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Anatomy of a Chicken Nugget

  • CRUNCH FACTOR: The breading on a chicken nugget is mostly flour (but can also contain gums, starches, sugars and chemically derived flavors). It adds inexpensive heft to the nugget (up to 30 percent of its weight) and provides a material for the nugget’s crispy outside layer — a key factor in the sensory experience. The breading also provides an appealing, uniform color (some manufacturers add a caramel coloring agent to the nugget to enhance the golden, fried look) and toasty aroma. Finally, the breading provides a moisture barrier to prevent water loss, creating a moister interior that contributes to a satisfying mouthfeel.
    • FRIED TO A CRISP: The chicken nugget is dunked in a vat of hot, liquid fat (most often, a cheap vegetable oil such as soybean, sunflower or safflower oil — it depends on market price and availability), which causes the protein to denaturalize and the starch in the breading to become more gel-like. A crust forms on the nugget’s outer layer. During deep-frying, much of the nugget’s original water content is replaced with oil.
    • SWEET SAUCE: Most of the sauces served with chicken nuggets (barbecue, sweet and sour, etc.) have an array of added sugars in them. Others, like ranch and blue-cheese dressings, contain creamy dairy ingredients rich in natural sugars. This helps to create the fat-sugar-salt trio that renders so many processed foods irresistible. Although the ingredients of one popular restaurant chain’s ginger-citrus sauce sound relatively ordinary (sugar, hoisin sauce, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, chili paste, modified food starch and orange juice concentrate), sugar and salt dominate. The dipping action produces new sensory elements — mixing cool with hot, crispy with creamy, savory with sweet, mellow with spicy, and so on.

    Related Links:
    Fake Meat – Good Idea?
    The Secret Life of Beef
    10 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes

    Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Health, ,

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    Megan, selected from Experience Life

    Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

    74 comments

    + add your own
    10:31AM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

    noted

    10:28AM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

    Eww! I don`t eat meat

    3:39AM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

    chicken nuggets arent good for you nor are they healthy. Full of fat, a pin prick of meat if that and all the rest I dont know but I know its fattening and unhealthy and its not my choice of junk food to eat.

    10:00PM PDT on May 13, 2013

    Who would take the blame for writing that

    3:31PM PST on Nov 22, 2012

    some good and some bad - I don't think the squashing and unpleasant names should put people off. If we kill for food we should use every last bit out of respect for the life we have taken.

    4:26PM PST on Nov 8, 2012

    Noted. Thanks.

    1:34AM PST on Nov 8, 2012

    Who eat "nuggets" anyway except tweens and teens and possibly young adults who have been hooked on fast food?

    8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

    Interesting article. For those shocked by the processed food aspect-make it at home yourself-cooking from scratch is healthier than the processed version-takes time but people cooked from scratch since the dawn of time.

    Do not like being lectured to by vegans believing that their truth is the Only Truth and the rest of us are beasties. If Nature had been vegan approved then she would have designed humans and other species to subsist solely on inorganic matter such as rocks instead of feeding on the death of other living organisms be it poultry, meat, fruit and veggies etc.

    I like chicken, meat and will continue to eat it along with eggs, honey, spinach--sorry I cut a plant up and ate it instead of letting it grow and seed for the next year sacrificing the life cycle of these never to be plants. Meanwhile, Pitcher plants are nasty beasties for feeding on living insects.

    Even if one is vegan, the land fill is chock full of unused lettuce, cabbage and other foods that were not eaten in time leaving greenhouse gases for more global warming. GMOs gobble up so much of the fruit/vegetable agri business farms and then there the chemicals plus other detrimental ramifications for mankind. GMO seeds replacing heritage seeds leaving many tasteless tomatoes and red peppers. Unless one is lucky to obtain purely organic farmed veggies and fruits with no chemicals used--not every person has or can afford that option.

    I try and balance my diet, some days with no poultry as othe

    8:22AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

    Continued from below as Care2 does not have a twitter like counter telling us when our comments will be cut off...

    I try and balance my diet, some days with no poultry/meat as rice-(not white please)! is tasty - so many foods to be tried from many sources. Poultry served in a portion the size of a deck of cards is healthier.

    When Mother Nature comes up with a plan where I can eat pate of rock and stone, well perhaps I will give up chicken, fish and meat. Until then, live with the choice you have made and learn to live with the fact everyone is different with their own choices.

    Processed foods are convenience foods and are inherently unhealthy be it chicken, meat or overly processed vegan burgers (some ingredients are scarey depending on the label one reads and the source).

    12:21PM PDT on May 27, 2012

    good to know

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    Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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