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What’s the Difference Between Chicken Nuggets, Tenders, Cutlets, and Fingers?

Sure, they’re all breaded-and-fried meat, but what are they exactly?

A chicken nugget, chicken tender, chicken cutlet and chicken finger

This post originally appeared in an edition of What’s the Difference?, a weekly newsletter for the curious and confused by New York City writer Brette Warshaw. Eater will be publishing all editions that parse food-related differences, though those hardly scratch the surface of the world’s (and the newsletter’s) curiosities: Sign up to get What’s the Difference? in your inbox or catch up on the full archive.

What’s the difference between...

Chicken Nuggets, Tenders, Cutlets, and Fingers?

Ah, the wonders of a boneless, skinless chicken breast: that unsullied expanse of solid muscle, that somewhat-flavorless-but-still-chickeny-enough-to-know-what-we’re-eating taste we know so well, that blank canvas so eager to be sliced and chopped and smashed and bathed in various mixtures of condiments. Chances are, we are deeply familiar with this wonder of the world, as well as its many children: the cutlet, the finger, the tender, and the nugget. But how familiar? As we delight in these shining specimens of breaded-and-fried meat, do we know exactly what we’re eating?

Let’s start with the simplest concept: chicken cutlets. Chicken cutlets are boneless, skinless chicken breasts that have been sliced in half horizontally, creating a thinner piece of meat. These cutlets are then often pounded even thinner before cooking.

Next comes chicken fingers. To make chicken fingers, the chicken breast is cut into strips. (If you see something referred to as “chicken strips,” they are probably chicken fingers.) These are not to be confused with chicken tenders, which are made from an actual cut of meat: the pectoralis minor, a small muscle that runs directly under the chicken breast. This is also called the “inner filet.”

If we’re getting technical, a chicken finger could be made from the chicken breast or the inner filet — which means that a chicken tender can be a chicken finger, but not all chicken fingers are chicken tenders.

Lastly, we have chicken nuggets. Unlike its more pure brethren, chicken nuggets are usually made from chopped and/or processed meat that is then reformed into a chicken-nugget shape. The meat involved does not have to be breast meat — it could be meat from any part of the chicken. Yup, these are your McNuggets, folks; consume at your own risk.

What’s the Difference Between Chicken Nuggets, Tenders, Cutlets, and Fingers? [wtd]