Ever since Carl’s Jr. retconned their “Chicken Breast Strips” in favor of “Hand Breaded Chicken Tenders,” taking them from unassailable to, well, horrible, Jack in the Box has had the best fried chicken tenders in fast food.
Unfortunately, it seems like complacency (and possibly market factors) have led Mr. Box to allow what may have been the only worthwhile helping of quick service chicken tenders to become an afterthought.
In the past, I have been a vocal supporter of the dish formerly known as “Chicken Breast Pieces.” They were hulking, thick, juicy pieces of all-white meat chicken breast. They were very deeply fried to a maple syrup brown, but never too crunchy or too greasy. And they were a damn good bargain, at about $4.99 for five pieces.
Blissful, poultry perfection.
I was such a fan, in fact, that I wasn’t bothered when the San Diego-based chain rebranded the entree as “Crispy Chicken Strips,” even though I knew that the change surely signified recipe tweaking. Indeed, my tenderloins were less well-done, arriving on my tray with a more commonplace, golden-brown color.
I was similarly unaffected when the standard offering size shrunk from five pieces to four.
Anyone paying attention to the market could see that the price of poultry was on a steady climb. Heck, McDonald’s dumped Chicken Selects from their menu altogether. Surely, I didn’t expect the fifth most popular hamburger chain in America* to lose profits just to keep me happy. The choice is simple: raise prices or offer less chicken. The former would contradict with an industry-wide focus on broadening “value” offerings, so snaking of my chicken tenders was the only real solution.
Plus, who am I kidding? I’ve failed to finish all five strips in a single setting on countless occasions. I don’t need that much meat every day.
But I could taste subtle differences, too. Probably to coincide with their decision to season premium hamburgers as they cook, black pepper was increasingly discernible when munching on CCSs.
That change was an even easier one for me to reconcile. I could just double dip my chicken in some sauce.
I was a little nonplussed (they still serve “Mozzarella Cheese Sticks,” unchanged since at least the early aughts), not to mention a little hurt, but eventually I got over the loss. Target sells marinara sauce by the gallon.
But, after opening my latest order of “Crispy Chicken Strips,” I think the levee on my patience and loyalty may have finally burst.
Imagine spending five dollars on a batch of chicken that you expect will keep you full until at least the end of the workday, and, instead, seeing this:
There’s absolutely no way to rationalize the way these things look like repurposed BK Chicken Fries. I would have been better off buying five “Chicken Sandwiches,” and asking the cashier to hold the mayo. And the bun. And the lettuce. And the tomato.
According to nutrition facts published by the company this year, “Crispy Chicken Strips” contain 195 grams and 560 calories per serving. That equates to roughly 49 grams and 140 calories for each tender.
Jack in the Box did not respond to a request for archived nutrition facts, so, relying on data published on several different websites, the older “Chicken Breast Pieces” consisted of 150 grams and 360 calories per serving, or 50 grams and 72 calories per tender.
While the caloric difference may be significant (and, in ways, regrettable), pound-for-pound, the older and newer entrees both produce tenders of equal weight. Shouldn’t they be of equal size, too?
Where’s the Beef?
I posed my question to Jack the Box’s News Media Hotline and corresponding email address, but have yet to receive a response. I did, however, manage to speak with someone on the phone at the company’s Guest Relations Hotline. While I hesitate to quote her, since I didn’t inform her that her response would be on the record, I’m perfectly comfortable paraphrasing her response.
Basically, the representative chalked up the size of my tiny tenders to chance. Every set of breasts is different. Maybe I just got stuck with a tiny batch.
A canned — and completely predictable — response. And an especially unsatisfying one, considering I’ve been trying to land on a batch of double-D’s ever since, with no luck.
I wish I had a time machine. And some zestier marinara sauce.
Tags: Where's the Beef