Why Do McDonald's Chicken Nuggets Have Different Shapes?

From a very early age, humans tend to be fascinated by food that comes in the form of unexpected shapes. What child hasn't experienced that addictive mix of guilt and pleasure over devouring a creature from a box of Animal Crackers? Almost everyone has treated their bowl of alphabet soup like a watery version of Scrabble, spelling words or eating your way through the alphabet. Indeed, with crackers shaped like goldfish, cereal in the form of "lucky charms," and gummy candies that resemble bears and worms, who can blame anyone for playing with their food? 

That being said, it turns out that one popular (and dare we say, even iconic?) fast food item has been made into carefully considered forms for years — possibly without most people even giving it a second thought. It's true: McDonald's chicken McNuggets come in four unique shapes, and those four unique shapes were designed purposely. So what are these shapes? Is there any meaning behind them? And why would McDonald's bother in the first place? 

McNuggets come in four shapes ... sort of

It turns out that McDonald's McNuggets come in four non-distinct shapes that rather resemble an abstract expressionist's rendering of a ball, a bell, a boot, and a bone (or a bowtie, as some might argue). According to Reader's Digest, the best way to tell which one you are about to pop in your mouth is all in the method. Look for the roundish one and you've found a ball. The one that looks like a diamond is the bell. The "warped rectangle" is a bone or bowtie, and the one that looks like a hook from certain angles is a boot. 

According to a YouTube video posted in 2014 by McDonald's Canada, after the chicken meat is pressed into these shapes by way of machinery, they're then given a first layer of battered coating, followed by a second layer of coating — this time, tempura batter. Both layers might give the McNugget its crunch, but they also tend to slightly obscure the nuggets' intended forms. But even so, why did McDonald's decide on these shapes in the first place?

Per Business Insider, these consistent shapes enable the restaurant to ensure that the nuggets are always cooked to perfection within a certain time frame. Additionally, they are also created in these oddball shapes to make them appeal to children. But why just four shapes? As McDonald's Canada pointed out, it boils down to something like common sense: "Three would've been too few; five would've been, like, wacky" (via The Sun).