The Absolute Best Type Of Chicken To Pair With Dumplings

Chicken and dumplings — a staple recipe of the American South — has had plenty of variations throughout its long history, but mirepoix, roux, and chicken are pretty much constants when it comes to the base. Still, according to Mashed recipe developer Stephanie Rapone, not all chicken cuts are created equally, and one is best suited to her classic chicken and dumplings recipe by far: chicken thighs.

The chicken used in this dish should be seared before being added back into the stew afterward. Chicken thighs are particularly well-suited to this treatment. They stay moist even when coming back up to temperature and simmering away until tender in part because they are fattier than many other parts of the chicken. More fat equals more flavor and helps to keep the meat from drying out.

Wondering if you can opt for a hunk of boneless chicken breast instead? No way, according to Rapone, who says, "I wouldn't do breast meat/white meat only because it will end up just overcooking and being dry when you reheat it with the dumplings." Luckily, chicken thighs also tend to be more affordable than chicken breasts, so they're a great choice all around.

Cooking with chicken thighs

For this recipe, Stephanie Rapone recommends skinless, boneless chicken thighs. If you can only find thighs with the bone or skin included, you have a few options. If you're on the squeamish side and don't want to deal with bone and skin removal yourself, you can ask your grocery store's butcher to remove them before you buy the chicken. Sadly, because the chicken was weighed and priced with the bones and skin, you will likely end up paying for them all the same. Another option is to remove the skin at home and cook the chicken thighs bone-in, then remove the bones after cooking; some even say bone-in chicken thighs have more flavor than boneless, but this will add a bit more prep and cook time to the recipe. 

To prep the chicken thighs, blot them dry with a paper towel, and season them with salt. Pop them into heated cooking oil in a Dutch oven, and allow the meat to get a nice brown color on both sides, then put your seared thighs on a plate to the side. The chicken will then be returned to the pot once the broth base is ready and simmered until it is cooked through and tender. Rapone recommends removing the chicken for a final time to cube it into bite-sized pieces, then adding it back in, along with the sumptuous dumplings, to complete the dish.