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Chew on This

Does Boston Market’s new oven-fried chicken stand up to the real thing?

Burgers may be the most iconic American fast food. But when it comes to what’s really for dinner in the U.S., the answer is chicken.

The average American eats almost 92 pounds of chicken each year, compared to about 54 pounds of red meat.

Brands like Chick-fil-A and KFC have been able to capitalize on the U.S. population’s obsession with deep-fried fowl, but as some consumers look to lighten up, Boston Market says it has the answer to satisfy America’s love of chicken—and provide a satisfying crunch.

This week, Boston Market restaurants across the country began serving an oven fried boneless, all white meat chicken breast, seasoned and hand breaded with panko crumbs. Instead of fried, this breast is baked, yielding a crisp, golden crust, that’s not dripping in oil.

The chain is best known for its rotisserie style birds, but Boston Market CEO George Michel says the new product was carefully studied by his culinary team. 

“We tasted about 24 variations of the product,” Michel told FoxNews.com. “It’s clear people like crispy chicken but we didn’t want to use fryers.”

The CEO says the chain’s research indicated consumers are increasingly health conscious and Boston Market wanted to create a poultry product that could stand out in the crowded marketplace.

So can an oven “fried” chicken breast hold a candle to the real thing?

"This chicken does not taste baked," exclaimed one surprised Chew on This taster. The boneless breast got top marks for the well-seasoned, crispy panko crumb breading, too.

"It's more flavorful than something like a plain fried chicken sandwich from McDonald's," remarked another taster.

Despite liking the flavor, some thought the bird was "on the dry side" and lamented needing a glass of water. 

Still, many were happy that something could be crispy, and not be totally bad for oyu. Boston Market’s panko-crusted oven baked breast has 230 calories and just 6 grams of fat per serving. An Original Recipe Chicken Breast from KFC comes in at 320 calories with 16 grams of fat. This fast casual menu item may actually be healthier than its fast food cousin.

And unlike the chain’s traditional rotisserie style birds which usually come as a plated portion with two side, the oven crisp chicken can be wrapped into a tortilla, or piled on top of a salad or sandwich, giving Boston Market consumers more lunch-friendly fare.

And offering more variety will be key as the chain moves on to its next big initiative—international expansion.

This week the company also announced it will be moving into the Middle Eastern market—specifically Kuwait—because, according to Michel, everyone there really loves chicken.

“It’s the one protein that is eaten throughout the world without any major religious or dietary restrictions,” explains Michel. Rotisserie style chicken is already “very popular” in the Middle East, according to the CEO, and the chain wants to continue to capitalize on the growing popularity of American food brands overseas.

But for people in the U.S. who really love chicken, too, Boston Market plans on making it easier for people to get their hands on their birds—by ramping up its domestic catering and delivery businesses.