Culinary Arts

All the Different Cuts of Chicken: Learn How to Use Each Part of the Chicken

Written by MasterClass

Jun 26, 2019 • 3 min read

A whole roasted chicken is the perfect way to showcase the contrasting flavors and textures from all the different parts of the bird, from the pope’s nose at the tail to the wings and thighs and on to the “oysters” between the back and the leg.

The better acquainted you are with meat, the more successful you’ll be cooking it. Here’s what to know about the world’s foremost fowl.

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What Is Chicken?

A chicken is the most common and widespread domesticated fowl in the world, thanks to its culinary versatility—you can roast, bake, grill, fry, and sauté it, for starters—and its low fat-to-high-protein ratio when measured against other meats like beef.

What Is the Correct Internal Temperature for Cooked Chicken?

Chicken is done cooking when its internal temperature reaches 165ºF (75ºC), regardless of cooking method, cooking temperature, and cut of meat—including white meat like chicken breasts and wings, and dark meat like drumsticks and thighs.

illustration of cuts of chicken

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The 6 Edible Parts of a Chicken

Done right, no matter the cut, chicken is tender, juicy, and has the crispiest skin around. Remember: when butchering, kitchen shears are your friend.

  1. The Whole Bird: Sometimes, the best cut is all of them. A roasted chicken is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Brush the chicken with clarified butter and season all sides with salt, then roast in a 475°F oven for 20–25 minutes. Reduce heat to 400°F and continue to roast another 30-45 minutes, until thighs and center of breast registers 160°F and the juices run clear. Let rest at least 20 minutes before carving.
  2. Chicken Breasts: The chicken breast is a lean cut of meat taken from the pectoral muscle on the underside of the chicken. Each whole chicken contains one chicken breast with two halves, which are typically separated during the butchering process and sold as individual breasts. Given its desirable white meat and health benefits, boneless, skinless chicken breast meat is the most expensive cut of chicken in comparison to chicken thighs, wings, and drumsticks, and can be grilled, baked, roasted, fried, barbecued, and boiled in countless ways.
  3. Chicken Legs (aka Leg Quarters): The chicken thigh is a cut of poultry taken from the top portion of the leg, above the knee joint that separates the thigh from the chicken drumstick. This is an entirely dark-meat portion of the chicken, and is one of the most affordable cuts of the bird in comparison to more costly white-meat pieces like chicken breasts. Cooking times and results can also differ depending on whether a chicken thigh still has its skin on and bones intact. Boneless chicken thighs require less cooking time, making them a faster option for weeknight dinner recipes. Bone-in chicken thighs will retain moisture and flavor better, making for a generally more flavorful and succulent final product, but they will require extra cooking time. Soak in buttermilk, dredge in seasoned flour and fry for crispy Southern fried chicken, or marinate with ginger, garlic, and lemon juice before you pan-sear.
  4. Chicken Wings: The chicken wing features two edible parts: the drumette, which resembles a smaller drumstick with white meat, and the flat, which contains tender white meat between two bones. Commonly known as bar food, chicken wings are also delicious when coated with a mixture of your favorite jam, balsamic vinegar, ground ginger and ground garlic and baked at 385°F, turning until skin is crisp and caramelized.
  5. The Bones: Put all your leftover chicken bones to work and make a versatile chicken stock or chicken broth. Light, golden chicken stock is the workhorse of restaurant kitchens. It’s used for cooking pasta and as a building block for sauces. Reduced and fortified, it can be turned into a delicious soup. “Light” describes its color, but it also means that it cooks for a relatively short time, around 45 minutes at a simmer. Start by cleaning your chicken parts thoroughly—necks, backs, legs and all—removing any blood bits, liver, heart, or other impurities. The cleaner your chicken, the brighter the flavors of your stock will be.
  6. The Fat: Schmaltz is rendered chicken fat. You can use the fat that accumulates on top of the stock in a variety of ways. Heating it over low heat to evaporate off all the water and straining it to remove impurities. You can roast potatoes or root vegetables with it, or make latkes with it. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 weeks and freeze after that.

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