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- What’s in Chicken Meat?
- What Is the Difference Between White Meat and Dark Meat?
- Which Part of the Chicken Is White Meat?
- What Are the Best Methods for Cooking White Meat?
- 8 Recipe Ideas for White Meat chicken
- Which Part of the Chicken Is Dark Meat?
- What Are the Best Methods for Cooking Dark Meat?
- 5 Recipes Ideas for Dark Meat Chicken
What’s in Chicken Meat?
Chicken meat is made up of two basic types of muscle fibers: white fibers, which are used for short, quick movements, and red fibers, which are used for prolonged movements, such as standing. White muscle fibers rapidly convert carbohydrates from within the fibers themselves into energy, whereas red muscle fibers are fueled by fat—some of which comes from within the fibers, and some of which comes from the bloodstream. Red muscle fibers get their color from the proteins that help convert this fat into energy, such as myoglobin, which is purple and full of iron. Because they contain fat and proteins, red fibers are more flavorful than white. Most muscles aren’t simply red or white—they contain a combination of both types of fibers.
What Is the Difference Between White Meat and Dark Meat?
When it comes to chickens, we refer to muscles containing mostly white fibers as white meat, and muscles containing more red fibers as dark meat.
- White meat, found in the breasts and wings, contains about 10% red fibers. This part of the chicken is lean and mild in flavor, and dries out easily if overcooked.
- Dark meat chicken contains around 50% red fibers and is found in chicken legs, which are more flavorful and juicy, and can be cooked longer.
- Light meat contains slightly fewer calories than dark meat, which has a higher fat content—almost 3 extra grams of fat per 100 grams of meat, according to the USDA Nutrient Database—and more than twice the amount of saturated fat.
- White meat has a little more protein than dark, and while dark meat contains higher levels of zinc, iron, and vitamin C, white meat has more B vitamins, specifically niacin (vitamin B-3) and pyridoxine (vitamin B-6).
- Whether your meat is light or dark isn’t the only thing that will affect chicken flavor and cook time: If you leave the skin on, you’ll add fat (and flavor!). Bones slow down cooking as well.
The bottom line? While white meat might be a better choice for those following a low-fat, heart-healthy diet, eating a variety of both white and dark meat—such as from a whole chicken—will ensure you’re getting the full range of flavors and nutrients that chicken has to offer. An easy way to remember the flavor differences between light and dark chicken meat is that light meat tastes light—it’s milder in flavor, whereas dark meat is fattier and tastes more chicken-y.
8 Recipe Ideas for White Meat chicken
What Are the Best Methods for Cooking Dark Meat?
Roasting, braising, frying are great options for fattier dark meat. The advantage of dark meat is that it’s almost impossible to overcook—the muscles are tougher and need a longer cooking time to tenderize, and the extra fat melts when exposed to heat, keeping dark chicken meat juicy.