We Tasted KFC's New 'Secret Recipe' Fries. Here's What We Thought.
Say goodbye to reliable wedges, say hello to fries seasoned to taste like chicken.
I have no beef with KFC. The fried chicken chain holds up remarkably well during delivery, and its mac & cheese nearly ruined my relationship with my mother, who firmly disagrees with my claim that it's better than hers. But I'm not as fond of KFC’s Secret Recipe Fry. And I demand to know what this secret recipe is, because it is responsible for the single most confusing fast food dining experience I have ever had (besides Taco Bell’s Cap’n Crunch Delights).
KFC started testing these fries, which are purportedly seasoned with the same 11 mysterious herbs and spices you’ll find on its chicken, in 2019. Last week, a KFC representative told Thrillist that it’s doing away with its potato wedges and going national with the Secret Recipe Fries. I was upset to hear the news, considering that the wedges were arguably one of the best fast food sides in the game, but consumers have apparently enjoyed the secret fry overall. “The rollout has been overwhelmingly positive,” the rep said in an email. But while I’m sure the rep is being honest, I sort of feel like KFC threw away a good, stable potato in pursuit of a potato whose greatest value is its mystery.
Before I get into the details, I should note that, while I did get my KFC delivered, the restaurant was .8 miles away and the meal was hot enough to suggest my fries arrived as intended.
The fries came in a familiar container with an opening about the size of a fist. As I mentioned, they were warm upon delivery, but I was disappointed to find they lacked the crispiness of the chain’s famed chicken. Part of that is probably because of their mass -- they weren't just a thin, oily starch strings; each fry was almost as thick as my pinky finger. (I'll also note that a taste test video by YouTuber Chris Frezza includes audible crunch, so I might have just been unlucky here.)
Now, I didn't hate the fries' flavor, but for a while my roommate and I sat across from each other furrowing brows and deciding how to feel. I noticed at first bite that the potatoes could use more salt, and about two seconds after the fried vegetable reached my taste buds I picked up on a flavor that was herby, but that ultimately left my body wanting more. I started to think about how I prefer my fries to be much saltier than my poultry, and that, by diving too deeply into the smokey, multi-flavor world of fried chicken, KFC may have left the French fry essential -- salt -- behind.
Now, I do have biases, in that I’m a McDonald’s fry loyalist. I’m the kind of consumer who believes that the Arby’s fry cheated its way to the top of the Thrillist fast food ranking by virtue of its curliness (I’ll take a pay cut for saying this). I’ve no time to debate the merits of novelty seasoning and shape, when the foundation of French fry excellence is a perfect balance of oil and salt. So I can confidently assert that all of my colleagues would agree that whatever mystery lies in the “secret recipe,” KFC fry neither aids in its climb up the ranking, nor belongs on a fry.
I believe the KFC Secret Recipe fry would pair nicely with the chain's fried chicken because the herby flavors will already be present on the tongue. As a standalone item, however, they struggle to compete in the fast food world. Sorry, Colonel Sanders, you might be sexy, but honesty is sexier.