This Is Why McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets Always Come in One of Four Shapes

It seems McNugget-making is something of an art form.

mcdonalds nuggetsLenscap Photography/shutterstock

From the secret ingredient that makes their fries so good to the one drink you should never order, McDonald’s food holds plenty of secrets, and McNuggets are no exception. The boxed, bite-size bits of chicken are one of the fast food franchise’s most popular menu items. But there’s something even the most devoted nugget connoisseurs may not know: every nugget that comes out of Mickey D’s is guaranteed to be one of four distinct shapes.

Don’t worry though, it’s not some freaky chicken conspiracy. It’s the result of a carefully planned process that occurs in McDonald’s factories. A Business Insider video, using footage from a McDonald’s factory in Canada, offers an inside look into nugget production. Before it goes to the fryer, the ground chicken breast meat that will become McNuggets goes through a “rolling cookie cutter” machine. The cutter ensures that the nuggets-to-be are all the same width and one of four shapes. The shapes are the “boot,” the “bell,” the “ball,” and the “bone” (or “bow tie”). Check out the video to see the shapes being made.

But just how different are the four shapes? How do you tell your boots from your bow ties? Here are some other things you probably didn’t know about McNuggets.

Well, the ball is round, as you might expect. The bone/bow tie looks less like either of those things than like a somewhat warped rectangle. The bell is diamond-shaped, and the boot really does look somewhat like a wide boot with a thin toe. (Or like a hook, if you flip it over.) Though the shapes are somewhat less distinct after the batter is added, see if you can still identify them the next time you get your McNugget fix. They may not be balls, boots, or bells, but see if you can find all of the hidden shapes in this photo. 

But why have special shapes at all? A curious consumer posed the question on the McDonald’s Canada website. A company representative replied that the shapes and their similar sizes ensure that they all take the same time to cook, which is necessary to ensure food safety. Plus, the shapes are fun for kids, and easy to dip for everyone! For the adults in your life, share these secret McRib facts.

And why is four the lucky number? Well, the Q & A page claims that “three would’ve been too few. Five would’ve been, like, wacky.” Honestly, though, we doubt McDonald’s consumers would’ve really cared either way. Next, check out 75 mind-blowing facts about McDonald’s.

[Sources: McDonald’s Canada, Business Insider, Huffington Post]

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.