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That Chargrilled Chicken Looks Too Perfect

So, you like to eat fast food, eh? In fact, you have even tried to squeeze it in to your low-carb lifestyle somehow (perhaps after reading Carla Gray’s book)? If so, then you might want to completely avoid reading page 34 of the June 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine (for those of you with an online access code, click here to read the article).

This eye-opening column looks at the chargrilled chicken breast patties like the one you see at the top of this blog post that has those perfect grill marks on them. Have you ever wondered how they get those marks to look so symmetrical each and every time you order one off the menu? Well, there’s a reason for that and you may not like it either!

You see, there’s an entire industry out there in the land of chargrilled chickendom and it belongs to the big boys who handle chicken on a daily basis — names like Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Keystone. That chargrilled chicken sandwich you thought was being cooked for you in the restaurant is actually a precooked breast with artificial, mechanical branding done in a factory to make it look like it was chargrilled. Um, EWWWW!

Because chicken is universally looked at by most people as being healthier than other meats and fits into virtually any diet plan, including livin’ la vida low-carb, people have grown accustomed to ordering chargrilled chicken sandwiches when they go to a fast food restaurant. That’s why the news about this insane process for making the perfect chargrilled chicken breast patty is quite disturbing.

Wanna know what that chicken goes through before it gets to your neighborhood Mickey D’s, Burger King, or Hardee’s?

Check out this process:

1. First, they drop the chicken breasts into a big pot full of salt, oil, sugar, extra fat and chemicals so it can marinate for hours. This process causes the chicken to swell up as it soaks in all those juices and flavors that make ‘em taste like chicken.

2. Then, they take those chicken breasts and add even more artificial “fillers,” including as many as 30 mystery items to get the chicken up to the weight they want it to be. If it’s not heavy enough, then they keep adding stuff to it. Yuck!

3. Next, the “fattened-up breasts” are them put on a conveyor belt to be readied for cooking and branding. This is the process known as “spreading.” This is preparing the meat for fake chargrilling!

4. Now the chicken gets pressed down and cooked with jets of hot air blown over them in a convection cooker so the extra ingredients added to the chicken remain virtually intact for maximum weight capacity. Actually grilling them over a hot flame would decrease their weight too much. You know, size is money when it comes to these chicken breasts!

5. At this point, each chicken breast is given the fake “backyard grill” look with what are known as “char marks” from a branding wheel that burns artificial grill marks on the chicken just as they are finishing up in the convection oven. So when Burger King promises you can “have it your way,” they don’t mean you can get a real chargrilled chicken breast!

6. Finally, the “grilled” chicken is then frozen to be shipped to a fast food restaurant near you ready to be served hot and fresh to the unsuspecting customer who thinks they got a freshly grilled chicken breast. NOT!

A Subway restaurant spokesperson said they do this process to the chicken to “enhance the appearance and appeal of the product.” Riiiiiiight! God forbid the food be healthy, but it sure will LOOK good, though! Ugh!

Have you lost your lunch yet? This is yet another reason why I avoid almost every fast food restaurant these days. And this char-marking process actually keeps the chicken companies quite busy. Pilgrim’s Pride has 45 char-mark lines in 10 of their factories that pump out a whopping 2 billion pounds of chargrilled chickens for fast food and other restaurants annually. Now that’s a lotta chicken!

Where can you go for a REAL chargrilled chicken? Is there such a place in this day and age? Why, yes there is. There is only ONE place I go for grilled chicken patties and have been doing so ever since I started livin’ la vida low-carb — Chick-Fil-A! And guess what? They are the ONLY fast food chain that actually grills their chicken right there on a real live grill in their restaurants. Hey, imagine that!

So the next time you go get a quick low-carb bite to eat at a fast food restaurant and get the chargrilled chicken, don’t forget why that chicken looks so perfect! You have been fairly warned.

  • Nelson419

    Sounds like a chic-fil-a infomercial…… If it looks like chicken, smells like chicken, has low carbs like chicken and tastes like chicken….Its chicken. Its not rocket science

  • LCforevah

    Jimmy

    I had no idea how processed the chicken patty was ! No more patties at Carl’s Jr for me!

    Out here in California we have El Pollo Loco, a fast food place that grills the chicken right in front of you with their secret citrus marinade –yum !! I went to their website, http://www.elpolloloco.com , and they are found in the Southwest and the Northeast, so you may not have had the chance to try them out.
    They now offer green salad as a side, plus salad entrees like chicken caesar.

  • Leigh

    After reading Fast Food Nation, we pretty much swore off fast food places. Branding the meat with fake grill marks is just one of the final atrocities that happens when this meat is processed.

  • Science4u1959

    What to think about the (high-carb, of course) hamburger buns? Did you know that these are coated with a thin layer of sugar to make them brown more quickly and easily on the inside? Junk food is exactly that: overprocessed junk.

  • Mark

    Ranch1 also grills its own chicken breasts — you can watch them do it. Their fries are excellent too (if you’re not on the carb-watch).
    http://www.ranch1.com/

  • Jennifer

    If it makes any of you feel better, I used to work at a chick-fil-A (which are big in the southeast), and they don’t do this process with their chicken. It’s shipped in to the stores raw, and marinated at the store level. Then it is actually placed (raw) on a grill press (much like a giant George Forman Grill) and cooked to-order. So no freeze-dried chicken there! :) And their grilled chicken tastes a lot better than BK or those other companies with the frozen “fresh” chicken.

  • Jimmy Moore

    THANKS Jennifer! I addressed Chick-Fil-A at the end of my blog post:

    Where can you go for a REAL chargrilled chicken? Is there such a place in this day and age? Why, yes there is. There is only ONE place I go for grilled chicken patties and have been doing so ever since I started livin’ la vida low-carb — Chick-Fil-A! And guess what? They are the ONLY fast food chain that actually grills their chicken right there on a real live grill in their restaurants. Hey, imagine that!

  • Jessica

    I heard about this a while back but this post made me sick to my stomach thinking about times I have eaten this fake grilled chicken at fast food restaurants. I’ve had tons from BK, Sonic and Jack in the Box. Gag!
    I just wanted to reiterate that CFA truly chargrills the Chargrilled chicken fillets AND they are delicious, low carb, low fat and low calorie.