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What is the deal with chicken fingers/tenders/nuggets? [moved from Not About Food]

I've noticed a common theme on this board, and also in the Times. Picky eaters, particularly children, but also adults, seem to enjoy chicken fingers as their main food of sustinance.

As a kid, not now, I liked the old McNuggets and particularly took comfort in their predictable, symmetrical shape--one nugget in the 6 always looked like a boot or Italy to me ;)

But it seems like this preference stays with some people throughout their lives, and there are frightening amounts of children who will only eat chicken nuggets, even if they eschew pizza and other kid food. 'Too real,' I guess.

A friend of mine is a server, and while working the 'graduation dinner' shift, she noted that many students ordered, for their first meal as adults tho' on the 'rents dime..chicken tenders and fries or mashed potato on the side.

What makes them so addictive? Should the FDA make these a contraband substance? Parents, picky eaters, nugget aficianados, do you have an answer?

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  1. Comfort food- fried chicken- what's not to like? Though I will say that the tenders served at fast food places bear little resemblance to chicken. Out teen is picky, and always liked chicken fingers- but at least now she makes them herself drom scratch. And they are really just pan fried chicken.
    But you are right- they are everywhere- and I would bet that if you asked most caterers what they offer- and what is most often ordered- for childrens dinners for a wedding, etc- the overwhelming response is chicken fingers and fries.

    1 Reply
    1. re: macca

      I too always noticed the boot/italy shaped nugget. It was my favorite. I think chicken fingers are a safe food. When people are unsure about other foods chicken nuggets/fingers are usually a sure thing. Whenever my non-chowhound loved ones drag me to a restaurant that I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole, I order chicken fingers. I would rather it that then be disappointed by something else.

    2. The nuggets at Chick-Fil-A are especially addictive. Almost buttery.

      1. I like chicken tenders, or fingers if you will, but they have to be all white meat. I refuse to eat the nuggets that are a combo of God knows what! And chick-fil-a has really good ones. So does Wendy's. But I only have them once in awhile, and I stopped buying the frozen ones after all the kids left the house!

        My 25 yr. old daughter like to dunk her tenders, or popcorn chicken, into mashed potatoes and gravy, instead of a sauce. I think thats yucky, but . . .

        1. I'm a parent of a picky eater and I think you've already answered your own question. Other food is "too real." My son eats Morning Star vegan chicken nuggets. (Though not too often, since I'm trying to keep him away from processed foods.) Once at a friend's house he ate real chicken nuggets, having no idea that they were actually meat. He's not vegetarian for health or for ethical reasons, in fact he'll eat hotdogs, but he doesn't like "real" meat because he thinks it's icky. In his mind chicken nuggets=not real meat.

          1. Try Zaxby's chicken tenders...they're pretty good though I must say Chik-fil-a's some of the best. I'm not crazy about them but I will eat the. I think people like them so much because they're relatively bland and filling. Alot of people order them at fast food places b/c the no-bun issue. Actually, they have more calories than a plain burger...but I suppose they're more filling.

            1 Reply
            1. re: izzizzi

              How odd that 2 people noticed how symmetrical the shapes were and 'the boot' ;) McDo's attempt at multiculturalism I guess!

              I like Morningstar chick'n patties, although as I've gotten older, I've gotten a bit less into them..I still wonder though, why nuggets, not patties, or for meat-eaters, fried chicken is such a fixation...