It should come as no surprise that National Junk Food Day is traditionally celebrated on July 21—smack in the middle of the dog days of summer, when the streets run thick with ice cream trucks and county fairs boast the kind of fried treats that can only be described as “awesome” (both in the modern sense and the more dated, whoa, we are in awe of that usage). National Junk Food Day shouldn’t be celebrated with commonplace junk food—oh, no, it deserves something far tastier– so save your potato chips and chocolate bars for another day, and get ready to try some truly wild treats.
1. The KFC Double Down
Perhaps the most unexpectedly clever way to create a new extreme junk food item is to turn a non-junky foodstuff into something that just oozes calories and decadence. Fried chicken giant KFC knew that—and played it up to major effect—when they introduced the KFC Double Down back in 2010. The sandwich foregoes the most traditional aspect of any sandwich (the bread!) and substitutes two fried chicken filets. In between the two pieces of chicken? Bacon, two different kinds of cheese, and the Colonel’s “secret sauce.” There’s no room for a bun here, folks.
2. Pizza Hut Pizza With a Hot Dog Crust
We may associate items like fast food pizza and hot dog-stuffed anything with all-American palates, but cheesy juggernaut Pizza Hut saw things a bit differently. In 2012, the chain introduced a pizza with a hot dog-stuffed crust to our neighbors across the pond, treating their UK customers to the kind of taste sensation some people might have had literal nightmares about. Is it a pizza? Is it a hot dog? Somehow, it’s both—and also more.
3. Friendly’s Grilled Cheese BurgerMelt
Once again, a wily restaurant chain took a normal food item—in this case, a hamburger—and amped up its junk factor by doing away with something as commonplace as buns, in favor of an entirely different (and, yes, very junky) item. In 2010, Friendly’s rolled out their very own spin on the Double Down, slamming a regular old burger between not one, but two grilled cheese sandwiches. Who needs buns when you can have four pieces of bread, gooey cheese, and unfathomable amounts of butter?
4. The Cheesecake Challenge
Whiz-bang chef Guy Fieri has long drawn ire for his more wild culinary creations, but what sets his cuisine apart from that of other junk food aficionados is his steadfast dedication to the key elements of any extreme item: size and odd combinations. Fieri’s “cheesecake challenge” is currently on the menu of his Vegas Kitchen and Bar, but it’s easy enough to replicate at home: Just halve a cheesecake, throw it on a plate, and douse liberally with hot fudge, pretzels, and potato chips. What, no bacon?
5. Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt
In August 2010, Denny’s introduced their Fried Cheese Melt, a grilled cheese sandwich stuffed with fried mozzarella sticks. Yes, it was served with both French fries and a side of marinara, because it’s important to eat vegetables with every meal.
6. Dunkin Donuts’ Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich
If you’ve ever hit up your local Dunkin Donuts for breakfast and found yourself stumped when it came time to decide if you wanted a donut or a breakfast sandwich to get your morning motor revving, worry no more. In 2013, the fast food favorite unveiled a terrifying combination of both: a sandwich that uses glazed donuts as “bread,” wrapped around bacon and peppered egg. The item is still available, though good luck getting them to toss some cheese on there. Even the most insane junk food items have their limits!
7. Jack in the Box Munchie Meals
Jack in the Box
What “Jack’s Munchie Meals” lack in creativity, they more than make up for in pure, unadulterated size and content. Each Munchie Meal—there are five total—features a massive sandwich (from the Brunch Burger to the Exploding Cheesy Chicken, and all sorts of wild fried things in between) accompanied with two beef tacos, “Halfsies” (a combo of fries and curly fries), and a 20 oz. fountain drink. The intense snack box is still available at most Jack in the Box locations, but you’ll have to wait until after 9PM to procure your very own.
8. Pizza Hut Cheesy Bites Remix Pizza
Apparently, there’s nothing that Pizza Hut loves more than using its crust as a delivery system for other junk food items. The hut that pizza built may have crammed hot dogs and hamburgers on to their pie sides, but there’s something special about the Cheesy Bites Remix pizza. It features fried cheese pockets stuffed with three different varieties of extra junk, from spicy seasoning to cream cheese and sesame to mozzarella and parmesan. The cheesy pocketed-delight has yet to reach American shores, but is a favorite in Middle Eastern Pizza Huts.
9. Deep Fried Butter
County and state fairs have long been hot beds (sizzling, oily hot beds) of wild deep-frying invention. Dunking things in batter and then tossing them into a vat of oil is a nifty way to turn almost anything into a delicious crisp pocket of junky decadence, perfect for utensil-free eating. But that doesn’t mean that everything needs to get the deep-frying treatment, and while deep fried Oreos may be a stroke of brilliance, deep fried butter is just plain madness. Here’s a quick test—if you wouldn’t eat something if it weren’t deep-fried, don’t eat it if it is deep-fried. When was the last time you ate an entire stick of butter? See! Point proven.
10. The Bacon Bun Burger
Not content to have a bacon sandwich between two chicken filets? Is a grilled cheese bun replacement not for you? Then try making your very own hamburger buns out of bacon. Carbs are bad for you, right?
11. Fried Ice Cream Sandwich
The Florida State Fair is the proud home of the first fried ice cream sandwich, a junky treat that bears a name that doesn’t even begin to explain what it holds between its buns. It’s not a fried ice cream sandwich so much as a bacon cheeseburger (technically a sandwich) topped with a ball of fried ice cream. It might be a good meal for multitaskers—no need to worry about dessert!—but it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing good for anything else.