Versatile and affordable, chicken is a grocery mainstay. However, it’s easy to get stuck in a chicken rut when you prepare the same cuts and recipes every week. Read on to learn about the selection of poultry cuts available so you can look at the chicken aisle with a new eye and shake up your dinner routine.
Braised or roasted, a whole chicken is an easy, impressive, one-pot (or pan!) meal that’s equally at home as a weeknight dinner or as a weekend feast with friends. Even better, buying a whole chicken is an inexpensive way to get 10 different cuts of chicken: two breasts, two tenders, two thighs, two wings and two drumsticks. Bonus? The leftover bones can be used to make stock.
Recipe to try: Zucchini & Parmesan-Stuffed Roast Chicken
The ultimate weeknight go-to, chicken breasts are extremely versatile. Quickly broil them for a weeknight main, toss strips into stir-fries and pasta sauce or slice and skewer them for the grill. Cooked leftover chicken breasts can be chopped and sprinkled over pizza, added to soups, or stuffed into tacos and sandwiches.
Recipe to try: Mediterranean-Rubbed Chicken with Spring Ratatouille
Consisting of the thigh and drumstick, chicken legs are fall-off-the-bone good when slow cooked with vegetables for a stew or curry. They’re also a great cut for the barbecue or grill as their dark meat stays moist and succulent.
Recipe to try: Sweet & Sour Chicken Legs with Broccoli
If you always bake chicken breasts, try chicken thighs – they’re a less expensive cut with loads of flavourful dark meat. Inexpensive and underappreciated, chicken thighs are just as versatile as the ever-popular chicken breast. Juicy and full of flavour, thighs benefit from stewing and slow cooking but can be used for grilling and baking as well. Try them braised with wine or simmered with aromatics like bay leaves, onion and carrots to make a soul-soothing chicken stock.
Recipes to try: Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives and Lemon
Kid-friendly drumsticks work well for roasting, grilling or stewing. Dipped in honey-garlic barbecue sauce and breaded with panko and Parmesan cheese, they make for a real treat with a crunchy exterior and succulent interior. Drumstick meat is dark, juicy and stays tender in curries and braises as well.
Recipes to try: Crusted Grilled Chicken Drumsticks
If you’ve never made chicken wings at home, you’re missing out! One major benefit of this smaller cut of meat is that it cooks quickly. Aside from game day nibbles, try adding them to the pot when making stock, slow cook them for a Thai or Indian curry, or shred the leftover wing meat for tacos.
Skin and Bone
Removing the skin and bone from chicken makes it an excellent source of lean, quick-cooking protein.
- When cooking boneless, skinless chicken the trick is making sure it doesn’t dry out. These pieces make a great addition to any soup, stew, stir-fry or curry.
- When you bake or broil chicken breasts, make sure to add plenty of moisture.
Why cook with the skin on? The natural fat in the skin helps seal in moisture and create a crispy outer layer during the cooking process.
- If you want chicken to hold its shape during cooking, then opt for bone-in pieces.
- For fried, roasted or baked chicken, bone-in pieces with the skin on are best.
How to Cut and Carve a Chicken
The most essential tool when cutting or carving a chicken is confidence! Well, that and a sharp knife. When cutting a raw chicken use a cutting board that you can put in the dishwasher. For carving a cooked chicken, use a board with a well around the perimeter to catch any juices. For a step-by-step look at how to carve, check out our video.
How to Debone a Chicken
With patience and a sharp boning knife, deboning a chicken is easier than you might think. Start by cutting a whole raw chicken into 10 pieces (two breasts, two tenders, two thighs, two wings and two drumsticks). Once you’ve got the whole bird cut up, you can start removing the bones. Pull back the flesh with one hand and place your knife against the bone with the other. Using long, even strokes, gradually work the meat away from the bone. To get the most meat, angle your knife down toward the bone.
How to Spatchcock a Chicken
Also called butterflying, the simple technique of removing the backbone from a whole chicken helps cut down on cooking time and keeps the meat moist. Plus, it’s a nice technique to have in your culinary arsenal. All you need is a whole raw chicken, a cutting board and a good pair of kitchen shears. Place the chicken breast side-down on the cutting board and cut along both sides of the backbone. Once the backbone is removed, flip the chicken over and flatten it using the palm of your hand.