Review: Prime-Cut Chicken Tenders from Arby’s

Continuing on my never-ending quest to sample every chicken tender/finger/nugget ever conceived, I stopped into Arby’s recently to see how their “Prime-Cut” Chicken Tenders stacked up to some of my favorites. I was an unabashed fan of Arby’s old Popcorn Chicken, but in the two years since I reviewed the appropriately named all-white meat chicken bites, Arby’s has since revamped their formula.

These crisply breaded chicken tenders are the real thing – whole white meat from the prime cut of the chicken breast – and they come with a choice of dipping sauces, including our tangy Buffalo Dipping Sauce, BBQ, Ranch and sweet Honey Mustard.

I’m not exactly sure where the “prime cut” of a chicken’s breast is located, but wherever it is, I guess it must be pretty small. When opening my box of tenders, that was the first thing that struck me. Noticeably smaller than the Carl’s Jr. “hand breaded” tenders, Arby’s rendition also had a thicker coating. It balks recent trends of places like Raising Canes using a thinner, cornflake like coating, and instead reverts to a thick cracker that’s more crunchy than crisp. Fortunately I like crunchy, and for what the tenders lack in size, they make up for in a strong black pepper and garlic flavored coating that even manages a bit of a kick. They are salty as you would expect, but the coating doesn’t have as much surface oil or moisture as I’d expect. Texture-wise it reminds me a lot of the popcorn concept, and I’m a fan — that is, I’m mostly a fan, as a few of the flakes are burnt and lacking any way of adhering to the meat.

FYI -- a burnt end

As for that meat, well, it just doesn’t live up to its juicy expectations. Not only is there comparatively little meat, but it’s among the driest pieces of all-white meat tenders I’ve ever sampled. A shame, really, and not a good bargain given the already small size of the order.

Notice the hollow section. Not good eats.

There’s been some debate as to the merits of chicken tenders on their own, and I’ll be the first to admit that without a crunchy exterior coating, they more or less just become a calorically dense vehicle for dipping sauce. There’s enough flavor in the breading and enough contrast in texture to make eating these tenders alone possible, but should you be sauce inclined, Arby’s does a good job of presenting you options. I’m not sure if this is standard practice, but I was not charged for extra sauce packets.  Personally, I am a real fan of Arby’s Three-Pepper Sauce, which is actually served in an “all you can pour” station by the drink machine at my local Arby’s.. while Horsey Sauce and Arby’s BBQ Sauce get a lot of love, the Three-Pepper Sauce is truly one of the most underrated of all fast food condiments. essentially a kicked-up version of a cocktail sauce, it provides a little bit of everything without being boring or a nutritional bombshell at the same time.

I’m torn when it comes to these tenders. On one hand, the breading and spices make snacking on them a guilty pleasure, but I just can’t overlook the small size and poor meat-to-breading ratio, not to mention the complete lack of interior juice resonating within the meat itself. But dangit, the seemingly endless assortment of sauces Arbys brings to the table — heck, you could ask for these with red ranch sauce if you wanted to — makes giving them a failing grade impossible. A regular order in the future? Not at all. Worth seeking out on their own? Nope. But would I get them again in one of those coupon deals Arby’s always seems to offer in local papers and online? Not out of the question.

Pros: Crunchy exterior. Strong black pepper and garlic flavor on their own. Great sauce options. Abundant Arby's coupons.

Cons: Poor meat-to-breading ratio. Drier that Saudi Arabia on the inside. Some burnt ends. Expensive for their size. Inability to horde Three Pepper Sauce.

Taste: 7.25/10
Value: 4.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 7.00/10

Overall GrubGrade: 6.25/10

Nutrition Facts:
3-Piece Prime-Cut Chicken Tenders Calories: 360
Total Fat: 17 grams
Saturated Fat: 2.5 grams
Cholesterol: 50 mg
Sodium: 1160 mg
Total Carbs: 31 grams
Fiber: 2 gram
Sugars: 21 grams
Protein: 46 grams

15 comments on “Review: Prime-Cut Chicken Tenders from Arby’s

  1. Chefprotoss says:

    Of all the different ways you can hack up a chicken, not one is called “prime cut”. Good call with your bs meter and nice review. Oh, and prime is a term that is only used with beef and has nothing to do with the cut. Prime rib being sort of an exception, but that is another story for another day.

  2. Justin says:

    I thought they were fine, nothing special, but these days, dinner for two at Arby’s is almost 25 bucks. I don’t think their food justifies what they charge. BTW at the one closest to me, they have four serve-yourself pumps for Arby’s sauce, honey mustard, horsey sauce and three pepper… the three-pepper is always oozing out of the pump like a festering wound. So I haven’t eaten it in quite a while.

  3. Guest says:

    It’s funny how these fast food joints add the word ‘prime’ or ‘premium’ and then double then charge you a small fortune for so-so quality food.

  4. rob says:

    Should have gone with “Artisan” everybody is doing Artisan these days

  5. Rodzilla says:

    what a hilariously made up term

  6. Lindsay says:

    Ugh, I hate it when companies make up terms like “prime cut.” LIARS!

  7. Matt says:

    I was once served raw chicken tenders from Arby’s several years ago, so safe to say I will never order these.

  8. Ed H says:

    I have never seen a clean Arbys restaurant, so I refrain from eating there.

  9. Keith says:

    “A possum drowned in the pool. You have any garbage bags?”
    “Just throw it over the fence. Let Arby’s worry about it.”

    Ha! I don’t know why The Simpson’s writers hate Arby’s so much, but I always think of the running gag when I ever I hear anything Arby’s related.

    I’m so hungry, I could eat at Arby’s!

    It probably stems from Arby’s being a filthy cesspool of fast food over-expansion in the 90’s. But in my neck of the woods, Arby’s tends to be cleaner than places like McD’s, BK and Wendy’s. However, Arby’s invention and misuse of marketing buzzwords is really starting to irk me – first with the decidedly un-Philly-like “Philly” sandwich, and now with these ridiculous “prime cut” chicken tenders.

    In my opinion, if any part of the chicken was a prime cut, it would be the dark meat. Why can’t people just admit dark meat tastes better? I equate boring white meat chicken with egg white omelets – bland, boring, and overpriced (just to tie it all together with recent Adam-reviews ).

    After all, Applebee’s built an entire chain of casual restaurants by gorging an entire generation on $11 chicken tender “dinners.” What does that cost them with a side of fries and ketchup? Like 2 bucks?

    No wonder everyone I know under the age of 25 is a hopelessly picky eater.

    • Adam says:

      Are you calling my reviews bland and boring? I’m under 25, and I’d say I’m anything BUT a picky eater. And I’d hardly say white meat can’t be something to desire. Case in point, CFA, or any chicken breast dish I make on a regular basis.

      I think we get it: you’re not the biggest fan of chicken stripes, I am. Different strokes.

      • Keith says:

        That’s not what I’m saying… I was just referencing your recent sandwich review featuring egg whites, and that I feel similarly bored by white meat chicken tenders.

        You’re right, I’m not a big fan of chicken strips, other than – as you mentioned yourself – a delivery vehicle for a good sauce (as long as it’s not ranch). Fast food varieties are almost always disappointing. I’d much rather have a nice piece of fried chicken… bone-in, southern style. But I’m not from the south which is probably why I don’t go bonkers for all things breaded and fried. Except for pickles – fried pickles are awesome.

        • Chefprotoss says:

          Agreed on chicken strips. And dark meat. Mcnuggets are awesome though. Then again, they were better with dark meat.

  10. Keith says:

    I do want to point out – Adam – that you are spot on with your take on Arby’s three-pepper sauce. That stuff is absolutely awesome and completely underrated – it’s right up there with the honey bbq sauce at Chick-fil-A.

    I don’t think it’s very cocktail sauce like – that would imply horseradish and I don’t think this sauce has it. But it does have a distinct “bite,” not particularly spicy but with a nice understated sweetness. Your cocktail sauce comparison though makes me want to try mixing this with the horsey sauce and eating a pound of shrimp with it. It’s that good… and much to my dismay, unavailable in packets.

    Another underrated condiment: Quizno’s Batch 81 chili sauce.

  11. Roger C. says:

    Arby’s has the worst chicken tenders. I’d rather have Cane’s anyday.