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I Ate Enough Chicken Nuggets To Feed A Middle School Cafeteria—These Are The Ones That Don't Suck

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The Best Frozen Chicken Nuggets, RankedGabby Romero

Chicken nuggets are the star of every kid's menu, cafeteria lunch, and late night fast food run. They're hard not to love. Few foods can pack as much flavor and sustenance in a bite-sized crispy package. There's a reason even the pickiest kids will settle for a chicken nugget dinner. They're flavorful enough to stand on their own, but can also pair with virtually any kind of sauce. Whether you enjoy eating them with Chick-fil-A sauce, barbecue sauce, or plain ketchup, it's impossible to stop at just one nugget.

We are strong proponents of keeping a bag of nuggets in your freezer at all times. When you want an easy snack, need to feed a crowd, or even make a shortcut chicken parmesan with dino nuggets (don't knock it 'til you've tried it), frozen chicken nuggets will always pull through. We might even go so far as to say that they're a pantry staple.

But not all chicken nuggets are created equal. And if you've ever eaten a sad cafeteria nugget, you know exactly what we're talking about. A bad nugget can taste like cardboard, be super soggy, or have a strange spongey texture. Grabbing a random bag from your freezer aisle is like playing a game of Russian roulette.

That's why we sampled some of the most popular brands of chicken nuggets and put them head to head. Our team of food experts and chicken nugget enthusiasts participated in a super scientific taste test and gave their unfiltered opinions. And we've determined which brands belong in your shopping cart and which ones belong in the trash. Here are our picks, ranked from worst to best:

On-Cor Chicken Nibblers

Honestly? Everything about these chicken nuggets was viscerally upsetting. Our team of testers couldn't even come up with a positive thing to say about them. In fact, one of them just wrote the word "ew."

On-Cor chicken nibblers are squishy, spongey, and basically flavorless. We wouldn't feed these to our worst enemy. Serving these nuggets could arguably be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

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On-Cor

Banquet Chicken Nuggets

The perfect chicken nugget should strike the balance between a crispy exterior and tender, juicy meat. The one's from Banquet steer so far towards the latter that it was honestly shocking.

The center is so wet. Like a something went wrong kind of wet. One of our tasters described this brand as "Gushers in chicken nugget form." Tasting these convinced us that Banquet should just stick to TV dinners.

chicken nuggets
Walmart

Weaver Chicken Nuggets

Chicken nuggets are inherently a nostalgic food. Weaver chicken nuggets, specifically, bring up sad childhood memories. Like sitting alone at the cafeteria. Like getting a bad grade on a test Like not getting invited to someone's birthday party.

Our tasters noted that these nuggets resemble McNuggets from a visual standpoint, but are otherwise just a bland and soggy approximation of the real thing. Do yourself a favor and skip them entirely.

a blue box of food
Stop & Shop

KidFresh Chicken Nuggets

At first glance, these nuggets look pretty standard. But there's a pretty sneaky secret ingredient: cauliflower. If you're desperately trying to get vegetables into your child's diet, we can sort of see the appeal. But for the rest of us, it's a major flaw.

The cauliflower messes with the texture. It dampens the chicken flavor. It only contributes a marginal amount of nutrition. And let's be real—if we're eating chicken nuggets we're not exactly trying to optimize our macros.

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Target

Perdue Chicken Nuggets

Perdue seemed like it would be one of the more promising brands on our list. They're one of the largest producers of chicken in the entire country, so you'd think they'd know their way around a nugget, right? Wrong.

These nuggets are waaaaaaay too soft. Even after baking them beyond the recommended cook time, the breading was still completely saturated in chicken juice. One of our tasters noted that the target demographic for these nuggets is "teething babies." Hard pass.

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Perdue

Applegate Chicken Nuggets

Applegate scores points for having some of the most intense chicken flavor out of all the brands we've tried. Everything else about it is just kind of average.

The breading is fine. The texture is fine. We weren't exactly wowed during our tasting. If they were put in front of us, we'd clear our plates—but we wouldn't exactly be stoked about it.

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Applegate

Trader Joe's Chicken Nuggets

Since Trader Joe's primarily carries their own private label products, you don't exactly get a choice when it comes to picking out your chicken nuggets. But thankfully, their proprietary recipe is pretty solid.

Unlike the other ones on this list, you can find these nuggets in the refrigerated section. There are some pros and cons to this storage method. Pro: it cooks faster than its frozen alternatives. Con: the refrigeration sacrifices some of the crispy exterior. But it's by no means a bad nugget.

trader joe's organic chicken nuggets
Trader Joe's Company

Yummy Dino Buddies Chicken Nuggets

If you grew up eating dinosaur chicken nuggets, this was likely the brand that defined your childhood. We can't walk past these in the Costco freezer aisle without feeling some pangs of nostalgia.

Our good memories may have skewed our opinions during the taste test, but that doesn't discount the fact that these nuggets are solid. They have the right breading to meat ratio and the chicken actually tastes like, you know, chicken. But we'd recommend air frying these bad boys to achieve the right crispiness.

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Stop & Shop

Earth's Best Chicken Nuggets

Straight out of the bag, these nuggets are already a deep golden brown. And instead of the classic McDonald's-style nugget shape, the ones from Earth's Best are adorable little spheres that you can pop in your mouth and eat in one bite.

The texture? On point. The appearance? The most beautiful brand we've tried. Our only gripe is that the filling is just a tad bland, but if you're dunking it in ketchup it doesn't really matter.

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Earth's Best

Tyson Chicken Nuggets

If you want the Platonic ideal of a chicken nugget, look no further. Tyson chicken nuggets taste even better than they did when we were kids. They are delightfully crispy, seasoned with just enough salt, and the meat is nice and juicy without being too soggy. If you want a nostalgic snack, Tyson is the brand for you.

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Target

Bell & Evans Chicken Nuggets

If you asked our younger selves to pick a favorite nugget, it would be Tyson. But as grown-ups, we'd choose Bell & Evans in a heartbeat. Sure, they're the most expensive option. And yes, they take 30 entire minutes to cook. But we promise it's 100% worth it.

Unlike the fully-cooked ground chicken patties that make up the rest of our list, Bell & Evans nuggets are whole pieces of raw chicken (just like at Chick-fil-A). So the extra time is the oven is meant to fully cook the meat. When your patience is finally rewarded, you're left with juicy, flavorful chicken that blows all the other nuggets out of the water.

a box of chicken nuggets
Bell & Evans

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