Home Editor Picks Chick-fil-A has a new chicken sandwich. Here’s how it tastes.

Chick-fil-A has a new chicken sandwich. Here’s how it tastes.

Chick-fil-A has a new chicken sandwich. Here’s how it tastes.

Chick-fil-A is cooking up something new this summer.

The Georgia-based restaurant chain is introducing a new limited-time Maple Pepper Bacon Sandwich on June 10.

“It is a delicious blend of sweet, savory and spicy, offering an entirely different flavor profile than any other sandwich we’ve launched,” Alison Duncan, director of Menu Packaging for Chick-fil-A, said in a press release.

The sandwich will roll out alongside the fan-favorite Peach Milkshake, which is returning for its 15th year.

USA TODAY was invited to Chick-fil-A’s Test Kitchen outside Atlanta to taste the Maple Pepper Bacon Sandwich before its nationwide debut. Here’s what fans can expect.

What is the newest chicken sandwich at Chick-fil-A?

The Maple Pepper Bacon Sandwich is a seasonal take on Chick-fil-A’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich.

“A lot of people forget that we offer this tender and juicy grilled filet,” said Chick-fil-A Chef Christy Cook, who’s considered the mastermind of the new sandwich. “We wanted to feature that in a way that customers had not experienced before.”

The lemon and herb-marinated grilled chicken breast is stacked with bacon that’s been hand-tossed in a brown sugar and pepper blend, sweet heat pickles, Pepper Jack cheese and green leaf lettuce on a toasted maple brioche bun.

“It’s sort of an in-between, gentle heat, approachable heat, with a touch of sweetness,” said Cook.

How does it taste?

It’s really good, and I say that as someone who does not like white meat and would never normally order chicken breast.

It took me two solid bites to figure out what I thought of the sandwich because it wasn’t what I expected. It’s not as smoky as it smells or as sweet as it may sound with maple as the first ingredient in its name. The sweet heat pickles, Chick-fil-A’s first departure from their standard pickles, really sing. (I would ask for extra.) And the flavors harmonize so well that they form an entirely new flavor when combined.

I fully expected to try just a few bites and was truly shocked I couldn’t stop eating the sandwich.

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Why maple?

Cook has always loved maple.

“I can remember as a very little girl, someone giving me a piece of maple leaf shaped candy. And when I ate that, you know, of course I had no language for it, no idea what was going on, but I knew that it was so different and complex compared to other sweet flavors,” she recalled.

“It’s just always lived in this place in my heart and mind.”

But it wasn’t the only flavor Chick-fil-A explored.

“I developed 16 ideas, 16 concepts that we took to customers in the screener format,” she said. After narrowing them down, six of those flavors were taste tested. “Maple Pepper Bacon was just the clear winner.”

How does Chick-fil-A decide on new menu items?

Chick-fil-A has a five step innovation process that starts with trying to understand what customers want.

“The second phase is imagining,” Duncan explained at the tasting. “This was where our chefs really get to unleash their creative talents to take what customers have said that they want and be able to create a variety.”

Next comes the prototype phase.

“We typically take one (item) that we really try to refine and ensure that we are making it in a way that team members can replicate and execute with quality and consistency,” she said. “And then we get it ready for the validate phase, so that’s the fourth phase. And that is where we get to test and learn.”

The last phase is rollout.

“We want to make sure that restaurant team members can execute each of the menu items that we have with excellence so that you guys as customers really just get to enjoy high quality, consistent, craveable menu items each time you go to Chick-fil-A whether it’s in D.C. or New York or wherever that is,” Duncan said.

The whole process takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months, or longer. It was 18 months for the Maple Pepper Bacon Sandwich, which was tested in Lexington, Kentucky, and Indianapolis last summer. Currently, the Pretzel Cheddar Club Sandwich is being tested in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Some items, like the Chocolate Chunk Cookie can take years to make it on to the menu, if they make it at all.

“That kind of had a grassroots start, where everyone on the culinary team at the time worked on it,” Cook said. “We lobbied for this portable chocolate treat for our customers.”

How long will the sandwich be available?

The Maple Pepper Bacon Sandwich will be available while supplies last this summer. Seasonal items aren’t meant to last forever.

“At our core, our menu is simple, and we want to keep it simple,” Duncan said. “Chicken is the hero. We want to keep it the hero. However we also want to be able to add variety with side items as well as flavors and different ingredients that we add to our chicken.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Chick-fil-A’s new Maple Bacon Pepper Bacon Sandwich: An honest review

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