Chicken nuggets have taken the world by storm since McDonald’s introduced its version of Chicken McNuggets in the early 1980s. According to thrillist.com, McNuggets appeared on McDonald’s menu after extensive testing in Knoxville, Tennessee. The popularity of the menu item was immediately obvious because many restaurants rapidly introduced their own versions. Some were made with 100 percent breast meat, chicken tenders and other formulas, but the die were cast.
Chicken nuggets rapidly became restaurant, kid and household favorites. Oddly enough, the originator of the trend received lots of criticism for its approach that used fused meat for making the chicken nuggets. Ironically, mixing light and dark meat adds moisture and flavor, but many people don’t like the idea of fused meat.
Getting Started Making Your Own Nuggets
Fortunately, you can avoid the controversy by making chicken nuggets the way you prefer them. You can air fry them to reduce fat, use lean breast meat or even coarsely grind raw meat into forcemeat from which to shape the nuggets. Three of the most popular ways to make nuggets include:
- Air frying
Deep frying is on the outs because of health concerns concerning friend food. These methods can be used to cook your home-prepared or store-bought nuggets. You can also fry the nuggets and test for doneness with an instant-read meat thermometer.
What’s the Right Internal Temp for Cooking Chicken Nuggets?
Although most food safety lists recommend cooking chicken to 165-degree Fahrenheit, some sources recommend cooking chicken nuggets 170 degrees. That’s because the nuggets are smaller and don’t rise in temperature very much while they rest. It can be difficult to measure the temperature of each nugget.
Floating usually indicates that deep-fried nuggets are done, but testing several of the nuggets remains the best practice for ensuring that your nuggets reach a safe temperature.
How to Air Fry Chicken Nuggets?
Air frying is the latest technology for cooking chicken nuggets, and it’s truly a godsend for busy moms who want to cook healthy food quickly. You can prepare your own nuggets and freeze them or use any brand of frozen chicken nuggets.
Air fryers work by moving hot air around the food to crisp the outsides while leaving the insides tender. The important issue is to cook the nuggets until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees. I prefer to use my ThermoPro Meat Thermometer for accuracy, and I use the instant-read version to take temperatures accurately and quickly.
The basic method of air frying is spreading the frozen nuggets out in a single layer in the air fryer basket. It’s Important not to stack the nuggets because air needs to circulate freely. There’s no need to add any oil or spray the nuggets with food spray unless you want to do so.
Set the temperature to 400-degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the nuggets for 10 to 12 minutes, but test with your thermometer to ensure cooking to the minimum safe temperature. You can hold the cooked nuggets in a warming oven if you need to cook another batch.
You can also air fry frozen veggie nuggets and other small appetizers the same way. Not using oil reduces your cooking costs and speeds the cooking process.
Air Frying Fresh Nuggets
You can also air fry fresh nuggets that you prepare at home using the following techniques:
- Get a boneless chicken breasts or thighs.
- Slice into 1/2-inch thick slices.
- Slice each strip into two or three nuggets,
- Melt butter in a small bowl.
- Place breadcrumbs in another bowl with your favorite seasonings.
- Season chicken.
- Dip into butter and then into the breadcrumbs.
- Heat air fryer to 390.degrees.
- Place breaded nuggets in a single layer in the fry basket.
- Air fry nuggets for 7 minutes, and test temperature.
- Remove nuggets when temperature reaches 170 degrees.
How to Bake Chicken Nuggets?
The baked chicken nuggets temperature is 165 degrees, but several sources recommend 170 degrees for nuggets so you don’t have to temp every nugget. I concur with the suggestion. When heating nuggets in the oven, it makes a big difference in cooking times whether the nuggets are fresh or frozen and whether the chicken is already cooked or raw.
Preheat your oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit, and spread the nuggets in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. If desired, you can spray the nuggets with cooking spray. Bake the frozen nuggets for 25 to 30 minutes. Test for doneness with a reliable thermometer, and make sure that every nugget registers at least 165 degrees. If you just want to check a couple of the biggest nuggets, shoot for a temperature of 170 degrees.
Reduce cooking time to 20 to 25 minutes if using fresh chicken. The following healthy recipe for chicken nuggets is flavorful, crisp and relatively free of fat:
- I cup all-purpose flour
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Almond milk
- Raw boneless chicken breast
- Onion powder
- Garlic Powder
- Touch of cayenne
The spices in the recipe reduce the need for salt, but you can add salt to the meat and coatings if desired. Slice the mean into strips, and cut each strip into two or three nuggets. You can substitute boneless thighs if you prefer dark meat nuggets.
Dip the nuggets in almond milk, then the flour, then back to the milk. You can season the nuggets with salt and pepper at this point if you like. I’ve left the actual amount of spices to add to the breadcrumbs up to your taste and the quantity of nuggets you’re making.
The nuggets should be a gummy mess at this point, but that’s what you want to make the breadcrumb mixture stick. Dip the nuggets to coat them evenly, and place them in an ungreased cookie sheet. Spray the nuggets with olive oil, and bake at 400-degree Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes. You should verify that the temperature is at least 165 degrees in every nugget.
How to Microwave Chicken Nuggets?
Microwaving chicken nuggets works sell with previously cooked nuggets. You reheat both frozen and fresh varieties until hot. Typical cooking time is 2 minutes for reheating 5 or 6 refrigerated nuggets. Frozen nuggets will take about 4 minutes in the microwave.
Microwaves aren’t recommended for cooking raw poultry. Microwaving precooked nuggets won’t result in a crispy texture.
Can I Fry My Favorite Nuggets?
You can certainly pan-fry or deep-fry both frozen and fresh chicken nuggets. Preheat the oil of your deep fryer to 350-degrees Fahrenheit. You can place the nuggets in the basket, but try not to overload it. Fry the nuggets for 3.5 to 4 minutes for a large amount of nuggets and 3 to 3.5 minutes for cooking one or two adult servings.
Use your thermometer to spot-check the temperature of the biggest nuggets to make sure the fry chicken nuggets temperature reaches 165 degrees.
Hint: Chicken nuggets float when completely cooked, but you should verify the temperature with your thermometer.
Pan-frying your nuggets is easy. Add enough oil to your skillet to cover it one eighth of an inch. Fry the nuggets over medium heat for about 10 to 12 minutes, turning them halfway through the cooking process. You want the nuggets to be golden brown on both sides, and chicken nuggets cooking temperature should reach 165 degrees.
How to Prepare Nuggets for Cooking?
How you prepare your nuggets for cooking determines most of the flavor details. Proper seasoning, marinating or brining the cuts of meat you choose determine how healthy and how tasty the nuggets will be. I don’t believe in cooking down when cooking for kids. Kids appreciate flavor as well as adults, but you might want to skip using exotic or hot spices and breadings when preparing nuggets for kids.
Bringing the Meal Together with Dipping Sauce
Dipping sauce can be as simple or complex as you like. The classics of honey-mustard and ranch dressing work great. I like separate containers of honey and high-quality mustard for my nuggets, but it seems that many people prefer honey-mustard dressing. Both kids and adults like ketchup. You can use any flavored salad dressing or special sauce recipe.
Having a reliable and easy-to-use thermometer is essential. Check out the ThermoPro Meat Thermometer options for temping your nuggets. Affordable and reliable, ThermoPro thermometers give you a wide selection of superior equipment that make cooking easy and intuitive.