Our trained tasters tried 12 frozen or refrigerated nuggets made of chicken and two made of soy. We also assessed McDonald's Chicken McNuggets. And we asked 31 boys and girls ages 6 to 17 to try McDonald's along with two other products.
Tops for taste among the store-bought nuggets are Target's Market Pantry and Bell & Evans Breaded, which are uncooked. Costco's Kirkland Signature Disney nuggets, in a Mickey Mouse shape, are nearly as tasty.
All three scored Good for nutrition, about the best you can expect. Only Health Is Wealth scored Very Good: It's lower in fat and sodium than the rest but isn't very tasty. Nutrition scores are for the 3- to 4-ounce serving suggested by most manufacturers. Double the size and most tested nuggets would score Fair or Poor.
The two soy-based products, Boca and MorningStar Farms, didn't fool our panelists, who said they have very little chicken flavor. Their main nutritional advantage is that they have more fiber—3 or 4 grams compared with zero to 2 for most others.
The McDonald's nuggets, from three restaurants near our Yonkers, N.Y., headquarters, tasted Very Good but scored just Fair for nutrition. They have a batter coating rather than the breading of most store-bought nuggets. Most members of our kids' panel preferred McDonald's nuggets to those from Market Pantry and Bell & Evans, though they liked all three.
Market Pantry nuggets are as tasty as Bell & Evans' and cost far less. Target told us they were being reformulated as we went to press. Runner-up Kirkland nuggets are cheap, but you have to buy a 5-pound bag. Cook any nuggets to 165º F (use a meat thermometer). And compare health claims on packaging with the nutrition panel. Perdue Baked cites "whole grain breading," for example, but a serving has just 1 gram of fiber.