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We tried KFC's controversial new chicken — here's why you shouldn't believe the critics

Kate Taylor
Nashville Hot Chicken 4
Nashville Hot Chicken 4

(Kate Taylor)
KFC's new Nashville Hot Chicken is causing a stir in Nashville — and not necessarily for the reason the chicken chain wants.

The restaurant's latest chicken offering began selling nationwide on Monday. The new menu item is based on an iconic Nashville, Tennessee, dish and has been, according to KFC, the most successful product test in the company's recent history.

While the Hot Chicken was a hit when tested in Pittsburgh, some Tennesseans were less impressed, taking to social media to express their dismay.

Sensing a tasty controversy, Business Insider decided to investigate and try the new chicken for ourselves.

KFC is offering Nashville Hot Chicken in on-the-bone and chicken-tender forms, so we purchased both. Each meal cost $6.09 in New York City and came with a biscuit and a side.

The flavors are pretty much identical. If you prefer KFC breasts and wings, buy on-the-bone, while if you'd prefer a more convenient eating experience, go for the tenders.

Nashville Hot Chicken
Nashville Hot Chicken

(Kate Taylor)

Having never tasted true Nashville Hot Chicken, I cannot speak to the authenticity of KFC's offering. I can, however, say that it was very tasty.

The chicken is smoky, slightly sweet and semi-spicy. In an event debuting Nashville Hot Chicken, KFC CMO Kevin Hochman said that Nashville Hot Chicken was first crafted, according to modern myths, as a super-spicy revenge dish. KFC's Nashville Hot Chicken certainly packs in some heat, but it is far from the spiciest chicken around. But its complexity of flavor more than makes up for the moderate spice levels.

Nashville Hot Chicken 2
Nashville Hot Chicken 2

(Kate Taylor)

The most immediate difference between the Hot Chicken and a typical KFC chicken dish is the pickles on top. The pickles are traditional for Nashville Hot Chicken, and create a striking flavor contrast between the spicy chicken and the clean, sour pickle.

While KFC was careful to add the pickles, the chain failed to include the plain, white bread usually served with Nashville Hot Chicken. Hochman noted the change at the launch event, saying that the restaurant decided to use a biscuit as accompaniment instead. For someone who isn't a Hot Chicken traditionalist, the switch works fine.

Nashville Hot Chicken 3
Nashville Hot Chicken 3

(Kate Taylor)

True Nashville Hot Chicken may be a flavor so unique and fantastic that no chain restaurant can hope to recreate it. But it is also a dish that is out of reach for the vast majority of the country.

KFC's take on the dish is deliciously crispy and flavored with just the right balance of spice, smoke, and slight sweetness. It's a quirky upgrade from KFC's typical chicken dishes, even if it fails to satisfy Nashville purists.

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