Kiss Those Tasteless, Boring Chicken Breasts Goodbye

chicken breasts
Sigh. For people who don't like flavor.
Know what chefs of this country's finest restaurants think about boneless, skinless chicken breasts? (Hint: It isn't pretty.)

Eric Ripert, chef at Le Bernardin: "I'm not a fan of the chicken breast."

Alain Sailhac, dean emeritus of The French Culinary Institute in New York City and former chef at Le Cirque: "I don't much like the breasts."

Zak Pelaccio, chef at Fatty Crab: "I don't cook a lot of chicken breasts."

Scott Conant, chef at Scarpetta: "I don't ever make [his olive oil-poached chicken breasts] at home. And if I did, I'd use thighs."

Outside of chain restaurants, most chefs worth their salt don't bother with chicken breasts, never mind the boneless, skinless variety. It's not just the ones quoted above by food writer Melissa Clark, either. I can't remember the last time I saw chicken breast on a menu. Why aren't chefs breast men? Are they on to something? 

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Of course they are! Boneless, skinless chicken breast is dry and flavorless. I avoid it like the plague. And yet, 60 percent of the grocery store chicken purchases in America are of the birds' breasts. Scroll through chicken recipes online and you'll see breast, breast, breast.

So why are these mundane pieces of meat so popular with the masses? Two reasons:

  1. They're easy to deal with: no bones, no reminders that this was once an animal.
  2. They have the reputation of being healthier than other parts of a chicken.

First of all, if you're a meat-eater who cannot face the reality that what you're eating used to walk around and squawk, you have no business eating meat. Seriously, wouldn't it be nice to get over that?

But here's the real difference between white meat and dark meat: myoglobin. Dark meat has more of this oxygen-carrying protein because these are the parts of the chicken that move around.

Otherwise, the difference between dark and white meat is minimal. Let's look at the numbers:

  • 4 oz. chicken breast: 110 calories, 2.5 g fat
  • 4 oz. chicken thigh: 110 calories, 4 g fat

That's right. You are sacrificing deliciousness for 1.5 g of fat. But wait, it gets worse: Because that chicken breast is so dry and tasteless, you have to doctor it up. You have to make a sauce, or a marinade, or poach it in olive oil. And guess what? That adds calories AND prep time. You're actually tricking yourself into eating more calories and spending more time in the kitchen when you cook chicken breasts. And let's not even go into the premium you pay for bland, sandy breasts.

Even if you still want to avoid bones and the fat in the skin, do yourself a favor: Look for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. If your grocer doesn't carry them, request them. Dark meat will make you feel more satisfied after a meal, so you're less likely to snack on junk afterwards. It's higher in minerals and vitamins. You hardly need to do anything with thighs -- just saute with some herbs. Chop them up, and your kids who supposedly don't like dark meat won't even notice. Need I go on?

Are you ready to go to the dark side of chicken?


Image via cbb4104/Flickr

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