Fast food restaurants have engaged in ever more inventive ways to create special offerings to draw interest and new customers. Most of these variations are limited to new toppings on sandwiches or introducing new flavor profiles to the establishment. One area where there’s been limited innovation is the fried food realm. While you can go online and see pictures from state fairs and restaurants and see every type of fried food (and beverages!), and one can buy frozen Fried Twinkies (surprisingly delicious!), most fast food restaurants still only fry chicken, fish, onion rings and French fries. My guess is limited fry stations, using generally the same oil (which can lead to flavor cross contamination), plus the limited shelf of fried food (can’t really store it in a heating bin so you need to make it to order or let it sit under a heat lamp) hampers their ability to really branch out.

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To stand out from their peers, Burger King has come to save the day. Burger King has recently introduced Flamin’ Hot Mac n’ Cheetos. They first came to my attention in early December, but I haven’t had the chance to visit a Burger King since then. I knew I’d have an opportunity last weekend, but a quick look on their website showed no trace of the side order, and I was worried I’d missed my chance. Those fears were allayed as soon as I came within site of the counter, as this particular establishment displayed a large poster advertising the food. Since there’s no description on their website, my best guess as to the Flamin’ Hot Mac n’ Cheetos ad copy is that it would say Burger King’s Flamin’ Hot Mac n’ Cheetos are creamy mac and cheese, deep fried to perfection and smothered in Flamin’ Hot Cheetos cheese dust. Or something like that. It’s sold in a pack of five pieces which is $2.89 before tax.

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The Flamin’ Hot Mac n’ Cheetos (from now on FHMnC for my sanity) are served in a nifty little box specially designed for them. It reminded me of a mini happy meal box. After I removed it from the bag, I was immediately met with a cheesy aroma, just as if you opened a bag of Cheetos, which seemed promising. Weirdly, the smell became fainter after I opened the box and the odor turned from cheese to generic fried food.

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I looked inside the box and the site of the FHMnC confused me in a not good way. They were shaped like cheese curls, but instead of a bright orange color, they were dark red. I’ve never eaten Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, but looking at a Google image search, they’re a lighter hue than this dark red, which reminded me more of rust than food.

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I picked up a FHMnC piece (or is it bite?) and the breading on it was sturdy. A quick squeeze (who doesn’t squeeze their food?) didn’t produce much give. I was more surprised that when I put it down, there was no Cheetos dust in my hand! Thinking back, it makes sense that the Cheetos dust is added to the batter, because floating cheese dust in a fryer sounds disgusting, and I don’t think it could produce dust on your hand unless rolled in something after frying (which would add more labor but may be a good future option).

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My first bite was awfully cheesy.  I think most of the cheesy taste came from the inside of the piece. The FHMnC were also very spicy. The spice definitely was added to the batter and maybe that dark red was from some cayenne pepper because it was strong and became more intense as I kept eating. The crunch of the FHMnC was striking. These had a thick batter which definitely made them better to eat because it produces a strong contrast with the filling. Even after they weren’t fresh out of the fryer, the crispness remained.

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Now, about that filling… let’s be clear, this is deep fried macaroni and cheese. It’s going to be insanely dense because you’re frying pre-cooked carbs and throwing in cheese. As mentioned above, the cheese flavor was really intense. I didn’t get much flavor or texture from the pasta. It was just there as filler.  It provided no texture or anything of note other than carbs.

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When I received my order, I was asked if I wanted sauce. I wasn’t sure if there was a standard sauce with the FHMnC, so I declined. That was a mistake. Maybe the bigger problem lay in that this was the first thing I consumed that day except for half a cup of water before going out, but the FHMnC were very dry. Whether it was the dense cheesy carb-ness or lack of beverage, but these needed a sauce to counteract the dryness. Sauce also would have helped to break up the monotony of cheese and spice. The problem is I’m not sure what sauce goes here. Anything spicy is out. Same with anything cheesy or dairy based. Maybe something sweet or smoky would work (so ketchup or BBQ at Burger King).

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The spiciness and dryness and cheesiness became too much and I did not eat all five pieces. The FHMnC were not enjoyable to consume. The heat level kept increasing until my mouth was on fire. It was too cheesy for someone who isn’t in love with cheese. At no point did I feel like I was eating pasta. Maybe that exposes limits of frying macaroni, but I did expect more texture in the filling. I only got it with that fried shell, which felt thick, and was the most successful part. Inside was mushy and cheesy and one note.

The FHMnC also occupy a word spot on the menu. You wouldn’t replace fries or onion rings with them, because they’re too expensive/filling. It’s more of a share type order where you’re going to split these with someone else, because I couldn’t imagine wanting to eat more than two or three of these (for the record, I finished three). I wouldn’t recommend spending your money on the FHMnC, but if you choose to do so, at least get some sauce to give these a chance at being worthwhile. Some things maybe aren’t meant to be fried *sigh*.

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