Your McDonald's Chicken McNuggets Are Actually Engineered To Taste Good

Believe it or not, fast food cravings aren't always completely random. Often, fast food chains carefully orchestrate ways to satisfy your taste buds, which is how McDonald's draws people to its McNuggets. Michael Moss, author of "Salt, Sugar Fat: How the food giants hooked us," was shocked by the amount of science that goes into making food harder to resist. "I spent time with the top scientists at the largest companies in this country and it's amazing how much math and science and regression analysis and energy they put into finding the very perfect amount of salt, sugar, and fat in their products that will send us over the moon," he said in a video (via the CBC). What factors make this possible? How the product feels in the mouth, the amount in which it crunches, and how quickly it loses its flavor.

Taste Expert Beth Kimmerle filmed a video with WIRED answering questions about food. In the clip, she answers a Twitter user's question about why McDonald's famed McNuggets make people crave them so much. Kimmerle was right on top of the answer, stating, "They're so addicting because they've been formulated in a lab." The expert also claimed that the chicken has been blended with potato among other ingredients. "What the lab has done is to try to modulate the taste so that it's just the right perfect amount of sweet and sour and bitter and umami, right?" She says these tastes, when combined, create a loyal customer.

Several factors determine the McNugget's success

Though Kimmerle claims potato is one of the crave-driving factors, there's no indication on the brand's website that McDonald's' McNuggets contain this starch. However, the ingredients include other non-chicken items such as vegetable starch made from corn, wheat, rice, and peas. A video posted by How it's Made explains the McNugget-making process. A tour of a Tyson factory in Tennessee revealed that McNuggets are made of breast meat, rib meat, and tenderloin. The skin is initially removed, though some of it is added back later to promote flavor. The nuggets are also seasoned with celery and pepper, which customers are meant to taste along with the chicken, and they receive a special tempura coating. Contrary to rumors, the nuggets don't contain beaks, feet, or any other obscure chicken parts.

Another ingredient that makes McNuggets so beloved? Salt. According to David Katz, MD, "The food industry creates a preference for very salty foods with the high salt content of their products, then creates products to satisfy that preference, and it becomes a feedback loop" (via Today). Furthermore, salt releases dopamine, which in turn makes salt-packed foods (such as many fast foods) more addictive.