What processed snacks do you secretly (or openly) love? We’ve started asking that question of some of our favorite chefs, and the answers are amazing.
Nuggets “are a household favorite snack,” Izard said. “My husband loves chicken — he’s a pizza and chicken finger guy. Sometimes I’ll bring him some home from (Little Goat), but other times, I’ll just grab a bag of frozen ones to try.”
Izard didn’t go into our tasting with any favorites, however. “I always just look at the picture when I buy them” and don’t pay attention to the brand, she said. She also requested that we include dinosaur-shaped nuggets, telling us, “I’ve never had dinosaur chicken nuggets, and I feel like it’s one of those things that everyone else has had.”
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Our nug criteria were simple: We looked for something with a good crunch-to-chicken ratio, with an eye out for actual chicken (as opposed to mystery meat) flavor and texture. Other points we critiqued included the smell, moisture and seasoning. Izard tasted five store-bought frozen nuggets — sourced from Aldi, Jewel, Target, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods — in a blind tasting; later that day, the food and dining team tasted an additional four brands, also a blind tasting, totaling nine kinds of nuggets. Each nugget tasted was cooked according to its package instructions.
To be clear, none of these was stellar: Most brands averaged 4 and 5 points on a scale of 1 to 9, with a few higher-rated favorites among individual tasters. We understand this was a tiny sample size, limited to the stock on hand in popular grocery stores.
6 (Tie) Bell & Evans Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets: This pale, egg-shaped nugget looked like flaky white chicken rather than ground mystery meat, but it wasn’t crisp. It was also dry: “It’s like the Sahara Desert up in here,” wrote one taster. $9 at Whole Foods.
6. (Tie) Tyson: That “traditional nugget” shape we’re all accustomed to was bland, with a soggy breading. $4.50 at Kroger.
5. Trader Joe’s Chickenless Crispy Tenders: For reasons we don’t understand, this oddly teardrop-shaped nugget featured oatmeal in the breading (not good) and burned on one side — remember, these were cooked to package instructions. Tasters were not fans: “It’s a trap! This isn’t chicken!” from one; “Vile! Soft and putrid” from another. Surprisingly, given the strong reactions to this entry, it was not the most reviled. $3 at Trader Joe’s.
4. (Tie) Kirkwood Chicken Breast Nuggets: As one taster wrote, this entry had “a good crunch. A little too peppery, but at least they’re trying.” It had a fryer smell, with a crunchy coating, but it was hard to taste the chicken, and the spongy interior was off-putting to some tasters. $3.79 at Aldi.
4. (Tie) Market Pantry Dinosaur-Shaped Chicken Nuggets: Deep brown in color, this nugget burned on one side, which may have dried it out. Good crunch, but dry, crumbly and minimal chicken-y flavor. $4 at Target.
3. (Tie) Earth’s Best Kidz Baked Chicken Nuggets: Even though this had a decent crunch, the meat was dry, though “not as dire of a situation as some of the others.” It also had an unwelcome sweet aftertaste, according to one taster. $5 at Whole Foods.
3. (Tie) Tyson Dinosaur-shaped Chicken Nuggets: A solid crunch and moistness caused one taster to proclaim these the right nuggets to eat after a night out drinking. The color was even, if pale, with onion and garlic powder scent, but beware of spongy meat — “loved the texture, but not the unexpected taste,” another taster wrote. $4.50 at Kroger.
2. Kirkwood Dino Nuggets: Choice comments from our tasters: “I love dinos!” “Better crunch than some of the others. Extra points for dino shape.” “Actually tastes stamped out of chicken, but aroma-deficient.” $6.79 at Aldi.
1. Market Pantry: Except for being a touch salty, these nuggets were nearly perfect, with a peppery smell, crisp exterior and meat that looked and tasted like chicken. But one taster didn’t like the color: “Too unnaturally tan — orange and bright. The Donald Trump of nugs?” $4 at Target.