What's the Difference Between Chicken Tenders vs Chicken Strips?

Have you ever ordered chicken tenders to be served chicken nuggets or vice-versa? While it may not seem like a big deal to some, chicken nuggets and chicken tenders aren't actually the same thing. Put the two crispy fried chicken next to each other and you'll notice right away the biggest contrast is the size and shape of the two. But the biggest difference between chicken tenders vs chicken nuggets is revealed only when you take a bite.

Earlier this week I asked our Supper's Almost Ready Facebook group which was better, chicken tenders or chicken nuggets and the group was divided. 39 voted for chicken tenders while only 11 preferred chicken nuggets.

What is a Chicken Nugget?

The chicken nugget hasn't been around that long. Invented in the 1950s by Robert C. Baker, a food science professor at Cornell University, the this beloved finger food was first called a chicken crispie. The new breakthrough was a big step for the meat industry, allowing the boneless ground meat to hold together without using the chicken skin.

In 1980, McDonald's introduced the Chicken McNugget, which featured crispy chicken served with various dipping sauces. Today the fast-food restaurant prides itself for serving all white-meat nuggets as the tastiest appetizer.

The process of making chicken nuggets first starts with a cut of chicken meat from a whole chicken. According to Mcdonald's, this is how they make their McNuggets: the skinless chicken breast meat is added to a grinder, along with chicken skin and seasonings and ground finely. The chicken is then shaped into the four signature shapes: the ball, the bell, the boot, and the bowtie, and then coated in batter and then in a thick tempura batter. The nuggets are par-fried and flash-frozen to be fried and enjoyed at McDonald's locations across the globe.

Favorite fast food chicken nuggets include Wendy's, Carl's Jr., and McDonald's. You can get frozen ones at the grocery store to have on hand, and home cooks can make their own as well, with a cooking time of about 30 minutes, but most people want yummy chicken nuggets that they didn't cook themself.

What is a Chicken Tender?

Unlike chicken nuggets which are made using a ground mixture of pieces of chicken meat, fried chicken tenders and chicken strips are made directly from chicken tenderloins, which are located just beneath the chicken breast. Like nuggets, the chicken is coated in a breading (anything from a buttermilk batter to panko breadcrumbs) and then added to the fryer to cook.

Favorite chicken tenders include Zaxby's and Chick-fil-A.

Are Chicken Nuggets and Chicken Tenders the Same?

Tom Super, senior vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council, explains it the best: "Chicken nuggets and chicken strips are basically the same thing, just shaped differently. Most nuggets and strips are made from white breast meat." He also added that the main difference between chicken nuggets and tenders is where the meat comes from. "They come from the tenderloin, rather than the breast." He added, "And boneless wings aren't really wings without bones in them."

Grab your honey mustard, bbq or ketchup and order up your chicken, either as nuggets or tenders, just don't get me started on chicken fingers, popcorn chicken or chicken fries.

This post was originally published on October 20, 2020.