Back in the 1950s, a food scientist by the name of Charles Van Der Nugg (citation needed) came across an innovation, one that allowed him to take a slurry of pureed meat and other animal byproducts and transform it into crispy, fried, bite-sized staples of fast-food restaurants, school cafeterias, and nights when your parents don't feel like cooking. And one of the beautiful things about these chicken nuggets is that they can come in pretty much any shape. Yet throughout the years, a few core shapes have emerged as the most influential, from the mainstays of the McNugget box -- boot, bone, bell, ball -- to more playful variations taking their inspiration from Jeff Goldblum's nightmares.
Now, at this apex of list culture, we've taken on the hugely important, monolithic task of ranking the most influential chicken nugget shapes, taking into account the breading-to-meat ratio, they evenness of their cooking, juiciness, and overall fun. It was painstaking, but hey, sometimes we have to do the heavy lifting in this world.
But first, a note: This list is based solely on shape, not the flavor of overall brands. We have excluded shapes based on specific movie characters, because, like many pleasures in life, Winnie the Pooh and Lightning McQueen nuggets are fleeting in nature (you can go ahead and pretend the dinosaurs are your favorite Owen Wilson character if it makes you feel better). We're also excluding tenders, which are full pieces of meat rather than a medley transformed into a pressable goop, and popcorn chicken, which is generally usually a small tender or just a tooth-breaking chunk of overcooked breading.
Pressing pureed chicken goop into the shape of the alphabet seems like a good enough idea, and it works super well with potato products. But really, it’s compromising everything the chicken nugget stands for. The meaty bits are too thin, so they dry out. The holes in the letters mean that the surrounding parts are getting hit with heat from two sides. And aren’t chicken nuggets supposed to signal a break in learning? The only letters of importance here are n, o, p, and e.
White Castle has a thing for taking familiar things and making them look funky, like that time they made burgers square, punched them full of holes, then hit them with a shrink ray. So when they decided to punch a big-ass hole in a perfectly good chicken disc, there was potential. But apparently, all the moisture generally found in a chicken nugget got sucked through that hole like some sort of dark vortex. Also… why don’t they sell chicken ring holes, like they do with donut holes? Is it just because a chicken ring hole is simply a nugget? Frankly, any snack that makes me philosophize this much isn’t worth it.