By Erik R. Trinidad
Just when you thought McDonald's couldn't do anything else to mass produce a fast food chicken item short of just serving fried chicken parts like KFC, it has introduced Chicken McBites, the Golden Arches' answer to popcorn chicken. Not that there was ever a question or request for a McDonald's rendition of popcorn chicken, but it's arrived anyway, at least for a limited time. Chicken McBites join the already established poultry McFamily, along with Chicken McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches.
Here's how they rate:
The Claims: Chicken McBites are bite-sized morsels of chicken breast meat, battered and fried, and come in three "poppable" sizes: snack (310 calories), regular (470 calories), and "shareable" for when you're not the only one biting (525 calories). They are intended to be dipped into one of McDonald's dipping sauces: honey mustard, hot mustard, barbecue, sweet 'n sour, buffalo, ranch, chipotle BBQ or sweet chili (30-110 calories). Prices may vary at participating locations.
The Verdict: F. Adding the prefix "Mc" to objects has gone beyond the scope of McDonald's; in our culture of linguistic inventiveness, the resulting "McWords" have become associated with American conformity, capitalism or lowered standards, from "McJobs" to "McMansions." Normally, adding the Mc- prefix to food items within the realm of McDonald's just automatically brands them as a part of the menu, but in the case of the new Chicken McBites, the "Mc" is very much a signifier of lowered standards. They are substandard on so many levels (at least from my one-time experience in a New York City location), and it's doubly appropriate that they are called "bites" because they do in fact, "bite" (as in the slang definition of being awful).
First off, it should be noted that I'm not a zealous McDonald's hater; I've given the Golden Arches favorable comments in previous reviews. But the Chicken McBites are a tasteless box of scraps that make you theorize if they are nothing more than the scrapings and crumbs of chicken parts at the poultry processing plants, collected, dipped into a starchy batter, and then deep fried. Looking inside one of the chicken morsels, there is hardly any chicken at all, with most of the mass coming from the breading -- perhaps an 8:1 breading to chicken ratio. I might have let that slide if the breading tasted any good; however, it's starchy and flavorless, with little to no seasoning. Presumably this is intentional because you're supposed to dip them in the dipping sauce of your preference, which only makes a McBite a vehicle for putting processed sauces into your mouth.
It seems logical to compare the new Chicken McBites to Chicken McNuggets, a long-time staple of the fast food mega chain. McNuggets obviously have stood the test of time with their "all white meat" recipe of pressed poultry. Packing more chicken than breading, they are virtual filet mignons compared to McBites, which is or isn't saying a lot depending on your opinion of McNuggets. I'm guessing McNuggets and McBites use the same starchy tasteless batter, but at least there's more chicken in a McNugget to make up for it.
Perhaps McBites were introduced just to be snacked on, as a "light" version of McNuggets if you just want a quick salty fix, however, the regular sized box of McBites are about as filling as a 6-piece McNuggets. And when you compare the calorie counts -- 470 vs. 280 -- you'll see that McBites have about 68% more calories than their predecessor, a result of the starchy, oil-collecting batter outweighing its chicken counterpart.
About the only thing really going for the McBites is their fancy box, designed with a convenient cutout to hold your dipping sauce. (Take that, McNuggets!) Too bad we can't eat the cardboard box -- but if we did, it'd probably taste about the same anyway.
-- Erik R. Trinidad