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What are Chicken Nuggets?

Chicken nuggets are composed of minced chicken.
Fry chicken nuggets in olive oil to boost the health benefits while making them more heart-healthy.
Breadcrumbs can be used as a coating when making homemade chicken nuggets.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 23 July 2014
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Chicken nuggets are a breaded and fried chicken finger food that comes in many different forms and preparations. Most commonly, they come in an unidentified shape that is roughly circular or rectangular. The original McDonalds® Chicken McNuggets were created in 1979 and have risen to significant popularity in subsequent years. These nuggets are composed of minced chicken, and other fillers and ingredients. Even though McDonalds® nuggets boast having all white meat chicken, only about 50% of each McDonald's nugget is chicken. The rest either coats the nuggets or is used to help keep them together as integral pieces.

In most fast food restaurants, chicken nuggets are breaded and freshly fried to order. Other restaurants may also purchase pre-breaded varieties to drop in the deep fryer. Nuggets are also offered for sale in retail stores and can come in baked or fried varieties. While more healthful, the baked varieties may contain extra oils and fillers that may not make them as healthy as one would think. A popular food among children, nuggets are also offered in a variety of appealing shapes, including shapes resembling dinosaurs.

There aren’t many recipes to make chicken nuggets from scratch, although they can be found. This is likely because mincing the chicken would be relatively laborious. An easier, and slightly healthier option is to use small pieces of white chicken meat. Alternatively, chicken tenders can be used.

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One advantage of making chicken nuggets at home is that they can be made much more healthfully, with less or no salt and fillers. Coat tenders or strips with egg or milk and then roll them in breadcrumbs. Repeating the process a second time will make for crispier strips even if they are baked instead of fried. Alternatively, homemade chicken strips can be deep-fried. Frying them in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oil will help reduce their fat content.

While a tasty treat or meal, one should be aware of the nutritional content of chicken nuggets. Most restaurant-prepared chicken nuggets contain high levels of salt and fat. As long as these are just an occasional treat, it’s not likely they will much impact an otherwise healthy diet.

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Discuss this Article

Rotergirl
Post 2

@Pippinwhite -- I've had a tasty meal or two from a gas station hot bar myself. What really got under my skin about chicken nuggets is these "let do" parents who wouldn't teach their children how to eat a variety of foods at restaurants. No, they would stop and get the kids a Happy Meal before they went to a restaurant because the kids wouldn't eat anything but chicken nuggets and mom and dad weren't up to the challenge of insisting they try new things. They took the line of least resistance.

I remember seeing a mom at a Chinese buffet, trying to get her child to eat the sweet and sour chicken by telling her it was chicken nuggets, straight from the home of the Golden Arches. They were just misshapen, so they couldn't sell them. Kid was having none of it.

My mom would have taken me to the bathroom and instructed me that I was either going to find something to eat on the buffet without complaint, or I would get a glass of water at the restaurant and a PB&J sandwich when I got home, that she wasn't cooking another meal. And that if I gave her any lip about it, I would be immediately taken to the car and punishment would ensue.

Just don't get me started about kids who only eat chicken nuggets, fries and plain hamburgers "cut in half." Sigh.

Pippinwhite
Post 1

We've been eating these in the South for way longer than 1979, only we never called them "nuggets." We call them "chicken fingers."

There's no question homemade nuggets -- or chicken fingers -- are more healthful. They also taste much better. Well, I take that back. I've had some chicken fingers from gas station delis that were awfully good. And at least they were fried in peanut oil or something that actually exists in nature!

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