Chicken Cuts and Varieties: A Complete Guide

Finding the best chicken cuts and varieties isn’t as easy as you might think.

There are many different cuts of chicken available, and we are going to explain everything you need to know about each one.

We will also explore the best methods to cook chicken, some safety tips with handling and preparing chicken, and discover where you can get the highest quality chicken cuts.

What are the Best Chicken Cuts and Varieties?

The great thing about chicken meat that it is very versatile. Several different cuts and varieties of chicken can be cooked and eaten differently.

Whole chicken

Buying and cooking a whole bird is the most economical method of enjoying chicken. With a whole chicken, you get everything (minus the head), including breasts, thighs, legs, and wings. Also, you can even keep the carcass after you have broken the chicken down and use it to make a tasty homemade stock.

Breasts

Skinless chicken breasts are probably the most popular chicken cut and usually the most widely consumed. Breasts are the leanest cut, and they are very versatile when it comes to the cooking method. You can roast, BBQ, stuff, or pan-fry chicken breasts. It is effortless to incorporate this into many different meals, such as a stir fry, stews, and even pies.

Drumsticks

The shins of a chicken are used to make drumsticks. This chicken cut is generally pretty cheap, and it is easy to cook, especially if you are hosting to BBQ. Drumsticks can be fantastic when using a good grill, and they are ideal for a full meal or even just a light snack.

Wings

These are one of the cheapest parts of the bird, but they are delicious. Chicken wings can be cooked in several ways, including on the BBQ, grilled, or oven-roasted. They are a bit higher in fat content, but they can be packed full of flavor with proper marinating or seasoning.

Thighs

Chicken thigh meat is very tender and juicy, and you will also find that the color is a little darker. The firmness of chicken thighs makes them perfect for meals such as kebabs, while if you cook them skin-on, you get a lovely tasty finish.

Legs

Instead of cutting the chicken into thighs and drumsticks, you can instead use the whole leg. The legs can be cooked whole and in various ways, including in the oven, roasting, or even putting them on the BBQ. Chicken legs are perfect for a variety of different recipes and flavors.

Types of Chickens

There are many different types of chickens – dozens, in fact! – but we will show you the most common breeds that you will come across.

The most common types of chickens for consumption are the Cornish Cross and White Rock. These chickens are predominately bred for eating and they are also known as broilers. Normally these chickens butchered after 8 – 12 weeks.

The Rhode Island Red, Leghorn, and Plymouth Rock breeds are the main chicken types that produce eggs. Some breeds of chicken, like the Rhode Island Red, can lay out up to 250 eggs per year.

The Major Differences Between Chicken and Other Meats

One of the main differences between chicken and other meats is that chicken must be cooked thoroughly before being eaten.

While some other meats, such as beef, can be eaten rare (or close to it), chicken needs to be cooked right through.

Another difference is that chicken is often cheaper than other meats. While you can find expensive chicken cuts, it is usually found at a less expensive price as a general rule.

Using chicken can also impact other parts of your meal. While it is very versatile and can be used with a large number of ingredients, spices, and seasoning, using chicken instead of red meat will determine what other ingredients you use. It can also determine what drinks you consume with your meal, as white wine is usually recommended for chicken-based meals and red wine for dark meats.

Chicken is also relatively high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, while it has a lower concentration of saturated fatty acids. You will also find that chicken is high in many vitamins such as vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and vitamin B3, and red meat has a higher level of vitamin B12.

Advantages of Cooking and Eating Chicken

Even though we love all types of meat, there are some advantages to cooking and eating chicken.

Rich in vitamins and nutrients

Chicken has a high content of many vitamins and nutrients. It contains many healthy vitamins such as vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B1, and vitamin B3, while it is also a great source of protein and is ideal for muscle growth.

It is very versatile

You can cook chicken with pretty much anything. It is a very versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide variety of different meals. You can incorporate chicken in main meals and snacks, and it is excellent as a light dish, especially in the summer months.

Chicken can help with weight loss

Another advantage of cooking and eating chicken is its high protein content which can aid weight loss. Your body can digest and use chicken easily while it may help you to lose weight alongside other weight management techniques.

You can buy it cheap

Chicken cuts are readily available and it is one of the cheapest types of meat and poultry. That doesn’t mean it is of inferior quality to fish for example, but it is very straightforward to find and even a whole chicken won’t cost a lot of money.

It is easy to eat

As long as you don’t overcook chicken, poultry itself is easy to eat. If you have issues chewing or swallowing or simply want a simple meal, chicken is a great choice as it isn’t too tough.

The Disadvantages of Cooking and Eating Chicken

Even though chicken has many advantages, there are some downsides to this particular type of poultry.

You can easily overcook it

This applies to any meat and poultry; however, there is a fine line between soft, succulent chicken and tough chicken that has been overcooked. Chicken is easy to cook, but it is a bit harder to achieve the right finish. Getting the balance right is crucial to having an enjoyable meal and it; otherwise, it can result in an almost rubbery texture.

It needs to be cooked thoroughly

Again, this is a fine line between cooking thoroughly and adequately and everyone having food poisoning. Unlike other meats such as beef, chicken needs to be completely cooked to be safe.

Chicken adds to your cholesterol

This is true for most meats, and chicken does have a lower cholesterol level than steak, but you still need to be careful how much you eat. It will add to your cholesterol level, but the benefits of eating it in moderation with a balanced diet outweigh any negatives. There are extra calories in pieces of chicken too, but they are quite low.

Safety Tips When Cooking with Chicken

Cooked Chicken

Chicken does need to be handled, prepared, and cooked with care. There are essentially three main elements to safely cooking with chicken.

Clean

As soon as you finish preparing chicken, you should clean all the surfaces and kitchen utensils and tools it has come in contact with. This includes knives, forks, chopping boards, and workforces, and a careful clean with soap and hot water will be enough to avoid contamination.

Separate

You should also separate the chicken from other foods. For example, use different chopping boards for chicken and vegetables and avoid rinsing uncooked chicken in the sink before you cook it, as this won’t remove any unwanted bacteria.

Cook

The cooking method for chicken is that it needs to be cooked at165ºF (75ºC. This ensures that it is cooked right through. You can also test this by ensuring that there are no red or pink sections and that the juices are running clear.

One other thing to mention is frozen chicken. You can freeze chicken but you must do it as soon as it cools down, so don’t leave it sitting out in the kitchen overnight. If you want, you can also freeze fresh chicken.

If you are storing cooked frozen chicken, it is recommended that you use it within 4 months. Always check the product info when buying chicken as it will normally outline how long you can freeze the poultry.

Best Methods to Cook Chicken

Oven Roasted

What we really love about chicken is the various ways you can cook it. As it is diverse, you can get several flavors and textures by cooking chicken in different ways.

Oven Roasted

Roasted chicken is in an oven straightforward, and you need next to no significant cooking stills to do this. It can be simply done in an oven over an extended period, and the juices should help to create crispy skin. You can also season it or stuff it to add to the flavor.

Using a Smoker

Smoking chicken (usually skinless chicken breasts, but you can use a whole chicken) is another method that results in intense flavors and a fabulous meal. Marinating your chicken first or coating it in a spicy rub before putting it into a smoker will help to create an unreal dish.

Deep frying chicken

Fried chicken can be a guilty pleasure, and it is also relatively easy to do yourself. Chicken can be fried either in a saucepan or with a deep fryer, and you can achieve this by coating it with batter or seasoned flour.

Grilling Chicken

One healthy option, and grilled chicken is ideal for those summer days. Whether you do it on an inside grill or a BBQ, it is very easy to get the chicken cooked properly and have a smoky taste.

Pan Frying Chicken

Using a pan or a wok to fry chicken is quick and perfect if you want to make up a simple stir fry. It can be easy to overcook the chicken this way, so just be careful not to leave it on too long otherwise, it will dry out.

Where to Find The Best Chicken Cuts and Varieties

Butcher – Best Overall for High-Quality Chicken

Going to your local butcher is the best place to get the best chicken cuts because, after all, they are the experts.

Butchers have a wealth of knowledge about many types of meat, including more obscure meats such as a game. So even though chicken is very common, that doesn’t mean you will get a poor quality cut. In fact, butchers are also very well placed to advise on the amount and variety of chicken you need depending on how you intend to cook it.

Butchers also often have many types of seasonings, rubs, and sauces that go perfectly with chicken.

The downside to using a butcher is that chicken is often more expensive. However, for the extra bit of money you pay, you get higher quality poultry and the expert knowledge to go with it.

Subscription Services – Best for Convenience and Doing Online

 

You can buy pretty anything online these days, and meat and poultry are no different.

There have been several great food subscription services popping up in recent years that will deliver superior chicken cuts straight to your door. As we tend to lead very busy lives these days, finding the time to go to your local butcher or supermarket isn’t always easy.

You can do it all from your smartphone, tablet, or computer with this option. You can also find free-range and GMO-free chicken pieces simply by going online. The other advantage is that this is often cheaper than visiting your local butcher, although you won’t get first-hand knowledge and advice in person.

Subscription services can be found nearly anywhere, and it offers an ideal way to get high-quality chicken cuts delivered straight to your door.

Farmers Market – Best for Knowing Where Your Chicken Comes From

Farm

Another good option for finding the best chicken varieties is to head to your local farmer’s market.

Like your local butcher, this is an excellent way to get free-range and high-quality chicken straight from the source. You normally associate farmer’s markets with other meat and products such as eggs and vegetables, but you can find quality chicken cuts here.

It will be a bit more expensive than some other options, but if you want to be sure exactly where your chicken is coming from, this is a great way to do it.

Supermarkets – Best If You Are On A Budget

Supermarket Chicken

Supermarkets are more than likely the place you think of to buy different chicken pieces.

They are good if you are on a budget as they are the cheapest option on this list. Some of the chicken cuts are of good quality, although you may not get the variety you want. However, you will find boneless chicken breast, drumsticks, wings, and even a whole chicken in many supermarkets.

While you won’t get the highest quality chicken at a supermarket, it is a convenient method and won’t cost you a lot of money.

My Top Recommendations for Cooking With Chicken

Anyone can cook chicken, but with these tools and utensils, you can make the job a lot easier and more efficient.

Powlaken Instant Read Meat Thermometer – Best Way to Check the Chicken Is Cooked

Powlaken Instant Thermometer

The internal temperature of the chicken should reach 165ºF (75ºC) for it to cook properly, and there should be no red or pink sections.

With the Powlaken Instant Read Meat Thermometer, you can easily monitor how warm the inside of your chicken cut is. This thermometer can check the temperature of any meat in seconds, and it is straightforward to operate too.

ZWILLING Pro 5.5″ Ultimate Prep Knife – Best Knife to Cut Chicken

knife

If you need to cut up chicken, whether it is a whole bird or even just slicing boneless chicken breasts into pieces, this is the knife to use.

The ZWILLING Pro 5.5″ Ultimate Prep Knife is a fantastic prep knife that can be used on a range of different meats, poultry, and fish. It is a little bit expensive, but you pay for a quality product.

It is made from stainless steel and high-quality carbon, while the handle makes precision cuts easy.

Jaccard 200348Y Tenderizer – Best Way to Ensure A Consistent Finish

Tenderizer

When you buy specific cuts of chicken, the poultry will usually be of a different shape and size. This can result in an uneven finish, and some pieces might take longer than others to cook through.

With the Jaccard 200348Y Tenderizer, you can flatten chicken breasts and other cuts to the same width and depth. This will help all the pieces of chicken to cook evenly. It also features double-edged razors, cutting through the meat and resulting in less tough chicken once it cooks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is the difference between white meat chicken and dark meat chicken?

Answer: White meat chicken is found in the breasts and wings, and it will dry out quickly when overcooked. Dark meat chicken is found in the legs and can be cooked longer without drying out.

Question: Is chicken good for you?

Answer: Yes. Eating chicken has many health benefits as it is full of essential vitamins. You should also incorporate chicken with a balanced and healthy diet as it does lack some nutrients, but it is one of the most nutritious options.

Question: What is the cheapest part of a chicken to buy?

Answer: If you want all the parts of a chicken to cut up yourself, buying a whole chicken is the most economical method. However, the chicken wings and legs are generally the cheapest part of the chicken to buy on their own.

Question: How many different cuts of chicken are there?

Answer: There are usually five different cuts of chicken you can buy to cook and eat (excluding the whole bird). This includes the breasts, wings, thighs, whole legs, and shins which are used for drumsticks.

Question: How do I know that chicken is cooked properly?

Answer: The internal temperature of the chicken should reach 165ºF (75ºC) for it to be properly cooked. You will also know when chicken is cooked thoroughly as there should be no red or pink sections, and the juices should also run clear.

Question: What methods can I use for cooking chicken?

Answer: A lot. The great thing about chicken is that it is very versatile to cook. For example, chicken pieces can be pan-fried, cooked in the oven for roasted chicken, put on a BBQ, or even prepared in a smoker.

Question: Is chicken expensive to buy?

Answer: Not really. Compared to other meats and poultry, chicken is the least expensive to purchase as it is readily available.

Conclusion: The Products You Need to Cook Various Chicken Cuts and Varieties

Chicken is easy to cook, but you can cook it even better with some simple additions to your range of kitchen products.

If you want to ensure that your chicken meat is appropriately prepared, the meat is cooked correctly and evenly, these products will help:

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