Shake Shack’s new chicken nuggets will soon be served nationwide. Here’s how they stack up next to the ones served at Chick-fil-A.

I pitted Shake Shack (left) and Chick-fil-A (right) against each other for a chicken nugget showdown. Rachel Askinasi/INSIDER
  • In January, Shake Shack announced plans to roll out its new Chick’n Bites nationally as a limited-time offering in the early first quarter of this year.
  • Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A are my two favourite fast-food chains, so when I heard Shake Shack was testing the chicken nuggets in September 2018, I had to try the Chick’n Bites next to CFA’s counterpart.
  • I compared the chicken nuggets based on their coating, freshness, flavour, and, of course, the chicken.
  • Chick-fil-A’s nuggets had a crispier coating, while Shake Shack’s had the better flavour.
  • Chick-fil-A ultimately took the number one spot, but Shake Shack’s barbecue sauce left a lasting impression.

As a native New Yorker, I’m a big fan of Shake Shack and I became an even bigger fan when I tried its Chick’n Shack sandwich in 2018. But, as someone who lived in Maryland for four years during college, it’s also pretty hard to get me to turn down some Chick-fil-A.

When I heard Shake Shack had added chicken nuggets called Chick’n Bites to its menu in September 2018, I knew I had to try them. So I went to Shake Shack’s West Village Innovative Kitchen in October to put them to the test and took along Chick-fil-A’s nuggets to see how my two favourite fast-food chains would fare.

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The test really came down to four categories: coating, freshness, flavour, and, of course, the chicken.

Since the taste test, Shake Shack has said it will offer its Chick’n Bites nationwide. The fast-food chain announced at the ICR Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday that it plans to roll out the chicken nuggets nationally as a limited-time offering in the early first quarter of this year. INSIDER has reached out to Shake Shack for more information on when the roll-out will begin.

Here’s how each nugget stacked up when I tried them last year.

Just from looking at Shake Shack’s and Chick-fil-A’s nuggets, I was able to tell what kind of crunch I’d get from each

Shake Shack vs Chick-fil-A
Both Chick-fil-A’s (left) and Shake Shack’s (right) nuggets looked amazing on the outside. Courtesy of Samantha Handler

The coating on Shake Shack’s Chick’n Bites had more of a flaky kind of fry, so I knew it would be crispy. While Shake Shack’s didn’t hold up too well, Chick-fil-A nuggets had more of a crunchy, chicken cutlet-esque breading.

Once it started to come off, there was no stopping it. Rachel Askinasi/INSIDER

While I preferred the texture of the Shake Shack coating on first bite, because of their floppy breading that fell off with the slightest touch, this round went to Chick-fil-A.

When it came to freshness, Chick-fil-A had the edge

Chick-fil-a shake shack nuggets
At first glance, they both look stunning. Rachel Askinasi/INSIDER

Around 30 seconds after the cashier at Shake Shack handed me my bag, I took a bite out of a nugget. The Chick’n Bites were juicy and the coating crispy, but they quickly lost their appeal. Soon enough, they were cold and a bit soggy. The extra crispy corners held onto their crunch, but that’s about all.

When the Chick-fil-A nuggets inevitably got cold, they lost their crunch as well. But they were still pretty enjoyable. The breading stayed put and the chicken itself held onto its moisture.

Although the Chick’n Bites put up a good fight, Chick-fil-A took this round as well.

Shake Shack’s Chick’n Bites was a good combination of salty and spicy, while Chick-fil-A’s flavour came mostly from adding sauces

Shake shack chick-fil-a nuggets
Time for the taste test. Courtesy of Samantha Handler

If you’ve ever had the Chick’n Shack sandwich, you’ll understand the peppery goodness that is the seasoning. You get the same heat from the Chick’n Bites, even though they’re not particularly spicy. They were salty, but I’m someone who is particularly sensitive to salt and I had no complaints.

With the Chick-fil-A nuggets, though, the real flavour came from the dipping sauces. While the combination of salt, spices, paprika, and MSG was delicious, it was nothing special.

This round went to Shake Shack, hands down.

I was impressed by the chicken in both nuggets

Shake shack chick-fil-a nuggets
These are some quality nuggets. Courtesy of Samantha Handler

It’s easy to find a chicken nugget that looks like cooked baby food on the inside. Luckily, that wasn’t the case with either of these.

I ripped open one from each chain and found nothing but evidence of their promised white meat – and honestly, I wasn’t surprised. I can always rely on both Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A to give me something that looks, feels, and tastes like just chicken. No byproduct in sight.

The Chick-fil-A Nugget held onto its moisture a bit longer than its Manhattan-native counterpart, but it wasn’t enough to make a huge difference to its yum factor.

This round was a tie.

Read more:
We tried 3 brands of frozen chicken nuggets – here’s the one that could pass as fast food

Sauce is arguably the most important part of any fast-food meal, and Shake Shack delivered the better barbecue sauce

Shake shack chick-fil-a nuggets
Everyone knows the sauces are the most important part of any meal. Rachel Askinasi/INSIDER

Nuggets, tenders, a burger, whatever, can be absolutely horrific, but put a good barbecue or special sauce in front of me and I’ll eat the entire portion, and then I’ll wipe the sauce container clean using my pinky finger (to keep things classy).

Shake Shack had the better barbecue sauce by a mile. It was tangy, and thin enough to leave you with just the right amount after a dunk. Chick-fil-A’s was good, but had a thicker texture and tasted more like a mainstream sauce.

Now for a debate that’s sure to get your friends in an argument: Shack Sauce versus Chick-fil-A Sauce.

If you’re extremely partial to either of the chains, you’ll probably will yourself to like its special sauce better. But I’m here to set the record straight. Chick-fil-A Sauce is far superior, at least when it’s on the side. A side of Shack Sauce is thick and stiff, not gooey and dunkable.

While both nuggets have their strengths, the one I’d want to order again, no doubt, would be the Chick-fil-A Nuggets

Chick fil a nuggets
Chick-fil-A does chicken best. Courtesy of Samantha Handler

Overall, Chick-fil-A’s are simply solid, reliable, great chicken nuggets.

But, if you want the real winning combination here, load up on that 30 count of Chick-fil-A nuggets, and then head on over to Shake Shack to pick up some barbecue sauce. Now that’s a collaboration we should all get behind.


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