The humble chook is fast becoming the most popular item on Kiwi plates and why not? It lends itself to a great range of flavours and is just as at home on the barby as it is in Michelin star restaurants. Even the inexperienced can make a great dish with chicken. You just need to know which cut for which dish.
You can buy whole chickens fresh or frozen. They are great to roast, make a soup, create some good stock and of course to cut up into the other usable cuts. I love to pop them in an oven bag with some butter and herbs and put them in the oven for one hour and fifteen minutes. You can also butterfly a whole chicken until its flat and cook on the barbeque.
Commonly used chicken cuts
Boneless, Skinless Breast – Chicken breast to a cook is like blank canvas to an artist. The sky is the limit with this cut. It is all white meat and will take on the flavours, herbs and spices you add to it. You must make sure not to overcook it as it has no protection from the bone or the skin to keep it moist. Slice, dice, poach, stuff, panfry it but most of all treat it with care. Overcooked chicken taste like old rubber and nobody want to eat that!
Tenderloin – The white meat flap that swings off the breast. These are the most expensive cut of chicken and are really easy to work with. They are great for crumbing or sliced up and using in stir-fry. I really like to marinade them in some teriyaki sauce and throw them on the barbeque.
Whole chicken wing – Cheap and cheerful, the humble chicken wing is delicious when you give it a nice sticky sauce or steep it in a soy bath. It is an all-white meat portion that is super cheap to buy and great for parties where there are a LOT of people.
Boneless, Skinless Thigh – Chicken thighs are the tastiest of the chicken cuts and you can use them where you need the ultimate chicken flavor. They are perfect in soups and stews and can withstand longer cooking than the breast. They are inexpensive and really pack a flavor punch.
Drumsticks – Drumsticks are the chicken leg trimmed at the knee. These are very economical and are perfect for baking and cooking in marinades. This is the cut of chicken that has its own handle is often held by the bone to be eaten. You really need to ensure that the legs get cooked all the way through and this can be hard as this is pink meat even when it is cooked.
Chicken mince – This may be minced chicken breast or just chicken mince from the whole bird, either way it is highly convenient and you use it the same way you would use any other sort of mince. I love to get some Asian spicy flavours mixed into it and knock out a tasty burger.
Other cuts found in the chicken shop
- Halves – This is the cut you see at the rotisserie chicken shop but you will rarely find a recipe that uses a half.
- Whole chicken le g – The Whole Chicken Leg is the drumstick-thigh combination. This is sometimes referred to in Australia as the “Maryland”.
- Breast quarters – Halves may be further cut into which include the wing. A breast quarter, including portions of the back, is all white meat.
- Split breast – A breast quarter with the wing removed.
- Split breast without back – A breast quarter with wing and back portion removed.
Less commonly used cuts of chicken
- Wing drummettes – The first section between the shoulder and the elbow.
- Wing mid-section with tip – The flat centre section and the flipper (wing tip).
- Wing mid-section – The section between the elbow and the tip, sometimes called the wing flat or mid-joint.
- Boneless, skinless leg – Whole chicken leg with skin and bone removed. These are sometimes referred to as ‘lovely legs’ at your poultry supplier.
- Thigh – The thigh is the portion of the leg above the knee joint and includes the bone. These are sometimes referred to as thigh cutlets.
It is much cheaper per kilogram to purchase a whole bird and cut it yourself. If this makes you a little nervous, purchase a really good pair of poultry shears and use them to cut the chicken!