Although many bloggers have done similar taste tests, what follows is this blogger's attempt to rank five fish sandwiches eaten over the course of five consecutive days at Burger King, Wendy's, Carl's Jr, Jack in the Box and McDonald's. The results represent observations made from a single visit at each establishment...because even a person who's foolhardy enough to do such a thing isn't about to do it twice.
5. Burger King's BK Big Fish®
Cost: Small combo meal, $4.99. Sandwich only, $3.29.
Fish doesn't get more squared off and look more processed than this. The corners could cut paper. Speaking of paper, it was also the one fish sandwich out of the five that used the most packaging. It was half-wrapped in paper *AND* served a box. But the downfall was the way the fish was cooked. The breadcrumb shell was near burnt, and worse, the oil that burned it seemed to have turned rancid. The now-dark-as-tea grease dripped off in puddles. The aftertaste that lingered was bitter and acrid, a flavor that overpowered the lettuce and tartar sauce. The best part of the sandwich turned out to be a bun that was substantial, dense, and sturdy.
4. Jack in the Box's Fish Sandwich
Cost: Small combo meal, $3.59. Sandwich only, $2.59.
Jack's sandwich consists of two of the oblong, triangular, fish fillets that are normally part of the fish and chips meal. Though the batter was a lacy, golden yellow, it left a dull, greasy film on the tongue. The fish flakes were whole, but the fish was so mild, it might as well be absent. Eating the sandwich felt almost as if I was breathing fish air. If it weren't for the crunch, I wouldn't think there was anything between the bun except for the lettuce. This particular sandwich distinguished itself as the fishwich that contained the most lettuce, which isn't a bad thing.
3. Wendy's Premium Cod Fillet Sandwich
Cost: Small combo meal, $5.79. Sandwich only, $3.69.
The crunch of Panko is prominent for the first few seconds in Wendy's near greaseless golden fried fish square. It's closest kin was Burger King's, but this one appears to have been cooked in oil that was still new. The bun was basic, but this sandwich distinguishes itself by having the most tartar sauce than any of the others I tested. The fish patty was clean-tasting and simple. But the lettuce wilted faster than the others.
2. Carl's Jr's Carl's Catch Fish Sandwich®
Cost: Small combo meal, $6.79. Sandwich only, $4.09.
The fish tasted the closest to that which comes from actual an English chippy. Like Jack in the Box's sandwich, Carl's contains two acute triangle pieces that are battered, not breaded. Though the fish does tend to get soggy the longer it sits in a particularly heavy slathering of tartar sauce, it was the only fish sandwich out of the five that contains tomato--a welcome add on that offset the deep-fried greasiness and the mayo excesses. It also seems to be the biggest, not to mention the most expensive in both cost and calories.
1. McDonald's Filet-O-Fish®
Small combo meal, $5.79. Sandwich only, $3.89. Prices lower on Fridays.
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If there's a single word to desribe McDonald's Filet-O-Fish, it would be delicate. While the other batters and breadings crunch at different noise levels, the Filet-O-Fish was content to whisper. This doesn't mean that it wasn't well-made, in it's own a factory-formed, assembly-line sort of way. Out of the five, the sandwich was the one that best highlighted the taste of fish as it is: tender, melting, and simple. I was surprised it was much better than I remembered it to be. The steamed bun was fluffy and the American cheese--the reason I've always objected to the sandwich in the past--actually brought the sandwich together like glue. Lettuce would've been a distraction.