haven't eaten at Chik-fil-A for a long time (no particular reason), but I remember liking it. I am absolutely sure the chicken was frozen, but there is nothing surprising about this.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              I think you're correct, given the logistics, the chic probably comes through a commissary distribution system for CFA, thus it's more than likely frozen. It's still a good sammie!

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Frozen as opposed to butchered on-site, or frozen as opposed to delivered fresh from a nearby butcher? It's mall food-court fast food, delivered by their central kitchens, so if it's not frozen during delivery, I'm certainly not eating it.

                                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                                    Ha ha ha. Very accurate and to the point. Yes, it would have been much worse if it is NOT frozen.

                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                      It arrives at the stores frozen, but it's not prepared in a central kitchen. The meat is portioned, brined, and frozen centrally. It's thawed at the store, then minimally further pepped, seasoned, milk washed, breaded, and pressure fried just prior to service..

                                  2. I don't have a Chik Fil A near me..but I would be curious how their chicken sandwich compares to a similar fast food product like Wendys chicken sandwiches (which seem to be one of the "better" ones out there).
                                    If you do not eat fast food chicken sandwiches then I assume chik fil a will not do it for you any way.
                                    What is the opinion of those who enjoy other fast food chicken sanwiches..that is a more valid opinion. Does Wendys not freeze their chicken somehow ?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: rochfood

                                      Hmm, I have had Chic Fil A many times when I lived in the South. I will say two things. First, the QC variability is greater than McDonald. Some of the Chic Fil A sandwiches I have are so-so (the ones on the college campus), while some are much better. Second, I prefer the chargilled chicken over the bread fried version.

                                      In my experience, when it is done right, the Chic Fil A ones are better than Wendy's.

                                      1. re: rochfood

                                        Fast food chicken sandwiches are one of my guilty pleasures. A few times a year, often on road trips, I really enjoy them from Wendy's or even BK. CFA, however, never. I find their breading is not crispy, the chicken is bland and their buns are soggy mush.

                                      2. Re frozen chicken, I get the frozen Kirkland breasts from Costco just to have some in the freezer, they are actually pretty good. Not 100% as good as fresh but maybe 85% as good.

                                        1. I've never been to a CFA, not much of a presence in upstate NY. I would try one if close to me. Here's an article from Serious Eats on how to make a CFA sandwitch. After reading this I do believe they brine the breasts. Good article on the whole process, especially on recreating the proper crust. I will be trying this soon.


                                          16 Replies
                                          1. re: Enigma3

                                            We've come full circle... the Serious Eats article (and discussion thereof) is in the 2nd post of this current thread

                                            1. re: drongo

                                              they absolutely do not brine the chicken for the original cfa. I worked there for many years. It is not brined. The grilled chicken and chickn strips are marinated in a partial pickle-juice brine but the original sandwich is not.

                                              1. re: CarmenR

                                                According to the info that has already been linked in this thread twice, it's brined centrally; what arrives in the stores frozen has already been brined. Here is a quote, also from an ex-CFA employee:
                                                To confirm my suspicions, I spoke with a former Chick-Fil-A employee, who was able to walk me through the process:

                                                "We handled a significant amount of the process. The chicken arrived frozen. They had been brined already, but that was it. We defrosted them, ripped the tendons so they would lie flat, and dipped them in the milk wash before dredging them in seasoned flour. The milk wash and the seasoned flour was prepared elsewhere and we just opened the packages."

                                                Unfortunately all that really tells me is that yes, they are brined. The contents of that brine are still up in the air, but it's safe to say that at the very least salt and sugar are part of the mix.
                                                Do you know for a fact that what this ex-employee said isn't true? Did you work in the central facility where the freezing is done? Clearly if brining is part of the process, that is something that would likely be kept "secret" as a competitive matter.

                                                1. re: johnb

                                                  I believe they are probably just mistaken. As a GM I had to memorize even the most benign ingredients on basically the entire menu for purposes of allergies, should they ever come up. Additionally, I dealt with enough of the chicken over time to know the difference in texture and smell (both raw and cooked) between that which was brined and that which was not.
                                                  ALSO the cases of chicken which we got from the truck orders were labeled. They made no mention of brining, which I think would have to be illegal. I highly doubt that the chicken is "secretly processed" and this secret is not even divulged to members of management who have been to the HQ, attended seminars and been flown to work numerous grand openings (all of which I was.)

                                                  SO unless there is some SERIOUSLY weird, secretive, cult-like thing going on (that would also potentially be illegal, as stated,) I feel that I do know it for a "fact."

                                                  1. re: CarmenR

                                                    Hey Carmen. I'm not sure about US laws but I believe if you brine up here in Canada it simply has to say "Seasoned" on the packaging. Did the cases say "Seasoned" anywhere on them??

                                                    Also keep in mind that the actual cases they move the packages in may not have to say anything.


                                                    1. re: Davwud

                                                      Methinks you just want them to be nasty? I never had one until a few months ago in Dallas, and I thought it was pretty good, but I don't care for the pickle with chicken.

                                                      1. re: Veggo

                                                        I don't WANT them to be nasty. They just are.

                                                        I was very interested the first time I went. It was flat out awful. Not much taste in the meat and the vegetation on it wasn't anything close to fresh. Just bad, bad, bad.


                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                          So be it. Just like the Olympics, we throw out the high score (Laurenjo28) and the low score (yours) and average what remains in the middle. Enjoy.

                                                          1. re: Veggo

                                                            Part of me thinks that maybe you throw out all scores because there are mitigating factors that can cloud one's judgement. I think people's impressions of the place can be tainted by their religious and political beliefs. On both sides of the argument.


                                                            1. re: Davwud

                                                              Definitely not me. :) I am an atheist and lean left on the marriage thing, but I find Chic-Fil-A food to be better than say McDonald, Burger King, Wendy's...etc. On average of course. I very much like McDonald's Filet-O-Fish and its breakfast Egg McMuffin. However, if I have to take the entire McDonald menu and average it out, then I like Chi-Fil-A more.

                                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                                <I think people's impressions of the place can be tainted by their religious and political beliefs. On both sides of the argument.>

                                                                Well, you think wrong. I like it. I could care less about the religious, the political or the people working there....
                                                                I like the taste.

                                                          2. re: Veggo

                                                            Veggo, a bit of an old reply, but for the perfect Chic-Fil-A, order it without the pickle and you're assured of a hot, fresh one. I'm with you on the pickle, I just don't like it.

                                                          3. re: Davwud

                                                            The cases did not say seasoned and they were labeled with the CFA label (most of the time, if we misordered we would get some sort of generic product at the last minute.)
                                                            Additionally, I've gotten enough of the raw "chicken goo," as we lovingly called it, in my nose, eyes, and mouth over the years to know that it only tastes like raw chicken, exactly like what you get at the grocery store.

                                                            What's everyone's obsession with defending it being brined, anyway? There's been at least two people on that serious eats threads who are former employees and disagree, and everyone is arguing with them. Seriously, you can dislike chickfila without insisting that it's brined. They are not mutually exclusive.

                                                            I promise. It's not brined. The pressure cooker is the critical point, not some weird Illuminati secret.

                                                            1. re: CarmenR

                                                              I think to get that kind of moist chicken in a home kitchen, brining is probably necessary. But the pressure frying at CFA will keep it more moist than atmospheric-pressure frying, so the brining may be unnecessary -- I have a comment at Serious Eats in which I try to explain the concept. I'm pasting it below:

                                                              I think Chick-Fil-A's use of a pressure fryer likely helps maintain the moisture.

                                                              Consider frying at atmospheric pressure, with oil at say 350 degF. The heat is conducted into the chicken and so moving into the interior you have a front where the temperature reaches 212 degF. At (and behind) this front, the water vaporizes (because you are at or above the boiling point) and the chicken is essentially dehydrated. Once the center reaches target temperature (say 160 degF) the chicken can be removed. As it cools and rests, the dehydrated region will get back some moisture by diffusion from the non-dehydrated center. But you've definitely lost some moisture through the vaporization (that's all the bubbling when you fry).

                                                              In contrast, consider frying at above atmospheric pressure. Even if the oil temperature is no hotter (say 350 degF), the front where the water vaporizes will be above 212F (since boiling point increases with higher pressure) and hence there will necessarily overall be less water vaporized (assuming the chicken is again removed when center reaches the same temperature as in the atmospheric pressure case).

                                                              As an aside, note that the above-atmospheric pressure in a pressure fryer is not needed to get to higher temperature (as it is when cooking with water at elevated pressure) because what limits the temperature with oil is not the oil boiling but rather smoking/burning.

                                                              1. re: drongo

                                                                You may be correct but if so the logic applies broadly because AFAIK most chain fried chicken is fried in pressure friers. Perhaps a comparison of CFA with some others would help put this one to the test.

                                                            2. re: Davwud

                                                              I'm pretty sure that's all it would have to say in the US, or at least it would not have to specifically say "brine." As long as the ingredients included everything in the brine, they don't have to go into any additional detail. Assuming the brine is water, salt, and sugar then there is no special knowledge/labeling required, since those ingredients are also going to be in the breading and/or bun.

                                                              I just pulled up the ingredients list from the CFA website. They list chicken, seasoning (salt, sugar, MSG, spice, paprika), seasoned coating (flour, sugar, MSG, spice, milk, oil), and milk wash (water, egg, milk).

                                                  2. Folks, this thread is about Chick-Fil-A's chicken. There are plenty of other threads that discuss the religious aspect of their business, please don't drag those issues into every thread about them.

                                                    1. It seems as if I'm in the minority! I love Chick-fil-a, it's safe to say it's my favorite fast food restaurant. To each their own I guess!

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: Laurenjo28

                                                        I agree - it's by far the best FF chain.

                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                            I like Chic-Fil-A, and do think they are above average for national fast food restaurants. However, I won't say Chic-Fil-A is the best. For example, I like In-N-Out very much, but one can argue that In-N-Out is not a national, and is not a franchise (it is a chain).

                                                            For a national fast food franchise, Chic-Fil-A is very good. For fast food restaurants, there are others which I like more.

                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                              See here's the thing. I think CFA has far too wide an array of opinions to be considered THE best. Even those who don't drink the InO coolaid tend to agree that for a fast food burger it's pretty good. Some consider it burger perfection and others, such as myself think it's good but nothing special. So all in all, the ratings are good.

                                                              Add to that the fact that, for the most part, they're sacrificing profits for quality. Originally they WOULD NOT expand past the range of their processing plant. I understand they've opened up others but are still keeping it manageable.

                                                              So to make a short point long, I wouldn't argue InO being the best.


                                                        1. re: Laurenjo28

                                                          I've got to agree. If I'm eating fast food, I'm definitely going with Chick Fil A. The locations in my area are extremely busy so the food stays freshly prepared. I prefer it to any other fast food restaurant I've been to.

                                                          ETA: This should have been in response to another comment, not the OP. Darn you, tiny iPhone icons!