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McDonalds vs Wendys spicy chicken nuggets
Wendy's spicy nuggets versus McDonald's new spicy nuggets.

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

  • McDonald's launched spicy chicken McNuggets on Wednesday in their first new McNugget product launch since the original one in 1983.
  • The fried chicken market is hot right now, and McDonald's is looking to cash in on America's appetite for fried chicken.
  • But there's a reigning champion of spicy nuggets: Wendy's, which brought back its spicy nuggets last year after overwhelming fan demand.
  • I compared McDonald's new spicy nuggets against Wendy's classic spicy nuggets, and found that Wendy's beat out McDonald's on every metric, including spice, flavor, and price.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

 

On Wednesday, McDonald's released its first new chicken nugget since the launch of the original chicken McNugget in 1983: the spicy chicken McNugget.

It's bad times all around for the food industry. But fast food is doing alright, and fried chicken is hot hot hot — business at Popeyes and Wingstop has been popping, and Taco Bell is even testing chicken wings at one California restaurant.

So it's no wonder that McDonald's wants to up its chicken game at a time when the stakes are so high. But there's already a spicy chicken nugget favorite on the market: Wendy's. The latter brought back its spicy nuggets after overwhelming fan demand last year, and didn't miss the chance to mock its rival on Twitter after McDonald's announced it would launch spicy nuggets.

"Must have scraped up all of BKs leftovers and slapped mcprice on it," Wendy's Twitter account posted on August 26.

Not even a pandemic and a crippling existential crisis can keep this omnivore from pitting two fast-food items against each other. I hopped on my e-scooter and zoomed my way to the nearest McDonald's and Wendy's to compare their spicy chicken nuggets.

First, I popped into a McDonald's and picked up a 10-piece order of spicy chicken McNuggets.
McDonalds spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

At my McDonald's in Brooklyn, New York, 10 spicy nuggets cost me $5.49 before tax.
McDonalds spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

They also come with their own sauce: "mighty hot sauce." A scan at the ingredient list reveals the usual suspects: chili, vinegar, sugar ... apricot concentrate?
McDonalds spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

First, I tried one nude. Right off the bat, I noticed that these have a slightly crispier, more delicate outer structure than your plain McNugget.
McDonalds spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

The outer shell is lovely and crunchy, but the nuggets were otherwise kind of dry and bland.
McDonalds spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

Where's the spice? There was chili in there somewhere, for sure, but it was perhaps a little shy.
McDonalds spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

The mighty hot sauce, however, was bold. Perhaps a little too bold, like your theater friend who bursts spontaneously into song.
McDonalds spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

The sauce certainly packs the heat in a way the nugget itself doesn't, but it's altogether not very appealing. It tastes more like a marinade than a dipping sauce.
McDonalds spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

Next, I scooted on over to a Wendy's a few blocks away.
Wendys spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

A 10-piece order of spicy nuggets cost $3.36 at this Brooklyn, New York, Wendy's.
Wendys spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

The most obvious difference is the texture of the nugget. McDonald's nuggets have a tempura-like crispy coating, while Wendy's has a dappled breadcrumb coating.
Wendys spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

Everything about Wendy's nuggets is more substantial: flavor, spice level, and even heft. They feel heavier in your fingers and in your mouth.
Wendys spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

The chicken is more moist without sacrificing the outer crunch of the thicker breading layer. And a Wendy's nugget is pretty spicy on its own.
Wendys spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

That's why Wendy's nuggets don't need a special sauce to punch up their spice levels. You'd be justified ordering a cooling sauce like ranch or honey mustard to go with them.
Wendys spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

Even the cream-based sriracha sauce is relatively light, and pairs well with the spicy bites.
Wendys spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

I firmly believe that there's no such thing as a bad chicken nugget. Any nugget can be salvaged with sufficient honey mustard.
McDonalds vs Wendys spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

But some chicken nuggets are simply better than others. And McDonald's newest nuggets just don't pack the heat or flavor that Wendy's nuggets do. Plus, they cost more.
McDonalds vs Wendys spicy chicken nuggets

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

McDonald's new nuggets may be enough for the chain to snatch a tiny slice of that sweet, sweet fried chicken pie, but it isn't enough to convince me to buy them again — as long as a Wendy's is around.
Spicy chicken nuggets 27

Irene Jiang/Business Insider

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