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10 Things to Know About Chicken McNuggets

The Chicken McNuggets is a signature McDonald’s menu item that’s as popular today as it was when it first made its debut. As an answer to red meat, McDonald’s added chicken nuggets to its menu to diversify the options and cater to a new dietary trend.

However, little did they know that these breaded and fried bites would be the new hit from the popular fast-food chain.

Chicken McNuggets were created as an alternative to red meat. They made their debut in the 1980s and are often credited as the first of their kind.

Although many rumors have surfaced surrounding their ingredients, Chicken McNuggets are a relatively healthy fast-food item and remain a favorite option for many.

From their origin to how they’re made and who has eaten the most in a minute, there are many things to know about McDonald’s chicken nuggets.

In this article, we’ll go over ten fun facts that may surprise you about these crispy golden tenders.

1. Chicken McNuggets Were Created to be as a Red Meat Alternative

We haven’t always understood as much about diet and nutrition as we do today. Early in the 20th century, not much was known about the effects of red meat.

It wasn’t until Americans were suffering from heart attacks at an increased rate in the 50s and 60s that studies around the impact of saturated fats and red meat began.

In 1977, Congress announced that red meat was a primary culprit of many common health concerns of the time, urging the public to eat less of it.

In their “Dietary Goals for the United States”, they advised Americans to favor lean protein such as poultry instead, and this announcement would, in turn, skyrocket the chicken industry.

This new knowledge about the negative effects of red meat would significantly benefit the health of the general populous.

However, it wasn’t good news for companies like McDonald’s, whose primary products were burgers (red meat).

Ray Kroc knew that he had to come up with an alternative that would cater to the new dietary trend, so he began work on a new chicken item.

2. Chicken McNuggets are Made from Real White Meat Chicken

Although many rumors have come out about how Chicken McNuggets aren’t real meat, the restaurant chain has confirmed that they are made with 100% white meat chicken.

This includes cuts from the chicken breast, tenderloins, and ribs.

The chicken meat is sourced from dedicated suppliers in Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia for U.S. McDonald’s locations.

However, although McDonald’s chicken nuggets are made with real chicken meat, it only makes up about 45% of the final product.

The rest of the nugget is made up of a combination of batter, seasoning, and oil.

The meat is first marinaded to give it the flavor and juiciness it’s known for, and the tenderness this creates helps them keep its shape as well.

Then they’re lightly covered in a tempura batter before being partially fried.

Finally, they’re quickly frozen to preserve the flavor before being delivered to their designated restaurant locations.

The nuggets are fully fried in restaurants, so we enjoy them hot and fresh.

Pair it with your favorite dipping sauce, and there will be no wonder why Chicken McNuggets have been a signature McDonald’s menu item since their debut.

3. McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets Don’t Contain Pink Slime

Alongside the rumors that McDonald’s chicken nuggets aren’t made from real chicken meat, there have been well-known claims that they contain something known as pink slime.

Well, chicken nugget fans can rejoice. McDonald’s has confirmed that they do not, in fact, use pink slime in any of their products.

Pink slime is the term used for what results when meat is mechanically processed and treated with anti-microbial ammonia.

However, McDonald’s has assured us that Chicken McNuggets are made with nothing but white meat chicken and that they even stopped using mechanically processed beef back in 2011. 

4. McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets Were Groundbreaking

The story of how McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets came about is fun, especially since nuggets and other breaded tenders are common food items today.

Before the late 70s, the chicken industry wasn’t nearly as large as it is now, and the practice of breading and frying small bites of chicken wasn’t commonplace.

When Ray Kroc, the owner of the franchise, began his search for his newest menu addition, he enlisted the help of Rene Arend, who was a well-known chef who had previously made dinner for both Queen Elizabeth and the King of Belgium.

But even with such royal experience, it took several trials and reinventions before the chicken nugget we know today was created.

The process began with a deep-fried chicken pot pie, followed by fried chicken.

However, the pot pie idea was dropped after it didn’t go over well in testing, and the fried chicken couldn’t keep up with the thriving KFC franchise.

Fred Turner, the McDonald’s chairman of the board, was adamant about wanting a chicken item, and it was he who proposed boneless, bite-sized pieces of chicken.

In 1981, McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets made their debut, quickly becoming a new favorite McDonald’s menu item

5. McDonald’s Almost Stuck with the Onion Nuggets

Since Ray Kroc and Rene Arend had difficulties coming up with the right chicken recipe, Kroc nearly gave up on the plan and had Arend focus on the Onion Nuggets as a different alternative to their burgers.

The Onion Nuggets made it onto the McDonald’s menu in the late 70s, and at first, it was a hit.

However, when the Chicken Nugget made its debut, the Onion Nuggets were removed from the menu completely.

6. Chicken McNuggets Were Already an Idea Before McDonald’s Popularized Them

It’s true that McDonald’s is commonly credited with inventing chicken nuggets, but that credit isn’t entirely valid.

The idea of a breaded chicken nugget can be traced back to 1963 when a professor at Cornell University proposed a prototype described as a frozen, breaded “chicken stick.”

Robert C. Baker was a professor of poultry science who worked with his graduate students to develop a variety of chicken-based products.

Some of these products included: chicken hot dogs, cold cuts, and meatballs.

Together, they came up with over 50 new food items made from eggs and chicken rather than their pork or beef counterparts.

7. Chicken McNuggets Have Four Distinct Shapes

You may have noticed that not all Chicken McNuggets look the same, but some look alike. Well, that’s not a coincidence but a result of how the nuggets are made.

To make Chicken McNuggets, the chicken meat is first ground, seasoned, and mixed. This mix is then pressed into one of four molds, each creating a unique shape.

This process makes the nuggets cook evenly, and the shapes are a fun addition to the already fun-to-eat food.

There are four Chicken McNuggets shapes, and each shape has its own name based on its distinct form.

For example, the “ball” is round, the “bone” is long like a rounded rectangle, the boot has a foot sticking out, and the “bell” is shaped something like a diamond.

8. Spicy Chicken McNuggets Exist, but You Can Only Get Them When Available

McDonald’s offers many specials and promotional menu items, but the Chicken McNuggets usually get their variety from the different sauces.

However, in 2020, McDonald’s came out with the first new chicken nugget flavor since their debut – the Spicy Chicken McNuggets.

They’re made from the same tender meat and come in the same fun shapes, but the tempura batter is mixed with cayenne and chili peppers.

They were also served with a signature hot sauce made from crushed red peppers and chili peppers.

It’s their spiciest dipping sauce yet, and it completes a meal made for those who like it hot.

Although Spicy McNuggets were a limited-time item, they made a second menu appearance a year later due to popular demand.

Unfortunately, they have yet to make a third, but fans have high hopes.

9. Chicken McNuggets Aren’t the Worst Fast-Food Option

No, we can’t tell you that Chicken McNuggets are necessarily healthy. However, they’re also not the worst thing you could eat.

They’re a good source of protein, and they don’t have a crazy number of calories either.  

The first ingredient in McDonald’s chicken nuggets is white boneless chicken. After that, the ingredients are as follows:

  • Water
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Enriched Flour
  • Bleached Wheat Flour
  • Yellow Corn Flour
  • Vegetable Starch
  • Salt
  • Leavening
  • Spices
  • Yeast Extract
  • Lemon Juice Solids
  • Dextrose
  • Natural Flavors

Mcdonald’s is transparent about its ingredients and nutrition facts, and they offer many options to customize your orders.

McDonald’s chicken nuggets can be ordered in 4, 6, 10, 20, or 40-piece orders, and you can choose your preferred dipping sauces.

The McDonald’s sauces include:

  • Tangy BBQ
  • Sweet N Sour
  • Honey
  • Hot Mustard
  • Creamy Ranch
  • Hot Picante Salsa
  • Mild Picante Salsa
  • Ketchup
  • Honey Mustard
  • Spicy Buffalo

6 and 10-piece orders can be ordered ala carte or as a meal. Meals include a side and a drink.

A 4-piece order comes alone as a side, and 20 and 40-piece orders are perfect for sharing.

Each piece of Chicken McNuggets has approximately 43 calories, which comes to about 170 calories per 4-piece order. It also has 9g protein, 10g fat, and 10g carbohydrates.

This means that ala carte orders of Chicken McNuggets range from 170 to 1660 calories.

A 6-piece Chicken McNuggets meal can range from 570 to 800 calories, while a 10-piece meal can range between 740-970 calories.

10. There is a Guinness World Record for the Most Chicken Nuggets Eaten in a Minute

There’s a Guinness World Record for many types of achievements, so it’s probably not a huge surprise that there’s a record for chicken nuggets eaten in a minute.

That record is held by Nela Zisser, a medical student, and former New Zealand beauty queen.

The record stands at 16 nuggets in a 60-second timeframe. And if that’s not impressive enough, maybe Zisser’s other record of 22 Big Macs in one hour will be!

Conclusion

Chicken McNuggets were the answer to a menu filled with red meat, and they have joined McDonald’s fries as a top menu item.

McDonald’s chicken nuggets are made with real chicken meat and produced so that every nugget is perfectly cooked and crisp and pairs perfectly with any McDonald’s dipping sauce.

For more information about McDonald’s, check out the articles below.

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Last Updated: June 29, 2022

About the Author

Lana Kisner is a writer on the Shopfood.com team. She has a B.A. in European Literary Studies and over two years of experience as a content and copywriter. She loves food and people and has spent more than 15 years in the foodservice industry.

In her free time, she enjoys traveling and exploring new places, live music, and hiking with her dog.

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