Expert Reveals What Really Makes Hardee's Biscuits So Delicious

Hardee's closeup of biscuits
Hardee's closeup of biscuits - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

A decade after opening, Hardee's brought biscuits onto the menu lineup and created a breakfast sensation that fast food restaurants -- and our tastebuds -- haven't shaken since. You might not expect a burger standby to peddle worthy baked goods, but these puffed rounds are truly something special. To no surprise, they're among many of the most popular menu items luring the hungry from their beds, factoring into slammin' creations like the Bacon, Egg, & Cheese Biscuit or Southern comfort foods like Biscuits 'N' Gravy.

Though it isn't hard to tempt us with a biscuit (they're golden brown, crumbly, and flaky to the touch), Hardee's tunes up the humble morsel to mouthwatering extremes. It's made us wonder what the chain does to make them as yummy as they are, even against countless challenges -- the explosion of Southern-style biscuits in the industry, or shady things about the menu overall -- to sow doubt.

Yet Tony Robinson, biscuit-maker and champion, believes there's no competition: in terms of what's available to-go from the pickup window, he claims "Hardee's has the crown jewel of biscuits." As a repeat-winner of the official biscuit showdown hosted by Boddie-Noell Enterprises, Inc. (the largest of the company's franchisers), and with 11 years of wearing the apron, it's not an exaggeration to say Robinson knows a thing or two about beautiful bakes. With his expertise on the table, we sank our teeth into the inner workings behind the favorite. Here's what makes the Hardee's biscuit so delicious.

Read more: 22 Fast Food Breakfast Menus Ranked From Worst To Best

The Biscuits Are Assembled By Hand

Employee with tray of biscuits
Employee with tray of biscuits - Hardee's

Mornings are a rush at our go-to fast food joints, so when you come to find out how most breakfast items are pre-cooked, the realization isn't earth-shattering by any means. That said, the skeptics among us might be taken aback to discover Hardee's, a fast food chain, legitimately hawks hand-crafted biscuits. "Made From Scratch" isn't just a snappy tagline, either -- it accurately describes the sticky, hands-on work employees are faced with, from cranking out the dough to quickly tossing them into the oven to emerge for drive-thru dwellers kicking off their day.

It might not be rocket science to make classic biscuits -- how hard can it be to toss together some flour and dairy? But keep in mind, the breakfast lineup gobbles up over a quarter of the chain's earnings so those kitchen magicians have a lot of labor ahead of them (often before the average person has powered up their coffee machine). "A typical biscuit maker's day kicks off around 3 a.m.," he says. "I head to the store at 4 a.m., where the biscuit magic starts around 4:10. I mix and cut out biscuits for the early birds at 5 a.m., when the store opens for business." Stressed out yet? It's undeniably a lot of effort, but getting a biscuit that's steaming so much you have to play hot potato with it? That's a solid deal.

Biscuit Makers Produce Tons Of Batches

Baking pan of biscuits
Baking pan of biscuits - Facebook

Butter-kissed pastries, crafted from the ground up, clearly gives Hardee's the edge for hurried consumers grabbing a bite from their cars. As a result, the chain's biscuit-makers will be churning out tray after tray until the menu switches over. More biscuits means fresher biscuits, especially knowing that a steaming-hot batch is just 15 minutes away.

How many biscuits, exactly, does an employee conjure within the span of a single shift? Considering the whopping loads of dry mix that's become bragging fodder for the chain, we can expect a ton. For Tony Robinson, rolling out 400 to 500 biscuits is a common occurrence, though to no surprise these numbers are instantly surpassed on Saturdays and Sundays -- peak foot traffic where diners are heading home from church or seeking out a greasy brunch because they slept through breakfast. "On an average workday, we whip up anywhere from 8 to 9 batches of biscuit mix," Robinson clarifies. "But on the weekends, everyone craves Made from Scratch Biscuits so I make around 10 to 12 batches."

Cross-examining Robinson's output with other biscuit bakers who've put in the time, these numbers are not as extreme as one would imagine. A piece from The Independent Herald, for instance, quotes Tennessee baker Tiffany King at a daily average of 420 biscuits; meanwhile, a location in Middlesboro, Kentucky made headlines in 2019 for the million biscuits concocted by its veteran employee Norma Kulpa, over the course of her employment.

Hardee's Uses Simple Baking Tools

hands holding baking utensils
hands holding baking utensils - Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

Robinson assures us there's "no fancy gadgets required" in preparing the star of the Hardee's morning lineup."All we need are the trusty tools we find in all the stores." What are those tools, exactly? They won't consist of any high-tech features, as our expert noted. Instead, biscuit-bakers utilize a simple array of equipment, and their arsenal is fiercely dedicated to the humble instruments of the traditional kitchen. This includes an old-fashioned mixing bowl, measuring utensils for the wet ingredients, a scraper for scooping up the dough, a rolling pin, and cutters for carving out those aesthetically-pleasing rounds.

For a franchise spanning thousands of eateries, hawking millions of biscuits with the equivalent of grandma's setup seems like it wouldn't pan out for feeding ravenous customers. However, the trade-off is obvious: you're getting a verifiably homemade biscuit, manually cranked out by a real person behind the counter. "Made from scratch" goodies certainly don't get more homespun than your own two hands; it's how eons of homemakers have done it, and Hardee's takes a lot of pride in the endeavor.

This isn't just flashy marketing on Hardee's part. In many of the chain's promotional videos, viewers are treated to behind-the-scenes footage of bakers using all of the tools mentioned above. And customers notice. After eating one of Robinson's wares, a regular interviewed by YurView compared them to the ones his mother whipped up when he was a child.

How They're Mixed Makes All The Difference

Hardee's steak breakfast biscuit
Hardee's steak breakfast biscuit - Hardee's

You go to the drive-thru for a breakfast sandwich, and find yourself gnawing on a biscuit that's hard and chewy. Most likely, the baker went too heavy on the mixing and caused the gluten to overdevelop -- an all-too-common mistake in baking biscuits. Still, who wouldn't feel slightly ticked off afterwards? Life is too short to suffer lackluster pastries. So when Robinson described how Hardee's nails the texture -- equal parts crumbly and moist -- well, the pieces sort of fell into place. The trick to creating a lightweight biscuit is all about the mixing, and the technique demands wading through the crumbled mass of flour and dairy finely and delicately, as if your hands weren't touching anything at all.

Robinson coined a term in how he goes about whipping about the chain's flaky staple: "spirit fingers." It's the biscuit champ's method of choice, which involves delicately churning through the dry and wet components with his hands. "I keep my fingers open while mixing to help infuse some air into the mixture," he explains. This ghostly handling, so to speak, leads to the "dreamy, fluffy biscuits we all crave," so the next time you sink your teeth into a Hardee's biscuit, you'll be tasting that artful craftsmanship as well.

They're Uniform In Size And Shape

Person holding stacked butter biscuits
Person holding stacked butter biscuits - Facebook

Regardless of how they taste, a biscuit's appearance definitely makes them more attractive to the eye, and therefore more tempting to eat, right? Strolling to Hardee's in the a.m., you'll find that every biscuit affirms this to a tee. They're about the same in shape, size, and diameter (3-inches, according to Robinson). It isn't a trick of the light, either. That's directly by design. Achieving that cookie-cutter appearance, to no surprise, quite literally relies on using a dough cutter, which guarantees they'll match in proportion. Your weekly Sausage & Egg routine depends on this uniformity.

Of course, this tool forms the neat little circles of dough, but it also serves a second purpose that's quite crucial -- and ingenious -- in crafting appealing-looking biscuits. Videos of Hardee's employees running through the process show them appropriating it as a measuring aid, where in they line up the cutter against the flattened pastry to check that the dough's edges are in sync.

Another key to reaching the right shape lies in how the biscuits removed from the cutter and assembled on the sheet. Stephen Jones, who entered the final round of the Hardee's national challenge just last year, advised WJHL against pinching the dough with your thumbs. Rather, you cup it with the rest of your digits. This avoids pressing down into the dough (careful, it's delicate) so the finished product will come out equally rounded.

There's Real Buttermilk In Hardee's Biscuits

Buttermilk in glass cup
Buttermilk in glass cup - Bea8476/Getty Images

Beyond the basic references splashed across Hardee's advertisements --  everything is "buttery" or "made from scratch" -- the fast food titan appears to be pretty cagey with its biscuit recipe. The company's marketing tends to avoids any giveaways to the nuts and bolts behind its carb offering, to the point that many of us settle on copycat recipes if we can't buy one in person. Alternatively, employee testimonies online appear to clarify at least one of the components responsible for the moist, fluffy texture customers know and love. Any guesses? In the tradition of competitor like Bojangles and Popeyes, the chain pours rich buttermilk (two quarts, says Robinson) into every batch that's baked.

Debates still rage on the merits of buttermilk versus heavy cream, but from a general perspective, Hardee's scratch ethos really shines through using the former ingredient. Buttermilk possesses a higher-than-average amount of fat, and this helps the biscuits flourish, down to forming layers and rising tall in the oven. It also lends a slightly sour note. Funnily enough, the brand chose to ring in National Buttermilk Biscuit Day (May 14), by posting a reminder on X, formerly known as Twitter, to "treat yourself to some warm and buttery made-from-scratch biscuits," so it knows that customers are aware of the dairy superpower -- the tangy goodness speaks for itself.

Bakers Must Abide By Precise Instructions

Baker with raw biscuit dough
Baker with raw biscuit dough - Facebook

Amateurs can afford to make mistakes when they cook at home, but not a multi-million-dollar fast food operation. The stakes are much higher for ensuring that menu items don't nose-dive in quality. Part of how Hardee's prevents this folly is having a foolproof recipe on lock, with a careful process staff members repeat the same way, every time. Robinson is a huge advocate of abiding by the rules. In his experience, "following the biscuit-making procedures is key to baking up perfection." Adhering to the steps -- the same steps, completed from beginning to end -- which is why you can expect your Hardee's biscuit to be just as yum-inducing today as it will be next week (and the week after).

The veteran baker has spoken at length about the importance of dotting the i's and crossing the t's. Suffice it to say, the reason Hardee's biscuits so tantalizing can also be credited to the chain's specific formula. The recipe itself endured trial and error before making its way to restaurants, down to the tailored directions for baking that appear to be consistent among the 1,800 storefronts nationwide: essentially, heating the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and popping the bad boys in for eight minutes. "They've done research, they've tested it, and they've come up with that outcome," he told the Frederick News Post back in 2020, adding "Why would you want to mess with that?"

They're Coated In Melted Butter

Baker spreading butter on biscuit
Baker spreading butter on biscuit - Facebook

A plain biscuit can be pretty good. If the recipe's a hit, there are no complaints if it's missing some grape jelly to smear. Still, we prefer a little bit of pizazz if given the choice, and Hardee's certainly lays it on thick. That's because one of the biscuit's defining features is butter -- melted butter. Robinson credits "quality and craftsmanship" to the excellence of Hardee's offering, and in our estimation, spreading it on is a power move. It reinforces the buttermilk-y tang and pairs well with the craggy, browned texture.

Finishing off biscuits with butter seems straightforward enough -- or so you think. As it turns out, like any of the necessary steps towards serving them to the masses, employees have to do it a specific way. Biscuit makers dip their brushes into the liquified topping, which they then swipe carefully over in each direction -- once to the left, once to the right. They go row by row, which is about three biscuits at a time (a dozen on the tray total). Doing it this way, the butter forms a glaze, which sticks to the surface of the tops without dribbling down the sides -- and the biscuit soaks it up. "When you put that butter on," Robinson stated in a 2017 promotional clip, "the butter just melts into the biscuit."

All Of The Salt And Carbs Makes Them Irresistible

Person holding Hardee's sausage biscuits
Person holding Hardee's sausage biscuits - Hardee's

Splitting apart a fresh Hardee's biscuit, you'll inhale a warm, intensely-inviting scent -- that is, before inhaling the whole thing with your mouth. There's no doubt that many of us are enraptured by the scrumptious taste, particularly of salt, starch, and butter; it draws us to every drive-thru within a 10-mile radius. Boasting copious amounts of carbs and sodium is, without question, irresistible to the senses, and this means a scratch-made biscuit out of the Hardee's lane is going to have us hankering for those rich calories.

Nutrition isn't the draw to hitting up a fast food place, of course. Viewing the raw numbers, at the very least, helps us understand why we get a bee in our collective bonnets over these biscuits. From the chain's website, clocks a single biscuit at 440 calories. This is followed by 41 grams of carbs and 950 milligrams of sodium, the latter representing nearly half of the recommended intake. For the record, a Popeyes biscuit touts 210 calories and about half the salt (440 milligrams), making it especially decadent.

We're not looking to rain on folks' parades in enjoying their early-morning treat. Diets are extremely personal, and the road to longterm wellness is paved with endless variables. Just consider that it's no accident why it tastes so good.

Crafting Delicious Biscuits Takes A Lot Of Practice - And Love

Heart-shaped biscuit in pile
Heart-shaped biscuit in pile - Hardee's

Notice how many of the Biscuit Maker champions have years of experience under their belts. Geraldine McCaskell, a South Carolina baker who took home the prize for 2023, has been rolling dough for 12 years, and we know Tony Robinson's spent a decade in the business. As a result, bakers are going to be wildly skilled. Hosting annual challenges with money awards is likely to bring out worker's ambitious sides; the desire to reign victorious is strong, and employees tirelessly practice for the hope of scoring first place.

It would be cynical, however, to say nabbing awards is the sole motivation of a Hardee's cook. Robinson adores baking, and claims time and time again how, at the end of the day, it's all about the TLC (that's tender loving care) for a hearty biscuit to work its magic. The recipe, he notes, is definitely a significant factor. "But to truly shine, sprinkle in that secret ingredient - love and passion," he says. "It's the recipe for biscuit success!"

Think about that when you pick up your morning biscuit during your daily commute. Whichever store you drive to, what you'll be tasting -- besides the golden-brown perfecting steaming from the wrapper -- is all the labor and effort taken. And isn't that what makes homemade biscuits great?

Read the original article on Mashed.