The F.N. Sharp Guide to Poultry Cuts
When it comes to poultry meat cuts, there is quite a variety of different types – from the most common like chicken, duck, and turkey, to the more unusual, like quail, partridge, pheasant, and goose. The good thing is that, despite the variations in size and flavor, all of these birds can either be cooked whole or broken down into the same basic cuts.
And when it comes to eating poultry, there are two types of people: those who fight for the dark meat and those who prefer nothing but the white meat. In this guide, we’ll go over the differences between the two and what part of the bird they come from.
How Poultry is Broken Down into Different Cuts
Whether it comes from a chicken, turkey, duck, quail or geese, poultry meat can be classified into two broad categories: white and dark. These different colored meats are actually different types of muscle.
The muscle groups that aren’t used for everyday activity get their energy differently than other muscles that are in almost constant motion. This is why the breast and wings of domestic birds are white and their legs dark, while game birds have darker meat overall. The poultry cuts most commonly served up are the wings, breasts, legs and thighs. Other pieces of the bird, such as the neck and ribs, can be separated out and used for making stock.
If you plan on breaking down a bird yourself, make sure you have the right knives for the job. At minimum, you’ll need a chef’s knife or utility knife, but a boning knife really comes in handy when breaking down a bird, especially if you’re preparing boneless cuts. A pair of heavy duty kitchen shears or a paring knife also come in handy for removing excess fat and skin.
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The Dark Meat Poultry Cuts
For dark meat, turn to the legs of the bird. Because most fowl do a lot of walking, these muscles are slightly different from the muscles of the breast. They’re richer in fat and minerals like iron, which gives them a slightly gamier taste and makes them excellent for robust dishes. The dark meat is also known to be much more tender and juicier than the white meat.
The two cuts of dark meat are the drumstick and the thigh, which are the first pieces to be removed when breaking a bird down into different cuts.
Drumsticks are a complex mass of small muscles, bone and connective tissue, which makes it impractical to debone them, but they’re still one of the most popular parts of the bird.
Poultry thighs, on the other hand, can be cooked bone-in or easily skinned and deboned, leaving a tender cut of dark meat that can be used in much the same way as the breast.
Thighs also don’t dry out as easily as the breasts, making them easier to cook. Try them in stir-fry and pasta dishes for a richer, more flavorful alternative to white meat cuts.
If your recipe calls for boneless chicken thighs, you can save yourself a little bit of money by deboning them yourself. Check out the video below to see how this is easily done using the F.N. Sharp boning knife!
Try Cooking Up Some Dark Meat With These F.N. Sharp Recipes
Sheet Pan Sambal Chicken & Potatoes
This sheet pan meal is just as easy to clean up as it is to put together!
Boneless chicken thighs, halved gourmet purple potatoes, sambal oelek and a little bit of soy sauce and spices all come together in this recipe that is sure to have the family asking for seconds – plus it’s made in just 30 minutes!
Paprika-Spiced Velouté Vermouth Chicken
This gourmet-at-home recipe calls for cooking up some sumac-crusted chicken in a bright and boozy sauce!
Boneless chicken thighs, chopped shallots, dry vermouth, homemade velouté sauce and spices all come together in this gourmet-at-home meal.
Instant Pot Butter Chicken
This Instant Pot recipe will land on your plate in less than 15 minutes!
Boneless chicken thighs, diced red onion, sliced green onion, diced ginger, diced garlic clove, fire roasted crushed tomatoes, butter, cream, garam masala and spices all come together in this Instant Pot butter chicken recipe!
The White Meat Poultry Cuts
Now that we’ve got the dark poultry meat out of the way, let’s talk white meat, which comes from the breast and wings. White meat is lower in fat and calories but is also milder in flavor than its dark meat counterpart, making it an excellent choice for combining with subtle flavor profiles.
More on Flavor Profiling: The F.N. Sharp Guide to the Basic Elements of Cooking
To keep white meat from drying out during the cooking process, avoid dry heat – and don’t be afraid to add a little fat. Spreading a little bit of herbed butter or olive oil over the surface will help infuse flavor to the white meat cuts – or you can opt for wrapping the breast and wings in bacon for an even more decadent dish.
More on Seasoning: The Meat Seasoning Guide
When purchasing chicken breasts, you’ll find a few different options to choose from, including boneless breasts and bone-in split breasts. The price you pay depends on the cut you choose, so if you want to save yourself some money (and prepare poultry like a pro), then buy those breasts bone-in and check out the video below to see how to debone them yourself.
And if you plan on making some chicken wings, you can also save some money by buying them still intact and checking out the video below on how to separate them into drumettes and winglets (or drums and flats).
Try Cooking Up Some White Meat With These F.N. Sharp Recipes
Basil and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breast
Stuff some bellies with this stuffed chicken recipe!
Boneless chicken breasts, creamy ricotta cheese, fresh basil, diced yellow onion, freshly grated parmesan, lemon juice, egg yolk, oregano, salt and pepper all come together in this delicious skillet-to-oven recipe!
Instant Pot Asian Honey Chicken
Grab the Instant Pot and some boneless chicken breasts for this sweet and spicy Asian honey chicken recipe!
Boneless chicken breasts, sliced carrots, halved brussels sprouts, chopped shallots and Asian spices all come together in this deliciously healthy and easy recipe!
Paleo Chicken Sauce Tomat
Trying to eat a little healthier but craving Italian fare? Look no further than this Paleo chicken recipe!
Boneless chicken breast, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, diced tomatoes, diced celery and carrots, baby arugula, homemade tomato sauce and Italian herbs all come together in this healthy recipe.
Greek Lemon Chicken Kabobs With Talatouri Sauce
Fire up the grill and go Greek with this bright and fresh recipe!
Cubed boneless chicken breasts, sliced red onion, grated English cucumber, Greek yogurt, lemon juice and spices all come together in this recipe for Greek Lemon Chicken Kebabs with Talatour dipping sauce.
Grilled Chicken and Peach Saltimbocca Kebabs
Italy’s classic Saltimbocca dish doesn’t have to be reserved for restaurant menus!
Cubed boneless chicken breasts, white wine marinade, folded prosciutto slices and cubed peaches add fresh and bright flavors to this quick and easy chicken kebab recipe.
Instant Pot Arroz con Pollo
Spice up your weeknight meals with this chicken and rice recipe, made easy in the Instant Pot!
Whole, boneless chicken breasts, diced poblano and bell peppers, diced red onion, roughly chopped green olives, frozen baby peas, basmati rice and spices all come together in this Instant Pot recipe for Arroz con Pollo!
The White and Dark Meat Blends
What do you get when you put the white and dark meat together? A recipe for making your own ground poultry! Sure, buying ground chicken or poultry at the store is easy enough, but grinding it up yourself is just as easy when you have a sharp knife on hand!
When grinding up your own poultry, try using a combination of breasts and thighs, like 2 pounds of breast to 3 pounds of thighs, or vice versa. Also be sure to remove the skin and any connective or tough bits that may not cook very well (or taste very good).
To grind up your own poultry using a knife, first trim off any excess fat and skin, then place in the freezer for about an hour so it’s easier to slice. Then, with your slightly frozen poultry placed on your cutting board, angle your knife about 45º and begin making slices measuring ¼ of an inch in width and without cutting all the way through. You’ll want to leave about ¼ of the meat still intact, then flip it over and repeat the slices in the opposite direction.
Next, you’ll make vertical slices to create a checkered pattern, then repeat the process with all breasts and thighs you plan on using. Then, gather them all together in a pile on your cutting board and perform a rough chop in different directions and voila – you’ve got ground poultry!!
Try Grinding Up Some Poultry for These F.N. Sharp Recipes:
Asian-Style Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Brighten up your meals with this Asian turkey lettuce wrap recipe!
Ground turkey, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, sesame and olive oil, sambal oelek, lettuce leaves, sliced scallion, diced cucumbers, sliced radishes, fresh herbs and edible flowers all come together in this deliciously healthy recipe!
Smoky and Spicy Instant Pot Turkey Chili
Get some delicious chili on the table in less than 30 minutes with this Instant Pot recipe!
Ground turkey, black beans, corn kernels, and diced red onion, green pepper, shallots, jalapenos, tomatoes and garlic all come together with a medley of spices in this smoky and spicy turkey chili!
Chicken & Veggie Potstickers with Spicy Sesame Dipping Sauce
Skip the takeout and grind up some chicken for these potstickers with spicy sesame dipping sauce!
Ground chicken, grated ginger, finely sliced scallions, roughly chopped Napa cabbage, diced garlic, tamari sauce, mirin, sesame oil and spices all come together in this seriously delicious recipe!