I ate chicken nuggets from 6 fast-food chains, and the best were also the cheapest

I tried the chicken nuggets from 6 fast-food chains.

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I tried the chicken nuggets from 6 fast-food chains.
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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Chicken nuggets are beloved by all – except maybe vegetarians.

It’s easy to see why. They’re inoffensive, easy to eat, and low in calories compared to other fast-food options. They’re also the ideal vehicle for your dipping sauce of choice.

But like most fast foods, not all chicken nuggets are created equal. A chicken nugget should be crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and has a balanced flavor.

I went to six fast-food chains in pursuit of this perfect chicken nugget. The competitors were: Shake Shack, Chick-fil-A, KFC, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Burger King. All prices were what I paid in the New York City location I visited.


SHAKE SHACK — 6 PC CHICK’N BITES, $4.99 — I don’t come to Shake Shack because it’s a good value, but opening up this box of meager morsels was disappointing. After tax, they were practically a dollar each.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The batter and breadcrumbs were very crispy, and the chicken was tender and juicy.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

But they were way too salty. I had to dip them in sweet honey mustard in order to balance them out.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

I also noticed that they had a slight kick to them. Overall, though, I was disappointed at the quality and quantity for the price.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: I tried the signature burgers from 5 major fast-food chains, and the winner was obvious


CHICK-FIL-A — 8 PC CHICK-FIL-A NUGGETS, $5.09 — I have yet to be especially impressed by any one item at Chick-fil-A. Yes, its tables have fresh flowers, but its food is just OK.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

These were slightly bigger and more generous than Shake Shack’s nuggets, but they were coated in just breadcrumbs, no batter.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

They weren’t quite as crispy as Shake Shack’s nuggets. The breading felt secondary, almost like the nuggets had been grilled then coated in carbs. They weren’t that juicy, either.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: These are America’s favorite fast-food chains, from Chick-fil-A to In-N-Out


But despite the lackluster texture, these had a solid, robust flavor that capitalized on all the savory charms of chicken.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

KFC — POPCORN NUGGETS, $5.89 — These are more like popcorn chicken than the other brands’ nuggets. They’re also only sold in one size: large.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Even though the quantity was large, the nuggets themselves were tiny, tiny, tiny.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

They were coated in a salty and near-impenetrable layer of batter crust.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The chicken inside was tough, dry, and completely tasteless. I reached for more honey mustard.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

WENDY’S — 10 PC CHICKEN NUGGETS, $4.09 —When I think of Wendy’s I think of beef, not chicken.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

They were coated in a combination of batter and breadcrumbs that made for a delightfully crispy outer shell.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The chicken was juicy and soft. It was still processed but tasted like real white meat.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

These had the exact texture that chicken nuggets should have, and they were balanced and mild without being flavorless.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: I ate soft serve from 7 major fast-food chains, and the winner surprised me


MCDONALD’S — 10 PC MCNUGGETS, $5.99 — These are the nuggets I think of when I think of chicken nuggets.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

They come in four shapes: bone, bell, ball, and boot. They’re more processed than they let on…

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Read more: Why McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets come in only 4 shapes


Although they’re nice and crispy on the outside, the chicken is dry, bland, and tastes pretty processed.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

They’re a consistent vehicle for sauce, but don’t have any flavor of their own to offer.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

BURGER KING — 10 PC CHICKEN NUGGETS, $4.59 — Burger King’s Chicken Fries are arguably more famous than their nuggets, but both have the same adorable cartoon chicken on their packaging.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

At first glance, these looked like a slightly dryer, more beige version of the McNugget.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

That’s exactly what they were. These were also unbelievably stale and dry. After finishing my first nugget, I had no desire to pick up another one.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider

The award for best nuggets goes the spectacular specimens at Wendy’s. They had an enticing texture and full flavor while still being perfectly dippable. Crispy, juicy, and balanced, these were better than their competition in every way. They were also the best value for money, making them an easy choice for nugget fans.

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Irene Jiang / Business Insider