Chicken is the go-to choice for easy menu planning. Boneless breasts and thighs make it possible for cooks to put a meal on the table quickly. Bone-in chicken parts, such as wings and drumsticks, add distinctive succulence to your dish. You may prefer one or the other -- boneless or bone-in chicken -- but each form has specific contributions to make to your menu.
Boneless breasts and thighs meet consumer demands for convenience. With minimal trimming, they can be readied quickly for dishes featuring chunks or finely chopped chicken. This makes it easy to expand menu planning to include Mediterranean, Asian and other specialty chicken dishes. Boneless chicken parts can be simmered, grilled or sauteed quickly; in fact, overcooking is the chief hazard to avoid when incorporating boneless chicken pieces into your recipes.
Some traditional cooks are firm on the matter: Chicken must be bone-in and skin-on for full-flavor. The fat imparted to meat by cooking chicken skin-on can produce a richness missing in boneless chicken parts. While you may skim the accumulated fat from homemade chicken soup, using bone-in chicken will give broth a gelatinous quality. Baked bone-in chicken parts have the taste and texture of whole roast chicken with a shorter cooking time.
Calories and Fat
Comparably sized portions of boneless and bone-in chicken are essentially the same in terms of protein and cholesterol. Substantial differences in fat content depend more on the presence of the chicken skin than on the bone. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, removing chicken skin reduces total fat by approximately two-thirds and saturated fat by three-quarters. The fat in the skin can make chicken tender as well as tasty, but you may prefer using skinless cuts with your own additions of healthier fat and moisture.
The USDA has established an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit as the safe level for cooking chicken. At 165 degrees, heat kills salmonella and other more minor food pathogens; this applies to both bone-in and boneless parts. Putting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest portion of the meat is the best way to measure safe internal cooking temperatures. According to USDA estimates, a boneless breast reaches that internal temperature in 20 to 30 minutes, while a bone-in breast yielding the same amount of meat may take 30 to 40 minutes. Boneless thighs can require 20 to 30 minutes, while bone-in thighs need 30 to 45 minutes.
The exact size of the pieces of chicken, other ingredients in your recipe and the total amount of food in your oven all factor into exact cooking time. Chunks of boneless breast in a thick sauce with vegetables, for example, need more cooking time than breasts cooked alone. Furthermore, at the safe 165 degrees F, chicken pieces may still show signs of pink, and thighs may still be more springy than tender. Internal temperatures of 170 degrees F for chicken breasts and 180 degrees for thighs assures that chicken looks and feels done.
- USDA Food Safety.gov: Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures
- The Kitchn: Money-Saving Tip: Buy Bone-In Meat
- National Chicken Council: The Nutritional Value of Chicken
- University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy: USDA: 165 Degrees is Magic Number for Safe Poultry
- Cooktime Info: Chicken
- Chicken Farmers of Canada: Chicken Cooking Times
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images