bag of BK nuggets

The humble chicken nugget is usually a solid B-minus food. It’s difficult to prepare a nugget so poorly that it becomes truly disgusting, but on the other hand, very few people would point to a chicken nugget as the most delicious thing they’ve ever eaten.

Chicken nuggets weren’t even really created to serve a culinary purpose. Rather, the reason why chicken nuggets were invented has much more to do with industrial efficiency than deliciousness: breaded, frozen chicken pieces were easy to transport. Similarly, McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets, which made nuggets a force in the fast-food industry, came about because American consumers were starting to buy less beef, not because McDonald’s was passionate about chicken.

Despite the unromantic commercial origins of the chicken nugget, a properly-done nugget can be pretty tasty, and they’re of course beloved by children. Most nuggets are at least okay, but according to a survey of Mashed readers, one fast food place consistently puts out a sub-par nug: Burger King. We decided to test the wisdom of the crowd by tasting Burger King nuggets ourselves and seeing whether they deserve their bad rap.

Burger King chicken nuggets overview

two burger king bags

The online menu for our local Burger King says you can get a four-piece nugget for $1.39. However, when we visited the drive-thru, we were greeted with a taped-up note saying that all prices had increased due to inflation. We actually paid $2.21 for our four-piece, and the price you pay in your area may be different.

The online description for Burger King nuggets says they’re white meat chicken, which isn’t an outright lie like the advertised price was, but it’s also slightly misleading. The ingredients list on Burger King’s site says the nuggets are made with "chicken breast with rib meat." We wouldn’t necessarily think of chicken rib meat as white meat, but it seems as though it technically is. The nuggets also contain chicken fat, which definitely isn’t white meat. The chicken is coated in a wheat-based batter and then dusted with a dredge that contains flour, modified corn starch, and other ingredients.

The list of ingredients is long and filled with complicated, scientific-sounding words, but that’s par for the course for fast food. You can choose between six different sauces for dipping (seven if you’re basic and want ketchup).

How do Burger King chicken nuggets taste?

burger king nuggets on bag

We don’t want to be haters, be we have to say, Burger King nuggets are not good. They fail on almost every possible level. First off, the order of nuggets we received did not seem like it came fresh out of the fryer. It’s possible that the nuggets would have been better had they not spent some time mummifying under a heat lamp, but several of their flaws would still have been present no matter how fresh they were.

The sole positive thing we have to say about BK nuggets is that they’re nicely crispy on the outside and aren’t greasy. Everything else was bad. The interior was disconcertingly tough, almost to the point of being rubbery. It was also dry. All that added up to us having to chew on each bite of nugget for far too long. The nuggets also felt like they got stuck in our throats, so we needed a lot of soda to wash them down.

The taste wasn’t any better than the texture. The breading did at least taste like bread, but the chicken tasted like … a void. Try as we might, we couldn’t detect any flavor in the springy, tough chicken filling. According to the ingredients list, these things have a lot of spices and flavorings in them, but we couldn’t taste any seasonings other than salt and pepper, and there wasn’t enough even of those. We particularly wanted more salt to counteract all the blandness.

Was the survey correct?

dipping nugget into barbecue sauce

As you may have suspected, we strongly agree with the survey results. Before going into this test, we couldn’t imagine someone screwing up a nugget as badly as Burger King does. If anything, the survey results weren’t conclusive enough. Burger King was voted worst by 30.49% of respondents, which is only around 3% more votes than McDonald’s earned. McNuggets can be a little bit inconsistent, but when you get a good batch, they’re miles ahead of Burger King chicken nuggets.

Interestingly, many people remember Burger King nuggets being better in the past. We’re not sure if that’s the result of childhood taste buds being less discriminating, or if the quality actually has gone downhill over the years. Burger King is a relative latecomer to the chicken nugget game; the chain only started selling nuggets in 2013. Perhaps the company needs another decade or two to learn how to make a product that can measure up to what the other fast food chains are selling. Most store-bought frozen chicken nuggets are better than Burger King’s.

How could Burger King’s nuggets be improved?

bk nugget closeup

This is not a situation where a few simple tweaks could fix Burger King’s problems. These nuggets need to be scrapped entirely and rethought from the ground up.

First, the filling: many fast food chicken nuggets tend to have a slightly springy texture, but Burger King’s are far too tough and bouncy. The filling needs to have more air whipped into it so it’s less dense. It also needs more moisture. On top of fixing the texture, the seasonings need to be improved. We’d like more onion and garlic powder, as well as a heavier hand with salt. Some MSG wouldn’t hurt either.

The breading isn’t as hopeless as the chicken filling, but it could use some help too. Mostly, it needs to be more heavily spiced. We’d like more black pepper and salt, and a little bit of cayenne or hot paprika would really wake the crust up. It doesn’t need to be full-on spicy, but a hint of capsaicin would make these nuggets much more flavorful.

Also, we’d like Burger King to fry its nuggets to order, or to aspire to get as close to that goal as possible. There’s nothing worse than a lukewarm, dried-out heat lamp nugget. It’s not hard to fry a chicken nugget. There’s no excuse for serving old ones when it’s easy to make them fresh.

This is the best chicken nugget, according to our survey

sauced bk nugget closeup

Now you know never to buy nuggets from Burger King, but where should you go for your breaded bite-sized chicken fix? According to our survey of the worst chicken nuggets, fewer people disliked Chick-fil-A nuggets than the ones from any other restaurant. Popeyes, KFC, and Wendy’s also had pretty good rankings, but Chick-fil-A was the clear winner, with fewer than half the votes of the next-best nugget.

Chick-fil-A does nuggets a bit differently from most fast food places. While most nuggets are made out of a kind of ground chicken-based batter that’s formed into various shapes, Chick-fil-A nuggets are created using chunks of real chicken breast. That gives them a much nicer texture than the pulped-and-formed chicken patties other fast food places serve. Crucially, Chick-fil-A nuggets have the same high-quality, delicious breading and seasoning that have made the chain’s chicken sandwich so iconic. The list of ingredients shows that they contain a decent amount of MSG, which makes everything taste better. Burger King should take notes.