Where Do Chicken Tenders And Nuggets Really Come From?

McDonald's, Raising Cane's, and every kid's menu at most restaurants have one thing in common: They all share some variation of the chicken products known as chicken tenders, chicken fingers, and chicken nuggets. These types of fried chicken items are typically provided at most restaurants and are usually served with dipping sauce or as a part of a sandwich. But beyond the breading and honey mustard, what exactly are these popular poultry entrées? And where do they come from?

The chicken tender, also known as a "chicken tenderloin,” is an actual part of the chicken. According to the Lacademie, tenderloins are located on either side of the chicken's breast, similar to pork or beef tenderloins. As for chicken nuggets, The Humane League defines them as "made with white meat from the breast or pectoral muscles of the birds," with other "parts" of the chicken supposedly tossed in. So while a chicken tender is an actual piece of meat from the chicken, a chicken nugget can be made from different pieces of meat.

Were chicken tenders invented in New Hampshire?

Fried chicken has roots going far back into American history. People, however, have conflicting thoughts on whether the invention of American fried chicken has roots in European settlers or enslaved African-Americans (via The Atlantic). But while the fried chicken wasn't exactly new to the American palette, chicken tenders and chicken nuggets didn't make their appearance until the 1960s and 1970s.

The invention of the chicken tender as we know it today is believed to have originated in Manchester, New Hampshire, sometime in 1974. The restaurant, known as The Puritan Backroom, claims to have been the first to invent the chicken dish (via The Epicentre), although this claim is heavily debated. Food blogger Janice Brown, upon researching the subject, discovered that the term "fried chicken finger" goes back to 1966. The term appeared in The Standard-Speaker newspaper for an ad for a restaurant in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. An even earlier version of a "chicken tender" appeared in the recipe for a salad in an Illinois newspaper in 1955. So it's still uncertain where the chicken tender actually came from, although one could say 1974 was when the chicken tender was introduced to the general public at large.

The nugget, on the other hand, has a bit more concrete history. History tells us that the chicken nugget was invented in 1963 at Cornell University by scientist Robert C. Baker. Baker invented the nuggets by molding shapes out of ground chicken and encasing them in a breading for frying.

What's the difference between a chicken finger and a chicken tender?

You might have seen a menu advertising chicken fingers at a local bar, while in a casual restaurant, you may have seen an advertisement for bottomless chicken tenders. But are these two concepts the same thing, or are chicken fingers entirely different from chicken tenders?

According to Insider, the only difference between a chicken finger and a chicken tender is simply the name. Whether you're ordering a basket of tenders or a chicken finger on a roll, you're still ordering a piece of meat cut from the chicken's breast area that has been battered and fried. The term "finger" doesn't apply to any imaginary fingers the chicken has, but was used simply because it sounded "fun."

Eater, however, is a bit more technical in its definition and states that while a chicken finger is a part of the breast that is cut into strips, the chicken tender is usually an actual piece of meat known as the "pectoralis minor" muscle. However, these shouldn't be confused with chicken "cutlets," which are pieces of boneless chicken pounded until flat and then fried. Whatever the definition of a finger or tender might be, there's no denying that both have made a significant impact on the poultry scene by being incredibly popular appetizers or entrées.