A close-up photograph of golden chicken nuggets in a white box.
Do Gen Zers and millennials love chicken nuggets? KFC seems to think they do. A KFC spokesperson spoke with CNN Business in the wake of the famous fried chicken franchise announcing that it is selling chicken nuggets and told them, “We’re targeting younger customers, like Gen Z and millennials, who are interested in boneless chicken options.”
KFC chicken nuggets will have stiff competition. A good chicken nugget requires several different components. Crispy, seasoned breading, quality chicken meat, a delightful crunch juxtaposed with moist chicken; the chicken nugget is more than an exact science — it’s a work of art. Some restaurants have perfected it more than others.
As a member of Gen Z and a self-proclaimed chicken nugget connoisseur, I needed to issue the ultimate ranking of chicken nuggets.
The best thing I can say about the Burger King chicken nugget is that it is a chicken nugget. My initial thought upon inspecting it was “oh goodness, this looks like a Tyson frozen nugget!” and this turned out to be prophetic.
The breading was bland, the meat didn’t taste fresh, and overall, it wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t good. To win me over with nostalgia for Tyson-esque nuggets, they have to be dinosaur shaped. No exceptions.
Arby’s chicken nuggets looked like the popcorn chicken that high schools sell at football games. I bite into the nugget and was surprised by the peppery flavor, but then the nugget fell flat for me.
The breading to meat ratio was off and it tasted too much like a burnt piece of breadcrumbs. If this were a fry ranking, the whole Arby’s situation would have gone completely differently.
I imagine that readers of the Deseret News will be disappointed with me for giving Chick-Fil-A nuggets a low rating, but it’s all about the flavor here.
The chicken meat in the nugget is divine, it’s easily the best chicken meat on this ranking, but there are a couple critical errors. The first is that the nuggets are exceptionally bland. Now I doubt most people like as much spice as I do, but this nugget was irredeemably bland.
The second error is the breading to chicken ratio. The breading can clump in one area, but be bland in another, which disrupts what could be a wonderful chicken nugget.
But mostly I recommend that the test kitchens pilot a Chick-Fil-A nugget with a little bit of kick to it.
Next up was Popeye’s. Now I must confess that I find Popeye’s food much too salty most of the time. I braced myself with my Stanley cup full of Utah water (read: Diet Coke) in hand and braved the rain into the restaurant.
This nugget looked suspiciously like Arby’s, but the breadcrumbs on the outside make me more optimistic. I gingerly bit into the nugget and was surprised by the pleasant crunch of the breadcrumb. If you like buttermilk fried chicken, this is definitely the nugget for you as it felt like I was eating a microcosm of a chicken tender.
Quite good, but there were better nuggets out there.
4. The Habit crispy chicken bites
This ranking surprised even me.
I was at the Habit with friends (no chicken nugget ranking can be done alone) to get a gluten-free friend one of their salads. I spotted crispy chicken bites on the kids menu and decided to try it.
What followed was a total shock.
We sat down at a table outside and with the sun glaring down on me, I bit into the chicken bite. Pepper, salt, fresh chicken and a crunchy breading filled my mouth. This nugget was similar to Arby’s and Popeye’s in composition, but outpaced them both in execution.
The Golden Arches nuggets have some nostalgia to them. Driving up to McDonald’s, I thought about days in my childhood when I would go to the park with friends to munch on Happy Meals together.
But I must say the nuggets have improved since then.
I ordered some buffalo sauce to accompany them, but tried my first nugget without it for the purpose of this very scientific and very serious review. The breading wasn’t seasoned enough for my taste, but I could forgive it because of how evenly coated the chicken was. This even coat produced a delightful crunch and a sense of consistency throughout the nugget experience.
I dipped one of the nuggets in the buffalo sauce and while it was no Sweet Baby Ray’s Buffalo Sauce or no Frank’s Red Hot, it was definitely palatable.
I threw you all for another loop. I know what you are thinking: who puts grilled nuggets this high? But hear me out, I have good reason.
Full disclosure: I was an early supporter of the grilled chicken in fast-food movement. I love grilled meat (and grilled vegetables), especially with visible char marks. These grilled nuggets do not disappoint. With a light yet flavorful marinade, visible char and quality chicken taste, I was impressed by this nugget.
Of course, it’s made even better with the buffalo sauce (the only sauce I’ve ever tried at Chick-fil-A), but I digress. This nugget also has the critical advantage of inspiring you to order the fruit cup or the kale salad as a side to mix things up. Lots of power in this little nugget.
1. The best chicken nugget is ... Wendy’s spicy nuggets. There is no doubt that Wendy’s dishes up the best fast-food nugget and here’s why.
Of course, like I’ve been saying this entire time, it’s all about the seasonings. With a light cayenne pepper kick, this nugget is seasoned enough to be interesting, but not enough to the point where you need to consume an entire Stanley cup full of water. The breading itself is crunchy, the chicken is fast-food chicken, but the seasonings present make you forgot about all of that, so you just enjoy the nugget.
Will I have to redo this prestigious and very serious chicken nugget ranking list because KFC nuggets are just that good? That remains to be seen, but for now, have yourself a chicken nugget.
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