Our Search for the Best Chicken-Cheese Biscuit

Time-Out Biscuit

In a happening university town in central North Carolina, we discovered a dynamite chicken-cheese biscuit we just can’t stop thinking about. Each bite of this biscuit delivers a combination of soft and buttery bread, plump and seasoned chicken, and melty cheese. It’s a huge sandwich for one equally huge appetite, or for several friends to share.

You can get your hands on the “Chicken n’ Cheddar” for $5.49 on the “Oversized Biscuit Sandwiches” menu at Time-Out, a 24/7 diner on East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. But that’s just our trouble: We can’t make a regular three-hour, one-way drive from our home in western North Carolina to get our mitts and mouths on this Southern specialty. So we decided to do the next best thing and explore the available chicken biscuits at fast food restaurants in our town, asking each to add cheese to the order.

We developed a grading scale of 1 (lowest possible) to 5 (highest possible) in the categories of Chicken, Cheese, Biscuit, Overall Freshness and Price, for a total of 25 possible points. Based on the delicious Time-Out biscuit, we laid out desirable criteria for each category. To get a perfect score in each category, a chicken-cheese biscuit needed to meet every demand with the same zeal as Time-Out’s Chicken n’ Cheddar.

With the chicken, we wanted seasoning, size and cooking perfection. The cheese needed to be melty, plentiful and flavorful. In each biscuit, we sought a crunchy outside and soft inside. Ultimate freshness meant a hot biscuit sandwich that wasn’t too hard or crumbly. And price, well that’s obvious. We’re a couple of foodies always on the search for a great meal and a great deal. So we didn’t want to pay too much for any one sandwich, and we ordered the cheapest possible chicken-cheese biscuit available on each menu.

It’s important to note that we surveyed Bojangles, Chick-fil-A, Hardees and McDonalds in this search because those are the common fast food establishments in our town that serve a chicken biscuit we could buy. This search did not include local, one-of-a-kind restaurants, which are our normal preference for any kind of meal.

Without further ado, here are our findings. We hope you enjoy, and we encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences with chicken-cheese biscuits in the comments or via social media @FoodieScore on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Chicken-Cheese Biscuit

Flavorful Oven-Slow-Cooked BBQ Ribs

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I love a rack of barbecue ribs, but it’s one of the few dishes I’m particular about if ordering it at a restaurant. Are they meaty enough? Will I like the rub or sauce? Are they expensive?

It’s been on my mind for months that I could take the guesswork out of enjoying ribs by just making my own at home. And while I could transform my simple charcoal grill into a smoker, I’ve really wanted to come up with a delicious, simple recipe to cook the ribs slowly in the oven. I’ll grill in any season or weather possible, but sometimes it’s actually much easier to use the oven.

After doing some research online and doing a bit of experimenting with our spice rack and fridge compartments, I’ve created a recipe that I’m very happy with. Now, I want to make it several times to perfect it.

I used St. Louis-style pork spare ribs. You can use baby back ribs, but the St. Louis spares have a bit more meat on them typically, and I’ve often found in eating them from different places that they hold more of the smoke and rub flavors.

Without further delay, here’s my recipe.

Homemade Barbecue Rub

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 cup paprika

1/2 T salt

1/2 T pepper

1/2 T chili powder

1/2 T garlic powder

1/2 T onion powder

1/2 t cayenne

Barbecue Sauce

1/2 cup ketchup

1/3 cup honey

1 T Worcestershire sauce

1/4 t garlic salt

1/4 t pepper

Cooking Directions

  1. Prepare your ribs by removing the membrane on the bone side and the extra flap of meat hanging off. You can use a knife to get under the membrane and then a paper towel to help grip it and pull it off. Removing this piece will help your rub soak into both sides more thoroughly.
  2. Mix your barbecue dry rub together and then use your fingers to coat both sides of your rack of ribs in the rub. The general rule is that what sticks to the ribs is enough rub to use. Wrap your ribs in aluminum foil and let them sit for six hours or overnight.
  3. Cover an oven-safe pan (big enough for your ribs) with foil for easy cleanup. Unwrap your ribs and sit them on top of a cooking or cooling rack on top of the pan.
  4. Put your ribs uncovered in the oven on broil for a few minutes to help caramelize your dry rub coating.
  5. Reduce the temperature to 250 degrees and cook for two hours.
  6. Remove from oven and tent a piece of foil over the ribs, then put them back in the oven on the same temperature for two more hours.
  7. Mix your barbecue sauce, remove your ribs from the oven and use a basting brush to generously cover the ribs on the meat side.
  8. Reduce your oven temperature to 200 degrees and put your ribs back in the oven for 10 minutes.
  9. Repeat the saucing and cooking process as many times as desired to cook the sauce into the ribs.
  10. Use a sharp knife to cut your ribs into smaller racks or into individual ribs. Be sure to cut between the bones, not next to the bones. After the cooking time allotted, your ribs should be done, tender and pulling slightly away from the bones on the ends.

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Matthew’s take: I had never made ribs, so I was a bit intimidated. No more fear after this first-time process. These ribs turned out delicious! The rub and sauce were both adaptations of recipes I found online, and I won’t change either of them moving forward. The rub would work great for chicken or other barbecued meats as well, and the sauce would go well with chicken, burgers and more! The ribs turned out meaty and tender, spiced to perfection by the rub and then sweetly sauced by the barbecue coating added at the end. If you don’t own a grill, prefer not to grill in the cooler months or just would rather cook in your oven, this is the recipe for you if you want to try ribs at home. They’ll be cheaper that way. My rack only cost me $7, while the rub and sauce were from ingredients already in our pantry and fridge, and we got four servings from the ribs. I give this recipe an A+ for taste, cost and presentation.

Molly’s take: Having never had homemade ribs before, I was blown away by this creation Matthew put together. I’m pretty sure once I started in on them, I didn’t stop until every last bite was picked clean off the bones. The ribs alone – with the seasoned rub – were smoky and flavorful, but the sauce really made the flavors pop. The honey in the sauce gives it a great sweet flavor which fits well with the smoky ribs. If you’re looking to try something new, this recipe is worth your time. I’ve never had homemade ribs, but I’ve had ribs at restaurants, and trust me, these are some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

Smoky Pork Tinga Tacos with Avocado and Queso

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As we’ve shared many times, we love Mexican food specialist Rick Bayless and the recipes he creates from his experiences in the Yucatan region. That tradition and his cookbook, Mexican Everyday, are the sources for this dish.

Before discovering this recipe in his book, we’d never heard of Pork Tinga and had no idea what it would taste like. But after making it once and loving it, we’ve got a better handle on how to describe it for you.

Basically, the Tinga is like a Mexican Brunswick Stew, a delightful mixture of meat, potatoes and flavorful seasonings that really come alive when cradled in the warm embrace of a soft taco shell, topped with creamy queso crumbles and slender avocado slices. The flavor combination of the Tinga is explosive in each bite, but not with an intense heat you won’t be able to stand if you’re not into spicy foods.

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Since the Tinga is made in a slow cooker, this is a perfect recipe to spend a half hour preparing and then leaving for most of the day. When you return, your whole house will smell wonderful, and you’ll experience such a delicious Mexican meal you’ll think you’re in the Yucatan.

Pro Tip: Soft corn or flour taco-size tortillas from the store are perfectly fine for the Tinga, but we prefer Molly’s homemade tortillas for added freshness and originality.

 

Pork Tinga Tacos

Ingredients

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder

4 medium yellow potatoes

28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

3 or 4 chipotle chiles en adobo

1 tablespoon chipotle canning sauce (from the adobo)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dried oregano

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 medium white onion, sliced thin

1 ½ teaspoons salt

Warm tortillas

1 cup crumbled queso fresco

2 large avocados

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Directions

1. Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes and spread them over the bottom of a slow cooker.

2. Top potatoes with the pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces.

3. Seed the chipotle chiles.

4. In a large bowl, mix the undrained tomatoes, chipotles, chipotle canning sauce, Worcestershire, oregano, garlic, onion and salt.

5. Pour the mixture evenly over the meat and potatoes.

6. Cover and slowly cook on high for six hours. The dish can hold on the slow cooker’s “keep warm” setting for about four more hours, if needed.

7. When ready to eat, uncover the Pork Tinga mixture and spoon off any fat, if accumulated on top. Stir everything together to break the pork into smaller pieces for wrapping in tortillas.

8. Taste and season with additional salt if you think the Tinga needs it.

9. Serve with warm tortillas, crumbled queso and avocados for making soft tacos.

Molly’s Homemade Flour Tortillas

Tortillas

A great tortilla is the cornerstone of a great taco, burrito, enchilada or torta. There’s nothing wrong with the tortillas you purchase in a bag in the grocery store. In fact, you can even freshen those pre-made tortillas by wrapping them in a damp paper towel in your microwave. But tortillas can be even better if you make them from scratch at home.

I’ve always enjoyed a soft taco, dating back to my first cooking experiences as a teenager, when I’d make myself basic stovetop fajitas in flour tortillas at home. So when I learned several years ago that my wife-to-be Molly made homemade tortillas, I was quite excited. When I saw how inexpensive the ingredients are, well, I was even more excited.

These tortillas often cook up a little thicker than what you might buy off the store shelves. So they might even remind you a bit of pita bread, which to me just means they serve extra purpose. I believe your product is the result of the kind of tortilla flour you use and the method by which you flatten them for cooking. However you do it, I guarantee you they’ll become the basis for special taco nights in your house, as they have in ours.

For Molly’s Homemade Flour Tortillas you’ll need:

2 cups tortilla flour

2/3 cup water

Put the tortilla flour in a large bowl. Slowly add the water, mixing in with your hands until fully incorporated. Form into a large ball until all the flour is absorbed. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 5 minutes.

Tear off and form small balls, slightly bigger than the size of a golf ball, and place them on a floured surface. You should end up with about 9 dough balls. Take each ball and roll them out with a rolling pin to about an eighth of an inch thick.

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium and cook each tortilla until lightly toasted on each side. Watch them carefully. You may want to use a fork or other utensil to flip the tortillas since they will be hot. And you may need to flip each tortilla a few times to get it just right. Practice makes perfect!

You can stack them on a plate or place them in a tortilla warmer until ready to use. It’s as simple as that!

Foodie Travels: Wake N Bake Donuts, Wilmington, N.C.

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When we travel, we intensely scout restaurants for weeks in advance. That means when we arrive in a new place, we already know the top-ranked dining spots on sites like Thrillist, Trip Advisor, Yelp and Buzzfeed. We also know which restaurants are trafficked more by locals than tourists, the hours the shops are open and which ones serve the can’t-miss dishes that are iconic to the local dining scene. (As a little pro tip to all of the disappointed eaters out there: This strategy can help you improve your satisfaction with restaurants because you won’t leave your meal or snack selections up to chance at the last minute.)

But sometimes good eats sneak up on us, and that was the case with Wake N Bake Donuts in Wilmington, North Carolina. We had already had brunch on a Thursday and were walking through downtown to visit a few shops, planning to wait until dinner to eat again. That’s when we rounded a corner and Molly spotted donuts in a store windowfront. This half-dozen box had maple bacon, chocolate peanut butter cup, a chocolate-iced with potato chips and other amazing-looking donuts. We looked up and saw the sign, and you know from there we had to head inside.

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We were instantly greeted by the donut counter with a couple dozen creative options. There was a cotton candy donut, donuts with fruity cereals, an espresso donut, and the list goes on. As we game-planned on how many treats to try and which choices to make, we learned that Wake N Bake is not just the quiet little shop we thought we stumbled upon. This place won Cooking Channel’s “Donut Showdown” AND Buzzfeed made it North Carolina’s featured spot on its “Best Donut Shop in Your State” list. We’d uncovered a sweet gold mine and the rush was on to decide which treats to experience.

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Molly indulged in a Reese’s-style donut, rich with the creamy flavors of both peanut butter and chocolate. I decided to test out the “Donut Showdown”-winning entry, a maple cream cheese-glazed donut with candied walnuts and a blueberry compote. It was like the donut gods had created this prize just for me, as anyone who knows me well is aware that I love walnuts and blueberries.

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Wake N Bake wowed us so much with creative, rich donuts that are now among our favorites anywhere. (We took our donuts to the car and devoured them before heading to our next destination, because there’s not really any seating in the shop. We had to take a couple extra donuts with us for the road.) The shop also reminded these plan-ahead foodies to always keep our eyes open for delicious surprises. As much as we study a city ahead of time, there are always new experiences to unwrap on the travel menu!

Wake N Bake, 114 Princess St., Wilmington, N.C. (There’s also a location in Carolina Beach, N.C., at 1401 North Lake Park Boulevard, Suite 46.)

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