Birds of a Feather: The Bashed Guide to Chicken

By Carolyn Stine June 5, 2019 

The bird, the whole bird, and nothing but the bird.

Justin Timberlake brought sexy back. We’re bringing chicken back.

Gone are the days of routinely buying pre-packaged chicken breasts at Whole Foods. Gone are the days of cooking said breasts in a pan with some garlic salt and throwing them on top of our salads and grain bowls as an afterthought. There is so much more to the chicken than the breast, and we’ve made it our mission here at Bashed to take a deep dive into all of the parts of this delicious bird, and how we can go about cooking it in the most interesting and informed way possible.

We’re taking a bird’s eye view (pun intended) of the whole chicken, and have broken down the different parts of the bird, what they taste like, and how you can enjoy them, both individually and when you’re cooking the entire bird (we promise, it’s less daunting than you think!). So strap in, sit back, and get ready to get your hair blown back by all that the humble chicken has to offer.

Bashed Guide to Making Chicken

Meet The Chicken

Chicken Breast

Also known as, the homecoming queen of the chicken. The breast is by far the most popular cut of the bird, and also the most lean. You’re looking at pure white meat here, people. The breast can be purchased with or without the bone, and with or without the skin. You’ll also see the breast pounded thin sometimes, such as in a chicken milanese dish.

One of our favorite preparations of the chicken breasts is simmered in a rich marsala sauce with meaty mushrooms, dry wine, and prosciutto for an extra salty bite. The sauce keeps the breast moist, as this is the part of the chicken that often dries out most easily because it’s so lean.

 

Chicken Thigh

Also known as, our favorite part of the chicken (shh don’t tell the drumsticks). Bone-in thighs are easily some of the meatiest, juiciest parts of the bird, and they are 100% dark meat. Roasting the thighs and getting a good golden brown color on the skin is our favorite way to make the most of this cut.

Herb roasted chicken thighs with thyme, rosemary, and lemon are out-of-this-world flavorful, and we love that the dark meat thighs stay incredibly juicy in this preparation.

 

Chicken Drumstick

Also known as, the most fun to eat. Did anyone else used to fight over the drumsticks with their siblings as a kid? They have more meat on them than wings, and they are pure dark meat so they pack a major flavor punch. Drumsticks are on the bone, and best picked up and eaten with your fingers (extra napkins required).

Speaking of being a kid again, was there a condiment that you loved more than honey mustard? Well, this honey mustard baked drumstick recipe combines dijon and whole grain mustard with honey and fresh garlic to create an upgraded version of the childhood classic.

Bashed Guide to Chicken

Chicken Leg

Also known as, the thigh and the drumstick together. You’ll often see chicken legs being sold at your local grocer or butcher, and they’re a bigger cut because they leave the thigh and drumstick connected, as they naturally are in the bird. These are all dark meat, on the bone, and when prepared correctly, are insanely juicy and provide a large portion of meat.

We love roasting and pan-searing our chicken, but how about grilling it? A triple threat combo of soaking these legs in lemon juice, marinating them in yogurt and spices like cardamom and turmeric, then charring them on the grill makes these tandoori-style chicken legs irresistible.

 

Chicken Wings

Also known as, Sunday football with a cold beer. We all know and love wings, but they often get a been there, done that rap for their typical Frank’s hot sauce marinade and blue cheese dip on the side. The truth about wings is that there is not much meat on them, they are higher in fat, and they are fun to eat off the bone. But there are oh so many more ways to cook them than what you can get at your corner sports bar.

Enter: chili-lime baked wings. We love this fresh flavor combo, which features the zest of three full limes, spicy chili powder, and sweet honey for the perfect ooey-gooey sauce.

 

Whole Chicken

Also known as, intimidation ground zero. We are huge fans of cooking a whole bird for a number of reasons. First off, it is infinitely easier than you think it is. Second off, it is an excellent tool for meal prep, as you can enjoy the bird for dinner and also cut it up to serve over salads and grain bowls for lunch during the week. Thirdly, it is the most cost effective option you can purchase, and also creates the least waste because you utilize the whole bird.

We all have our mom’s quintessential roast chicken recipe (our mom rubs the skin with garlic and butter, yum!). But our current favorite way to roast a bird is using this buttermilk-marinated roast chicken recipe from Salt Fat Acid Heat. Marinating the chicken in buttermilk tenderizes it to the hundredth degree, and it could not be more easy to throw the whole bird in the oven and take it out an hour later without having to think about it.

Bashed Guide to Cooking Chicken

Chicken Carcass

Also known as, what on earth do we do with this? When thinking about roasting a whole chicken, we can easily get to the end of the week, having polished off the meat, and want to dump the leftover carcass in the trash. But that would be discarding one of the most flavorful and valuable parts of the bird, and in the name of sustainability and wasting less, we implore you to hold onto that carcass!

The no-brainer way to use up this last part of your whole chicken is to turn that carcass into fresh chicken stock. Water, with the addition of a few aromatics (think carrots, onion, celery), fresh herbs, and your chicken carcass magically becomes a rich stock. You can freeze the stock in quart containers and defrost anytime you want to make a fresh pot of soup at home.

Have a favorite story from cooking chicken in your own kitchen? Share the good, the bad, and the ugly with us in the comments below!

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Carolyn Stine

A party without cake is just a meeting.

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