When introduced, McDonald’s Chicken Selects were a revolution in the fast food fried chicken realm. At that time, Chicken McNuggets were still mechanically pressed together from disappears parts of the chicken. While I remember liking the taste, in every box there’d be at least one McNugget with weird, unchewable pieces or other unidentifiable chicken part that was gross and made you hesitate to order them. McDonald’s started to rectify the problem with their Crispy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich, which offered a piece of white meat chicken, but the Selects were the first time they (or any of the big burger chains, as far as I can recall, had done an all-white meat nugget. Even pitched at a higher price point, they sold like mad. During my time at McDonald’s, whenever they were discontinued (Selects came on and off the menu at random, like the McRib), people would constantly try and order them. I even remember people driving off when informed weren’t available.

It never made sense to me why McDonald’s would take Selects off the menu. Even after McNuggets became all white meat, Chicken Selects occupied a different space between those and the (then) new premium chicken sandwiches as larger, more aggressively spiced chicken pieces. It makes sense that McDonald’s would want to bring a pricier item back to the menu. My only confusion is why it took so long for them to introduce a similar product.

McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Tenders are not Chicken Selects, but they are “chicken tenders battered and breaded … and made with all white meat chicken, with no artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.” The tenders come in packs of 2 (a newer release), 4, 6, and 10 pieces. Since I was also eating a Pico Guacamole Burger that day (review coming soon!) I opted for the four piece, with their newly released Sriracha Mac Sauce. It was $4.19 for the four piece box, which comes with two sauce packets.

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Our first order of business  is to discuss the packaging. The Box was slightly confusing to open even as I was sitting in a booth in the restaurant and would have been impossible to do so while driving without hitting a car or driving off the road. I appreciate fancy packaging, but one of the appeals of fast food chicken is that it can be eaten as a meal on the go and the tenders definitely fail that test so long as they’re served in this box.

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Onto the chicken itself, I’m guessing my tenders were smaller than usual, so I actually received five tenders… or someone screwed up and gave me extra food. Upon my first glance, Buttermilk Crispy Tenders were a darker hue than I anticipated. I was expecting more golden brown, but these were closer to actual brown. The breading was also thinner than I expected. I thought there’d be a thick, crispy coating, but these were thinner, like they only coated the chicken with seasoned flour after the buttermilk marination. When eating, that meant they were crispy, rather than crunchy, if that makes any sense at all (if not then make a mental comparisons between KFC extra crispy chicken versus a regular chicken patty like you’d find in Burger King’s Original Chicken Sandwich).

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By going with a thinner breading and eliminating a heavy crunch, these tenders needed a solid seasoning. Unfortunately, McDonald’s fell far short in this department. I barely detected any salt or pepper, let alone something more aggressive like cayenne or garlic powder. I know they want to heavily push their sauces and they expect customers to dip their chicken, but the food has to stand on its own. Otherwise, it’s just a vehicle for sauce, in which case why pay extra for these as compared with McNuggets (my quick math in the store had the markup as every Buttermilk Crispy Tender equals two McNuggets).

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The good news is that the chicken itself was nice and juicy. I believe it was real chicken pieces and pressed together chunks for different parts of a bird. They were generally thin and not terribly thick, but didn’t dry out. The texture immediately reminded me of Popeye’s, which is the gold standard of fast food fried chicken and unlike the texture of any other chicken I’ve ever eaten at McDonald’s, so they 100% nailed the hardest part of the item.

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Now is a good time to talk about the Sriracha Mac Sauce, since the buttermilk tenders needed an extra boost. Opening the packet, the sauce is really orange, which definitely catches your eye. Regular Big Mac sauce is never that color, so that brightness is definitely the Sriracha influence. While the color resembled buffalo sauce, the aroma was closer to Big Mac sauce, with a sharp tanginess that reminded me of the burger. The sauce was bold in flavor, and differed from regular Mac sauce in that it had some underlying heat to it.

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When it comes to flavor… this was Big Mac sauce with some added Sriracha, which was more of an underlying heat, rather than the main taste. When combined with the chicken, the experience was elevated. The tenders were dying for some extra flavor, and adding something with spice made them better to eat.

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Disappointed is honestly the word that comes to mind when recalling my experience here. After the smashing success of the Chicken Selects, I really thought McDonald’s would lean into that area again and produce another winner. I don’t want to fault them for coming up with something different that could have been even better, but they failed. If you’d told me they forgot to season the breading, I’d believe you. They needed something more, especially with all the fanfare behind their rollout. I’m honestly surprised they’ve been so well received. I ate these originally back in October then tried them again recently and had the same impression. In October, I ate these after the Pico Guacamole Burger and I kept thinking that I wished these were McNuggets instead. If you want something different and/or plan on dousing these in sauce, then order the Buttermilk Crispy Tenders. Otherwise save your money and wait for them to get a new recipe within a few years.

 

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