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What are Chicken McNuggets® Made of?

By Mandi R. Hall
Updated May 16, 2024
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Chicken McNuggets® are a popular item on the McDonald’s menu. The recipe for these nuggets calls for more than 20 ingredients. Available internationally, these bite-sized chicken pieces contain different components depending on the region or country in which they are sold. Not all of the ingredients are immediately recognized as actual food products. McDonald’s United States (US)-based chains came under media fire in 2010 due to the company’s use of chemical preservatives and silicon-based polymers in its chicken McNuggets®.

Introduced in the early 1980s, the recipe for McDonald’s chicken McNuggets® has stayed fairly consistent since. Since 2003, the nuggets have been made with all white meat. Before being breaded, the chicken is fortified with additional ingredients, including wheat starch, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract, and sodium phosphates.

The breading is made of several more ingredients, including an anti-foaming agent called dimethylpolysiloxane. A food additive, this agent is used in a variety of processed foods. McDonald’s is not the only company to employ it, as the anti-foaming agent is found in items at the grocery store and on fast food menus across the nation. It is also a component in everyday objects such as children’s toys and cosmetics.

Dimethylpolysiloxane is added to the nuggets as a safety precaution. According to McDonald’s, it doesn’t add any taste properties. Studies have also shown that unless consumed in outrageous quantities, dimethylpolysiloxane is not dangerous to one’s health.

Each McDonald’s restaurant receives cyclical shipments of frozen food products, including chicken McNuggets®. These nuggets are kept frozen in packages until ready for consumption. At that point, the frozen chicken pieces are poured into hot oil to create fried chicken. If dimethylpolysiloxane were not added to the nuggets, the vats of oil in which they are fried might foam over the top. This could cause serious burn injuries and damage to the restaurant.

Chicken McNuggets® also contain tBHQ, which stands for tertiary butylhydroquinone. It is added to maintain the chicken’s freshness. Though it is used in very small amounts, nausea may occur after ingesting tBHQ.

McDonald’s chicken McNuggets® also contain ingredients responsible for the signature taste. There are only a few components, however, that may sound familiar to the average diner. Along with the chicken and aforementioned ingredients, salt, rosemary, and canola oil are used. In the breading, yellow corn flour and a variety of spices are used.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By Georgesplane — On Oct 16, 2010

I would be curious to know how many chicken Mcnuggest it would take to actually get sick from the antifoaming and freshness agents in the nuggets. Would it take 100, 50, or 20 chicken McNuggets before you get sick?

I also would be curious to know how long the chemicals metabolize in your system. If someone ate twenty today, then twenty tomorrow would he or she get sick?

By cougars — On Oct 16, 2010

@ Alchemy- I too have found anomalies in my McDonalds Chicken McNuggets. Most of the strange bits I have found in my nuggets were gray gristly pieces, so I never really thought twice about it. After reading this article, though, I was a little wierded out by the things that McDonlads considers "food" ingredients. Some of these chemicals sound like they would be found in a chemical analysis of gasoline.

By Alchemy — On Oct 16, 2010

I once bit into a chicken mcnugget with a gelatinous center that oozed from the nugget. I asked the cashier if they knew what it was and they were dumbfounded. It had little flavor, but the texture made it disgusting. They offered to replace the nuggets but I opted for a burger instead.

After reading this article, I was amazed to find how similar a mcnugget is to plastics and other non-edible goods. I now wonder if maybe I bit into a chunk of chemical that had mixed with the oil. Honestly, I still eat mcnuggets today, but I definitely took a break from them after finding the "tumor" (as I so affectionately called it) in the center.

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