Nothing is quite like that first bite of a perfectly crispy chicken. The crunch, the umami kick! If something is this good, it has to be bad for you, right? Then you see other people carefully peeling the chicken skin off the meat. You stop and ask yourself, “Should I be doing that, too?” Yes and no, depending on what you consider “healthy.”
Recent studies have shown that the skin isn’t as unhealthy as most people think. Happy with that good news? Read on to learn more.
Chicken Skin is High in Unsaturated Fats
This is what doctors call “the good kind” of fat. It's what you should include in your diet (but still in moderation!) because they benefit your heart health. Here's another surprise: Unsaturated fats can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
The skin also has omega-3, -6, and other fatty acids that are just as favorable for your overall well-being. Plus, leaving the skin on keeps your chicken more moist and flavorful. That means needing less salt to season dishes. Win-win!
But It’s Higher in Calories
If you're looking to cut calories, however, it’s a different story. Leaving the skin on the chicken raises its calorie count. How you cook your chicken also matters. Frying chicken, for example, increases its fat content, adding even more calories to your meal. A piece of fried skin-on chicken breast has around 268 calories, while a roasted portion only has 165.
Now armed with this knowledge, you can make a wiser decision on how you define “healthy” and what you should do with that fried chicken skin. To peel or not to peel?
I Took The Skin Off, Now What?
So you took the skin off your chicken. There are now only two ways forward: eat it or use it to make chicken stock.
If you choose the latter, start by throwing your leftover bones and extra skin into a pot with water. Add your preferred vegetables, like celery, carrots, and onions. Simmer for a few hours, then strain the chicken parts and veggies. Use the stock for making soups and sauces you can store for a rainy day. Try seasoning it with fresh herbs, ground spices, or Knorr Liquid Seasoning for an umami boost.
To make healthier crispy chicken skin, bake or air-fry it! Remember to pat it dry and remove all moisture to ensure a crunchy product. Toss it in some barbecue powder or serve with sinamak to balance flavors.
Healthy Skin-on or Skinless Chicken Recipes
Whether you decide to remove or keep the skin, here are some healthy chicken recipes you can add to your weekly dinner rotation.
Making chicken fajitas is speedy, simple, and healthy. Start by marinating the chicken with some fajita seasoning (make this yourself or buy mixes) at least an hour before cooking. When ready, sauté the chicken with bell peppers and onions. If you kept the skin on, make sure you cook it until crisp. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice and serve with some pico de gallo, beans, corn, and avocado. Got leftovers? Turn them into quesadillas the next day.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Poaching is one of the healthiest methods to cook chicken. This technique also keeps the meat moist and juicy. One example is Singaporean chicken rice.
To make, poach your skin-on pieces in a pot of water with garlic, ginger, and spring onions. Set your cooked chicken aside and season the broth to taste. Scoop out the aromatics, fry them until fragrant, then add uncooked rice. Add a drizzle of sesame oil and some of the poaching broth. Cook until the rice is fluffy. Serve your chicken with rice and hot broth for a complete meal.
Grilled Chicken Skewers
Grilling chicken skewers leaves them with a nice charred flavor, and cooking without oil makes them a healthy ulam option. Slice skin-on or skinless chicken into cubes and marinate in lemon juice, oregano, and garlic. Leave to sit for at least 30 minutes, then thread your chicken into skewers. Grill to golden perfection, and serve with tangy tzatziki, a Greek salad, and some toasted flatbread.
Whole Roasted Chicken
Roast chicken is a classic for many reasons. Making it is also so much easier than most people think. A top tip for the tastiest version? Salt your bird the day before. This step produces the juiciest roast that leaves the meat falling off the bones. For extra crispy skin, skip the olive oil and pat your chicken dry before cooking. Serve with roasted veggies and gravy made from the drippings. The next day, you can have the leftovers in a salad, soup, pasta, or sandwich.
Whether you remove your chicken skin or choose to keep it on, remember that everything is okay in moderation. So don’t feel too guilty, and treat yourself to that extra crunch whenever you want!