Wendyl Wants To Know
Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl Nissen: Chicken product stuffed with water

Tegel Chicken Nibbles. $14.99 for 1.5kg. Photo / Supplied
Tegel Chicken Nibbles. $14.99 for 1.5kg. Photo / Supplied

A friend recently cooked these nibbles for her two young sons and found that by the time she had finished the nibbles weighed a lot less than the 1.5kg she started with.

In fact, she was left with just under half the weight in actual chicken, leading her to post on Facebook: "Is this normal?

Are they injecting the chicken with water?"

So this week I bought a pack and looked into it.

First, 100g of water was lost when the nibbles thawed which is understandable.

I didn't put any marinade on which you would normally do because I didn't want to risk adding water or the salt in the marinade, drawing water out of the chicken.

I'm astonished to say that when I weighed the chicken fresh out of the freezer it came in at 1.552kg, and after cooking I was left with just 847 grams of chicken to actually eat.

And it tasted dry and not very good because it didn't have the usual soy sauce and honey marinade I used years ago for my kids.

Is there water in here? Yes there is.

Tegel Chicken Nibbles. $14.99 for 1.5kg.

Ingredients (greatest quantity first):

Chicken 92 per cent

This isn't free range or cage-free, it's your usual chicken, nothing special. By my calculations the amount of chicken in here once the water has been defrosted and cooked off is 54 per cent. We started at 1552g and ended with 847g. So that's just over half, not 92 per cent.

Water

Obviously there is a lot of water in here. The packaging says the chicken is "basted for extra tenderness". Basting means pouring juices or marinade over a meat while cooking, so I'm not clear what this means. What is clear is the chicken has been treated in some way, and water is the second ingredient on this list.

Maltodextrin

This doesn't supply flavour but it does get used as a thickener, a filler and a preservative in many processed foods.

It is a white powder made from a starch which is cooked then acids or enzymes are added to break it down. The result is a white powder which is water-soluble and has a neutral taste. It can be used as a thickener, a filler and a preservative in processed foods

Salt

These didn't taste too salty - you will get 177mg of sodium per 150g serve of chicken.

Mineral salt (451)

This is diphosphates, which is a salt of phosphoric acid.

Hydrolysed soy protein

This is a common filler in processed meat foods.

Vegetable gums (415,412)

These are xanthan gum (415) and guar gum (412), both natural gums used in foods as stabilisers, thickeners or emulsifiers.

My recommendations:

I note with interest on the nutrition panel that one serve is 150g and we are told that per packet you will get 4-5 which is 600g to 750g - close to how much chicken I got once I defrosted and cooked it.

So Tegel knows that at the end of the day its 1.5kg of frozen chicken nibbles will boil down to about half that.

I suggest you buy fresh chicken nibbles in the butchery department.

I bought 1063g of chicken nibbles for $10.49 which works out at 99c per 100g which is the same price as the frozen nibbles which also work out at 99c per 100g.

When I cooked these, again with no marinade or salt to draw out the moisture, for the same length of time they weighed in at just 801g - so that's a loss of about 25% which appeared to be mostly fat. So you're getting more chicken on your plate.

They also tasted a whole lot better than the frozen ones, more like real chicken.

If you like your nibbles frozen, just throw the fresh ones in the freezer and you'll save on the six additives plus a whole lot of water that these ones give you. Oh, and if you can, buy fresh free range nibbles to support humane treatment of chickens.

I went to Tegel for comment on the loss of moisture in cooking and got this reply:

"Nibbles have a large surface area for a small portion, which is where the moisture and fat loss occurs when the product is roasted. This loss is higher on nibbles than other portions.

In addition, Tegel nibbles are marinated (TenderBasted) to remain tender and tasty on cooking, resulting in a small amount of additional moisture loss on cooking. Due to these factors it is likely that the weight of cooked nibbles (with a high surface area to meat ratio) will be approximately 40 per cent-50 per cent lower than the weight of the raw product when packed. In contrast, a whole chicken, when roasted would typically result in a moisture and fat loss of approximately 30 per cent.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Once cooked, 54 per cent of the total weight of this package ends up as actually chicken.
• Nibbles have been "basted for extra tenderness".
• Six additives plus water in this package with the chicken.

- NZ Herald

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