Chicken is inexpensive, easy to find, and simple to cook. Nearly every culture has unique ways of utilizing the different cuts of chicken. In the Philippines, some of the most popular are adobo, arroz caldo, tinola, inasal, and piaparan. Most of these use common chicken parts like the breast, legs, and wings, but what about the remaining cuts? There’s no reason for the ribs, neck, or feet to go to waste – these parts still have lots to give!
Read on to learn how to cook every single part of this well-loved poultry and what recipes you can use them in.
The Popular Chicken Parts
1. Chicken breast
The most popular but also the most expensive cut is chicken breast. This is the lean boneless white meat from the pectoral muscles. Suggested cooking methods are grilling, baking, roasting, frying, or barbecuing.
Breast meat is good for one-bowl dishes like arroz caldo, so you don’t need to worry about trying to cut the meat or biting into bones. Add a few chunks to your Knorr Hot Meals Instant Arroz Caldo to make it even heartier. Make sure to slice the breast into bite-sized pieces before cooking. Another option is to boil or pan-fry it as one piece and then shred it before mixing it into your arroz caldo.
2. Chicken thighs
If you prefer dark meat, this is the part for you. Luckily, this is also one of the cheaper chicken cuts you can buy. The thigh is a cut of dark meat taken from the top half of the leg, just above the knee joint. You can buy them filleted or bone-in. The former requires less cooking time, but bone-in thighs provide more moisture and result in a tastier product.
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are perfect to use in dishes like tinola. This dish involves cooking low and slow, allowing the bones and skin to lend more flavor. When cooked properly, the chicken almost falls off the bone.
3. Drumsticks and wings
A drumstick is the chicken leg part minus the thigh. The chicken wing is easily recognized and has two parts to it. The first is the mini drumstick; the other half has two bones connected by some juicy white meat. Both cuts are also on the cheaper end.
These parts shine best in meals that use your hands due to the small bones. Think fried chicken or barbeque! Because these cuts are also bone-in, their meat absorbs the flavor of the bones, making them tasty and tender. You can marinate them and grill, or dip them in eggs, dredge them in flour, and fry them until golden.
The Underrated Chicken Cuts
1. Chicken neck
Some of the most flavorful parts of the chicken are often the most neglected. On top of the list is the very affordable chicken neck. Although they don’t have much meat, these parts have lots of fat and skin that are perfect for crisping up. Chicken necks also have many bones, collagen, and connective tissue that pack a flavorful punch.
You can prepare them like typical fried chicken, add them to your adobo, or make them into stock. If you intend to cook the necks for eating, a good tip is to salt them liberally and then prep them via sous vide. This process helps render excess fat before cooking, resulting in crispier necks.
2. Chicken ribs
The ribs are the scapula bones of the chicken. This cut has a more meat-to-bone ratio when compared to wings or drumettes but has the same flavor payoff for being close to the bone. Essentially white meat, the ribs also have the same nutritional value as breast meat.
You can use this cut in stews like chicken afritada or chicken caldereta. The bones will impart more flavor to the dish, while the white meat makes it a healthier option.
3. Chicken feet
The feet might not look like the most appetizing part of the chicken, but they are considered a delicacy in many Asian countries. Why? Because even if they're just bone and cartilage with no meat, the feet contain a lot of flavor.
But before cooking, they must be prepared and cleaned well. Make sure you remove all the yellow skin and then rinse in water. You can also remove the nails with a knife or a pair of scissors, but this is optional. Once the feet are clean, you can cook them or use them to make a thick, collagen-rich chicken broth.
Cooking chicken feet usually requires a three-step process of deep-frying, braising, and simmering in your chosen sauce. These steps help make the skin puffy and the cartilage gelatinous. Chicken feet work well in a dish like adobo because they will absorb its delicious umami-filled sauce.
Utilizing all chicken parts is a practical way of introducing nose-to-tail cooking at home. This means minimizing waste and maximizing every part's full potential. Be sure to keep this in mind next time you buy a whole chicken, and use this article as a guide to making the most of it. Para sarap to the bones talaga!