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A thorough and honest fast food chicken ranking

Fast food infographic, created by Anna Wong

Each year, Americans consume around 2.3 billion servings of chicken nuggets. These small, tasty snacks are a popular staple in the United States. They are easily paired with any sauce of choice, they are quick to eat and easy to find in almost any grocery store.

McDonald’s is responsible for pioneering the popularity of the chicken nuggets, originally invented by Robert C. Baker. McDonald’s may have started the trend, but almost every other fast food chain has hopped on the bandwagon. With so many restaurants making the same exact food, it got me thinking: Which fast food restaurant has the best chicken nuggets?

I decided to journey out and taste test five popular chicken nugget chains — Arby’s, McDonald’s, Raising Canes, Chick-Fil-a and Wendy’s — to bring an end to the chicken nugget superiority discussion. I brought along a tasting partner with me, Chagrin Falls High School student Grant Alberts, to share thoughts with and have a solid second opinion. We rated the nuggets on multiple factors: taste, breading, chicken authenticity and texture. I used a rating scale out of 10, but Grant is a little more particular and believes that rating food out of seven is more efficient.

McDonald’s chicken nuggets

5. McDonald’s
In last place, the McNugget. Although McDonald’s pioneered the popularity of chicken nuggets, the McNuggets were not up to par with their reputation. Right off the bat, the nuggets themselves were not visually appealing. The breading was super thin, and they looked like fake chicken. Upon the first bite, Grant and I were immediately overtaken by a frozen, artificial chicken flavor. They tasted exactly like frozen chicken nuggets from the grocery store that you would eat as a kid. The breading had little to no flavor, very bland tasting. Aside from their taste, this is definitely a nugget you could eat a lot of because they are pretty small and light. As far as the texture, the chicken itself is pretty rubbery and not appealing. They were super greasy, which is a little bit unavoidable given the fact that chicken nuggets are deep fried in oil, but again, not inviting. Overall, these McNuggets were not of the top tier, but they are convenient and a safe option if you are on a road trip and are looking for something basic to fill your stomach. You just might want to coat them in a flavorful sauce to mask their mediocrity.

Grant’s rating: 2.5/7
Anna’s rating: 4/10

Wendy’s chicken nuggets

4. Wendy’s
Next up, Wendy’s. With this nugget, we both were getting a little hint of the fake chicken flavor, similar to, but not as potent as McDonald’s. The breading was thin, and not crispy. The nuggets were unpleasantly chewy and bouncy to the touch. They also were dense at the same time, we were not into it. Again, the artificial flavor of the chicken was very unappealing. However, aside from that, the flavor was okay and the breading was seasoned. All in all, there was not enough crunch to the breading, too much artificial chicken flavor, and they were too dense. The only reason that Wendy’s is above McDonald’s is because of the seasoning in the breading, and the fact that the artificial chicken flavor was a little less overpowering than McDonald’s.

Grant’s rating: 3.5/7
Anna’s rating: 5/10


Arby’s chicken nuggets

3. Arby’s
Taking the bronze medal, the Arby’s chicken nugget. These nugs were exceptionally crunchy and the breading was pretty flavorful and seasoned. The outside breading was moist, and the meat was a little bit dry, but surprisingly tasteful. There was no artificial/frozen flavor like there was with McDonald’s and Wendy’s, and this authentic flavor was super significant and really boosted the rating of these nuggets. They were 70% breading and 30% nuggets, so they were super thick and heavy compared to a thinly breaded nugget like McDonald’s. Overall, these nuggets were solid, and both of us could see ourselves eating these again. They are a good option if you’re looking for a crunchy snack on the go.

Grant’s rating: 4/7
Anna’s rating: 6.5/10



Raising Cane’s chicken tenders

2. Raising Cane’s

****We understand that Raising Cane’s sells chicken fingers, not chicken nuggets, and we kept this in mind and standardized our ratings in order to accommodate for this.

Coming in close second place, Raising Cane’s. These fried chicken tenders were very greasy, almost wet to the touch, but again, it’s fried chicken. Yet, they were super fresh and hot, and you could see the workers in the back breading and frying fresh chicken. To get into the taste, there was zero hint of fake or artificial flavoring which was super refreshing and appealing. The breading was super thin, almost as thin as McDonald’s. However, these differed from other thin breadings because it was still somehow super flaky and crunchy. The chicken was moist all the way through, and it had a really good texture. There was not that much flavor, but we weren’t mad about it because the chicken was authentic and had a good texture. However, since there was not that much flavor, we got the vibe that the tenders are made to be eaten with the famous and flavorful Cane’s Sauce. All in all, these are really tasty, and although they are tenders, they have great assets that set them apart from the other nuggets.

Grant’s rating: 5/7
Anna’s rating: 8.5/10

Chick-fil-a chicken nuggets

1. Chick-fil-A
Taking first place, Chick-fil-A. Upon the first bite, the flavor just exploded in our mouths. The chicken was juicy, and there was no artificial flavor whatsoever. They were a little greasy to the touch, but it was something that we could look past due to the flavor and quality of the nugget. The texture was better than any of the other nuggets, and there was no rubbery or dry consistencies. You could tell by the texture that the chicken was real, and not frozen or artificial in any way. The breading is soft, but there are some nice crunchy parts as well. The breading is also super flavorful. I know they use pickle juice in their marination technique, and it was a really good flavor to bring out. There is also a pleasant smell to the nugget– it made us want more. Overall, these are the superior nuggets. They are authentic, flavorful and have a great texture. If you want a fast food nugget that also tastes impeccable, opt for Chick-fil-A.

Grant’s rating: 6/7
Anna’s rating: 9/10

In conclusion, this experience was super tasty and fun. We had a great time tasting all these nuggets, and it solidified our future chicken nugget decisions. We aren’t saying that our ratings are perfect for everyone, but we hope that this can be a guide for anyone questioning where to eat their chicken nuggets from.

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