golden nuggets

a lady accused me, in the comments to my earlier post, of not knowing what is in a mcdonald's chicken nugget. this is true. the internet tells me two things: one, there is a comprehensive discussion of the mcnugget's ingredients in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which i really want to read. two, the following list of ingredients:

the mcdonald's chicken nugget, dissected
  • chicken
  • water
  • salt
  • modified corn starch [ed: "modified" in this case meaning god knows what. most commercial corn starches are tweaked in some way. there is no cause for alarm.]
  • sodium phosphates [ed: for those of you keeping score at home, this is an emulsifying agent, helping all the above ingredients blend smoothly so that you don't bite into a nugget and get a concentrated pocket of corn starch]
  • chicken broth powder (chicken broth, salt, and natural flavoring (chicken source))
  • seasoning (vegetable oil, extracts of rosemary, mono, di- and triglycerides [ed: one, two, or three (respectively) fatty acids, attached to a glycerol molecule. they're used as surfactants--lowering the viscosity of the vegetable oil so that it blends more evenly with the other non-seasoning ingredients (fun fact: this makes the vegetable oil behave with properties more similar to those of lard)], lecithin [ed: another emulsifyer, in this case making sure that the vegetable oil consistently blends with the glycerides])

so, neat! it looks like chicken nuggets are flavored with what essentially amounts to rosemary-infused oil. tres gourmet. but what about the batter? i can hear you clamoring for this information. like, literally there is a noise right now of people outside my building shouting "for the love of god, what about the batter?!" it's intense.

  • water
    enriched bleached wheat flour (niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
  • yellow corn flour
  • bleached wheat flour
  • modified corn starch
  • salt
  • leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate [fun fact: the preceding four scary-sounding ingredients are like the Planeteers: with their powers combined, they are baking soda!)
  • spices
  • wheat starch
  • dried whey
  • corn starch
this is an astonishingly inoffensive list of ingredients. it is also worth noting that in neither the interior nor the exterior of the chicken nuggets are there added sugars.

in the interest of not being a complete and total McDonald's apologist, i will read the Pollan book and report back. in the meantime, i offer the following totally true* food fact:

sometimes you will see liquid-transporting trucks branded with the mcdonald's logo. ninety thousand gallons of ketchup? nope. liquid chicken, to be sprayed using a giant fireman-style hose into nugget-molds and turned into those friendly little boot- and circle-shaped pieces of deliciousness that i spend far too much time writing and thinking about. true story. tell your friends.

*meaning, i heard it once and really really really want to believe it.


a lady said...

okay. but. how do you know which chicken parts are used to make the liquid? heads? toes? guts? iunno...I'll clearly have to stick to the so-safer sausage biscuits, in which I indulge annually. (who AM I?)

helen said...

maybe you're the imaginary socialite. :)

a lady said...

maybe you're right! my hair does seem unusually boisterous lately...

Captain Smack said...

About a month ago I was driving around, and I was very hungry. As I approached a McDonald's, I remembered someone saying how great Chicken McNuggets were. I racked my brain trying to remember who'd said that, but I could not, although I had a strong sense that it was someone whom I could trust.

I certainly would never have assumed that McDonald's would serve an outstanding piece of chicken, but I have been surprised and mystified many times in my life, enough to know that it is often worth it to go against your natural instincts from time to time and take the advice of another, no matter how ridiculous sounding the advice may be. So I quickly pulled into McDonald's, excited by the fact that I was going to try a new food. I pulled up to the drive-thru thingy and placed an order for a six-piece Chicken McNugget meal. The voice box asked me what kind of sauce I wanted with that. I felt slightly foolish when I asked "What types of sauces do you have?". I could detect in her voice a slight nuance of disbelief, as if she was sure that I must know what types of sauces were available, and was just being difficult. After all, who in this great nation had never tried chicken McNuggets before? I settled on the most obvious, standard choice of sauces - honey mustard. When I received my Chicken McNuggets, I gave them an enthusiastic inspection. At this point all of my previous doubt had left me. I felt that I was being initiated into an exclusive cult, and that I was about to discover, as many had before me, the secret deliciousness of Chicken McNuggets.

I picked one up. I placed it near my nose and inhaled. It did not give off a particularly interesting aroma, but that did not dampen my expectations in the least. I was convinced, at this point, that these McNuggets would be yummi yummi yummi, regardless of their lack of tempting oder. Don't judge a book by it's cover, I told myself.

I pulled out onto the busy street. I drove for a minute, letting them cool off. Then, when I could resist no longer, I popped one into my watering mouth.

It was like eating chicken-flavored cardboard. It was not tasty at all. I thought that maybe I was doing something wrong. I frantically dipped it in the honey-mustard sauce, thinking that maybe it was some kind of weird flavor-combination thing, that maybe the whole was greater than the sum of it's parts. Sadly, this was not the case. I now felt like I was eating chicken-flavored cardboard with honey-mustard sauce on it. I flipped my brain's on/off switches every way I could, but I could not find a way to make these things taste like anything special at all. Defeated and deflated, I ate the other McNuggets because I was hungry, and because I had spent money on them, and was therefore financially obligated to put them in my stomach.

But I wondered and wondered who it was that had made such a big deal out of these things in the first place...

Here I am, about a month after the incident, and I'm reading your blog. Suddenly I realize it - it was YOU, Helen. And now I know why I was so confident that they would be delicious. Because you, unlike myself, are a self-proclaimed "foodie".

I don't really know what to say, Helen. It's not that I think any less of you, I don't want you to think that. It's just that I'm confused. I'm not sure what to make of all this. Is there something wrong with me? Is there something wrong with you? Is there something wrong with the fabric of reality? Please advise.

helen said...

there is something wrong with all of us, o captain my captain.

but i would suggest trying them again. this time don't wait for them to cool off.

A is A said...

Omigod. I love chicken Mcnuggets (should I capitalize the Mc? I feel like I should). This is good news. I've heard some seriously disturbing rumors about what was really in the Mcnuggets...and yet, I returned undeterred to my six piece meal faithfully. Now that I have this nifty piece of information I can hold my head high at the drive through. Oh, and sweet and sour sauce is HANDS DOWN the best Mcnugget condiment. If they bottled that stuff, I would buy it and put it on pancakes.