Chicken is delicious in all kinds of dishes and cuisines, from Mexican fajitas to Indian curries to Thai soups. When cooked right, it’s beautifully juicy and tender, with a mild and appealing flavour that interacts well with an incredible array of spices and herbs. The main ways to cook chicken are roasting, pan-frying, broiling, grilling, deep-frying and poaching. Cooked chicken is also delicious served cold in salads, sandwiches and wraps.
Trim excess skin from around the chicken, to avoid them burning and causing flare-ups. Make sure chicken pieces are cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165°F (74°C). If you’re roasting a whole bird, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and thigh. If the thermometer reads 185°F (85°C), the meat is fully cooked.
Chicken is divided into three basic cuts, plus the giblets (or you can cook a bird whole).
And to help you stay on budget, we’ve broken down each category of meat into price ranges. The $ symbol indicates a more economical cut, and the * symbol means it’s premium.
$ The whole bird: The most economical way to enjoy chicken is to cook a whole bird and use it up over a few days. The leftover carcass will make the foundation for an excellent stock.
Try it: Braised Whole Chicken
* Breasts: Lean and versatile breasts can be bought with or without skin and bones, or unsplit (two breasts connected). Cook them whole – poached, baked, grilled or in a skillet – or cut them into strips before cooking in soups or stir-fries.
* Wings: Most often sold split into the drumette, midsection and tip. They need higher heat and/or longer cooking times because they are fattier than many other chicken cuts. Planning to watch the big game at your place? Serve up a heap of wings covered in finger-licking-good barbecue sauce.
Try it: Kickin’Chicken Wings
From the Leg
$ Drumsticks: Prepared with a simple marinade or barbecue sauce, drumsticks are budget-friendly finger food perfect for everyday dinners – and picnics!
Try it: Grilled Lemon & Garlic Chicken
$ Thighs: Incredibly juicy and flavourful dark meat – especially if you buy it bone-in.
From Various Cuts
$ Ground chicken: Ground flesh from various cuts of the bird, ground chicken is lighter in flavour and leaner than ground beef and can be used in meatballs, burgers, dumplings and meat loaf.
$ Giblets: The heart, liver and neck of the bird are all good stuff for different uses, such as gravy and broth. Chicken livers are delicious fried with onions or transformed into a rich pâté.
How to Carve a Whole Chicken Like a Pro
Let your chicken rest, tented under aluminum foil, for 10 to 15 minutes, before you get carving – it will retain more juices.
Hold your chicken in place on a carving board with a large (roasting) fork as you cut with a sharp carving knife.
To carve off the legs, cut down the side of the chicken, through the hip joint – the bones will pop out easily. For even smaller leg pieces, find the joint between the drumstick and the thigh and make another cut.
For the wings, cut through the wing joints with a firm action.
To remove the breast meat, place the bird on its back, and then cut down from the centre line to remove the flesh cleanly from the cartilage, one side at a time.
Tear the “oysters” – extra-juicy pieces of meat – from the back, just above the leg sockets.
Scrape juices and scraps (excluding fat and skin) from the carving board when you’re done, to add extra flavour to the gravy.