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Chicken Parts & Cuts: A Complete Guide

Chicken Cuts / Chicken Parts

Chicken is the most popular poultry in the world and is a worldwide staple in nutrition. From getting chicken tenders as a kid to buying and roasting whole chickens to make a stock for your next soup, chicken threads its way into so many culinary cultures.

We hear terms like chicken breast, drumstick, thigh, and wing so often that sometimes we never stop to think of what they are because we are already so familiar with them.

Once you go beyond a basic understanding of chicken, however, a whole delicious world appears. It’s worth taking the time to understand what each chicken part and cut is and how that affects your cooking choices.

A chicken doesn’t have that many parts, but it gets a little confusing when multiple cuts together have their own label, so we have decided to divide these sections by the way people talk about these cuts the most. We cover basic uses, nutrition, and tips for each.

1. Chicken breast

Oftentimes what people try first, chicken breast is a white meat that is ideal for oven baking and pan-frying. It includes the strip used for chicken tenders, and it has the lowest fat content in the whole chicken. It is usually served boneless and is attached to the ribs.

Typical recipes and uses

Chicken breast is popular in salads, stir-fries, and fried chicken. The meat is relatively plain, so it is often paired with a sauce or rich marinade to impart some extra flavor.

Nutritional facts

One roasted, skinless, boneless, and cooked chicken breast (~100 grams) has [*]:

  • Calories: 165
  • Protein: 31 grams
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fat: 3.6 grams

Where to buy chicken breast

Breast meat is sold in packages and can be found in any supermarket, butcher, or organic farm.

Buy U.S. Wellness Meats’ pasture-raised chicken breasts online.

2. Chicken tenders

Chicken tenders are white meat and part of the chicken breast. It is the part of the breast that isn’t attached to the rib, making it easy to remove. They are coined “tenders” due to their location-derived texture. Muscles in meat that don’t move as often tend to be more tender (think filet mignon), and because this portion of the chicken breast doesn’t move as often, it is more tender.

Typical recipes and uses

One of the ultimate kid foods, chicken tenders are fried staples in chicken joints and are often served with sauces like blue cheese, ketchup, and ranch.

Nutritional facts

Breaded, skin-on, boneless, and oven-baked chicken tenders (~100 grams) have [*]:

  • Calories: 293
  • Protein: 15.8 grams
  • Carbs: 18 grams
  • Fat: 17.7g grams

Note: If you are eating plain tenders, you can calculate the calories like normal breast meat. Because tenders are so often breaded, we included a general breaded nutrition breakdown to give you a ballpark reference. The type of breading, oil, sauces, etc. will all affect (and probably add to) the final nutritional breakdown.

Where to buy chicken tenders

Tenders are also offered in most supermarkets and butchers. You can also harvest your own chicken tenders from whole chickens or by buying whole breasts and removing the tender.

Buy U.S. Wellness Meats’ pasture-raised chicken tenders online.

3. Chicken wings

Along with chicken breasts, chicken wings are the other half of the “chicken forequarter”. Chicken wings are white meat and divided into the “wingette” and “drumette”, or wing and drum, more commonly.

Typical recipes and uses

Grilling, roasting, and frying chicken wings are the most popular way they are eaten. From wing contests to game days, chicken wings have become one of America’s most popular bar foods.

Nutritional facts

One roasted, skinless, and boneless chicken wing (~21 grams) has [*]:

  • Calories: 42.6
  • Protein: 6.4 grams
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fat: 1.7 grams

Where to buy chicken wings

Chicken wings are sold in separate packages in all major stores. They can also be taken from whole chickens, although this isn’t practical when eating wings exclusively. There are only two per chicken, after all!

Buy U.S. Wellness Meats’ pasture-raised chicken wings online.

4. Chicken drumstick

The drumstick comes from the chicken leg or hindquarters of the chicken. Each chicken has two legs that can be divided into two parts, the drumstick, and the thigh.

Drumsticks are considered “dark meat”, and the drumstick’s meat, in particular, is a characteristic pink. It is also juicier and fattier than the breast.

Typical recipes and uses

Drumsticks are dark meat and commonly grilled, oven-baked, or breaded. Marinating drumsticks in lemon garlic and oven-baking them is an easy and delicious way to enjoy them.

Nutritional facts

One roasted, skinless, boneless chicken drumstick (~44 grams) has [*]:

  • Calories: 76
  • Protein: 12.4 grams
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fat: 2.5 grams

Where to buy chicken drumsticks

Drumsticks are easy to buy from any major supermarket or meat distributor, and you can buy them as part of a whole chicken, as a pre-packaged set, or already in a marinade.

Buy U.S. Wellness Meats’ pasture-raised chicken drumsticks online.

5. Chicken thigh

A chicken thigh is the other half of the chicken leg, so it is also dark meat and renowned for being the juiciest part of the chicken. It is tender, flavorful, and usually cheaper than chicken breast.

Typical recipes and uses

Chicken thighs are used in everything. From casseroles to grilling, to oven baking, there is no limit. Take advantage of their juicy nature by cooking them low and slow.

Nutritional facts

One roasted, skinless, and boneless, cooked chicken thigh (~100 grams) has [*]:

  • Calories: 166
  • Protein: 20.5 grams
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fat: 8.7 grams

Where to buy chicken thighs

Chicken thighs are often the most popular choice for chicken lovers and therefore making it available almost anywhere.

Buy U.S. Wellness Meats’ pasture-raised chicken thighs online.

6. Chicken liver

Chicken liver is considered “offal“, which means organ meat. Livers are responsible for filtering toxins and are a central component of nutrient absorption. Because of this, livers are very nutritious.

Typical recipes and uses

Chicken livers have a metallic, unique taste and are often eaten pan-fried but are also popular as a pate — a type of spreadable paste.

Nutritional facts

Cooked, pan-fried chicken livers (~100 grams) have [*]:

  • Calories: 229
  • Protein: 34.3 grams
  • Carbs: 1.4 grams
  • Fat: 8.6 grams

Chicken livers are packed full of nutrients including iron, Vitamin B, antioxidants, and choline (great for brain health).

Where to buy chicken liver

Most supermarkets have a small selection of chicken livers, but if you don’t see them out you can always ask the butcher. They are the most popular offal on the chicken, so you shouldn’t have any issue finding some.

Buy U.S. Wellness Meats’ pasture-raised chicken livers online.

7. Chicken backs

Chicken backs are what is left of the chicken after the wings, breasts, and legs have been removed. They have high fat content, lots of bones, and a lot of marrow, making them ideal for chicken soup and stock.

Typical recipes and uses

While chicken backs do have meat, they are usually used to make chicken soup and/or stock instead of being meticulously picked apart. If you aren’t planning on making a soup, then you can obviously pick it dry, but we think it’s best fit for that purpose.

Nutritional facts

Roasted, with skin chicken backs (~100 grams) have [*]:

  • Calories: 301
  • Protein: 26.08 grams
  • Carbs: 0.0 grams
  • Fat: 21 grams

Where to buy chicken back

While some distributors do sell chicken backs, most major supermarkets don’t package them separately unless you make a specific request. You will most likely have to buy a whole chicken.

Buy U.S. Wellness Meats’ pasture-raised chicken backs online.

8. Chicken hearts

Chicken hearts are a delectable organ meat (offal) that have been eaten for thousands of years. They are chewy, musky, and considered dark meat.

Typical recipes and uses

Chicken hearts are often pan-fried alongside mushrooms and onions, but you can also eat them grilled on kabobs or even oven-bake them!

Nutritional facts

Cooked and simmered chicken hearts (~100 grams) have [*]:

  • Calories: 188
  • Protein: 26.8 grams
  • Carbs: 0.1 grams
  • Fat: 8 grams

Chicken hearts are also high in iron and zinc. Iron helps you transport oxygen throughout your body, and zinc boosts your immune system [*].

Where to buy chicken heart

Chicken hearts, like livers, are usually packaged in the giblets for a whole chicken, although you can find packaged chicken hearts in supermarkets as well.

Buy U.S. Wellness Meats’ pasture-raised chicken hearts online.

9. Chicken necks

Chicken necks are the section up from the torso until the gizzard and are sold as part of a whole chicken. Because there are a lot of bones and marrow in chicken necks, they are typically used to make soups and stocks.

Typical recipes and uses

Chicken necks are the secret behind good stocks. Don’t throw them away!

Nutritional facts

1 roasted chicken neck (~205 grams) has [*]:

  • Calories: 480
  • Protein: 54.9 grams
  • Carbs: 0.1 grams
  • Fat: 27.2 grams

Chicken necks, similar to the heart, are also high in iron and zinc.

Where to buy chicken neck

Chicken necks are rarely sold in packaged groups and are usually harvested from purchasing a whole chicken. Combine the neck with the back for a great stock!

Buy U.S. Wellness Meats’ pasture-raised chicken necks online.

The bottom line on chicken parts and cuts

Almost every bit of the chicken has a use, and we encourage you to jump into buying whole chickens if you haven’t already. Buying and carving your own chickens is more cost-effective, tastier, and gives you the opportunity to always have homemade stock around.

Of course, the best meals start with buying the best chicken possible. US Wellness Meats’ free-range chickens are raised on pasture with a salad bar of grasses, legumes, and insects. The limited amount of grain US Wellness Meats’ free range chickens consume is Non-GMO, and they are completely antibiotic and hormone-free.

You will never have a better-tasting chicken, we promise you that.

Try our free-range chicken parts today.


Nathan PhelpsNathan Phelps

Nathan Phelps is a writer, ethical foodie, and outdoors-aficionado hailing from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.