Chickens aren’t just for chasing at Mardi Gras: they’ve been a farming staple for centuries. As a result, chicken has earned its place at the heart of American and Cajun cuisine. The meat is incredibly versatile and complimentary, which makes it a great choice for chefs of any skill level. To really enjoy all of these options you should take a little time to learn more about the 8 different cuts.
Get More Bang for Your Cluck
For many, the easiest route to a chicken dinner is simply to preheat the oven, season a whole bird, and throw it in. While this is undoubtedly an easy and delicious dinner, there are many different ways to utilize the various cuts of chicken.
Chances are you’ve heard of all of these cuts, but you probably haven’t used all of them. Even if you are an experienced cook who has used all parts of the bird, there’s still more challenges to enjoy. You could cook something different every day and seemingly never run out of new things to try!
Breast meat comes from the front of the bird and consists of lean muscle. It’s where almost all of the bird’s “white meat” is found, which makes it a popular and common food item on tables throughout the country.
- Bone-in Breasts
Bone-in is generally the roughest cut for breasts and can include substantial amounts of skin, cartilage and connective tissue. Cooking the breasts this way allows the bone and other tissue to help keep the meat moist and flavorful, which is often a real challenge with white meat. These cuts of chicken are great for stuffing with your favorite ingredients: such as our ready-to-cook spinach stuffed chicken breasts.
- Split Breasts
A split breast is very similar to bone-in, except that it’s been split down the middle. It may be sold as a single half or a whole breast that’s simply been divided. Like whole bone-in breasts, there is some variety in this kind of cut, and it offers all the same advantages as a classic bone-in breast: the fat and skin attached to the meat make it easier to keep juicy and flavorful.
- Boneless/Skinless Breasts
This is what most people have in mind when they think of breast meat. They are a sight in almost every supermarket and a common ingredient in all kinds of food ranging from fried chicken to casseroles. They are a good choice when looking for pre-seasoned options or, if you have some extra time, you can marinate a boneless breast ahead of time. If you’re short on time, try one of our stuffed chicken breasts: they’re stuffed with cream cheese and jalapeno, wrapped in bacon, seasoned with our special seasoning blend, and ready for the grill or oven!
The tenderloin is a long and narrow muscle found beneath the breast muscles, so it’s similar in taste and texture. The finger-friendly size and shape makes it a perfect choice for breading and frying. A lot of backyard chefs are more than willing to make room for tenders on the barbeque too. They might dry out a little when overcooked, but tenderloins make for a sumptuous cut of white meat when you get it right!
A lot of poultry fans really enjoy dark meat, which is one of the reasons thighs are so popular. Cajuns in particular have a certain reverence for the thigh, as it’s the star ingredient in a chicken and sausage gumbo. Thigh meat is darker and contains more oil than breast meat, making it a juicier cut that’s much more forgiving when slightly overcooked. When marinated, the versatility of the thigh is virtually unrivaled, making it ideal for browning and using in gravies, jambalaya, or shish kabobs. The cut comes from the underside of the animal between the legs and wings, and is largely to thank for the popularity of our stuffed chicken thighs.
Another favorite for finger-food fans. It’s one of the few cuts of meat that comes with its own convenient handle and just enough meat for a few big bites. Drumsticks are the legs with the feet removed. The dark meat in this cut is friendly to heavy seasoning and marinades as well as grills and barbecues. It’s also one of the most popular cuts of chicken when fried!
Wings don’t make the meatiest cut, but they can still pack plenty of crunch and flavor. Wings may be served whole or divided into drumettes, which connect directly to the torso, and flats, which are the smaller piece closer to the wing tips. They are usually cooked briefly at high temperature and are a classic choice for game day and tailgating.
The heart, liver, kidneys and gizzards aren’t everyone’s favorite cut, but they have plenty of potential. In fact, many authentic Cajun recipes use chicken giblets. They can be cooked down into the food or simply used for flavor before being removed. The high concentration of iron in chicken giblets is responsible for the unique taste of rice dressing and can be found in both Best Stop and Savoie’s dressing mix.
Aside from being an excellent source of calcium, chicken necks are an awkward piece of meat with plenty of flavor. While they usually play second fiddle to their more substantial cousin: the turkey neck, they can make for a delightfully salty snack. They are also a great option for making soups, broths, and gravies.
Despite what you may expect from the name, chicken backs are mostly rib cage and torso. The cut is essentially everything that’s left after removing the other cuts. There’s some meat with a lot of bone and other tissues. It’s a staple for home-made chicken broths where it’s boiled down at high temperatures for at least a few hours, and their high fat content adds moisture to a dish.
Our Cuts of Chicken are a Cut Above
Cooking is for everyone and it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. If you want to be a person who is proud of their cooking, do yourself a favor and use amazing ingredients. The Best Stop is Louisiana’s one-stop source for chicken and Cajun specialty meats. We don’t just sell meat, we are here to help you discover a new love for cooking and food.