The Worst Cut Of Chicken You Can Buy

We all know that chicken is one of the cheaper meats you can buy at the grocery store. The National Chicken Council claims that it has been consistently cheaper than both beef and pork since at least the 1960s. But even among different cuts of chicken, the cost per pound can be radically different, and it's possible you're not considering the whole picture when you compare those price tags at your local grocery store. In 2017, The Kitchn broke down the average cost of different cuts of chicken per pound based on USDA data, compared the average amount of edible meat in each option, and adjusted the prices based on the percentages of edible meat.

The Kitchn found the worst cut of chicken based on the meat-to-price comparison was the boneless breast. They say that boneless chicken breasts, while 100 percent edible, cost $2.96 per pound on average in grocery stores across the United States in 2017.

Why chicken breasts are the worst cut to buy, money wise

Wide Open Eats notes that the news that chicken breasts are the worst value for your buck likely doesn't come as a shock to anyone who routinely buys chicken based on its per-pound cost, and says the reason chicken breast is so expensive compared to other cuts is that it is incredibly popular. The outlet asserts that people in the United States choose to buy chicken breasts over other cuts of the bird regardless of the price, so stores tend to discount them less.

Identifying the best cut of chicken to buy also depends a little bit on what you are planning to do with it. The Kitchn states that if you take the bones into consideration, some of the cheaper chicken cuts begin to become more expensive than they appear due to the weight of the bones. If you're someone who makes their own stock from every whole chicken they take home, then yes, a whole bird is the way to go, but that's not always a good idea if you don't plan to use as much of it as possible. 

The cheapest cut of meat, per pound

If you're only going for meat, you're really just throwing out money if you buy a whole chicken because only about 65 to 70 percent of it is edible, placing the 2017 price at $1.65 a pound.

The actual cheapest cut of chicken per pound of edible meat is the whole chicken leg. The Kitchn found this cut was 70 to 75 percent edible and cost an average of $1.36 per pound. If you've never cooked chicken legs before, it's understandable to be a little intimidated by them. The Kitchn states that you can cook the legs whole or separate the thigh from the drumstick and cook these parts alone. Separating them at home shouldn't be difficult, but a grocery store butcher can also do it for you. Chicken legs are a little tougher than other cuts, but their dark meat will reward you with a ton of flavor, and that meat will be ultra-moist if cooked properly.

The best way to cook your chicken legs

So you're interested in cooking chicken legs and saving money, but have absolutely no idea what to do with them. The Kitchn states that you can't just cook this part in any way, as the legs are tougher and more fatty than other chicken cuts. Luckily, chicken legs are used in a variety of cuisines and can be prepared using a ton of different methods, with a recipe out there for everyone.

Looking to roast chicken? Bon Appetit has you covered with a super garlicky dish. The New York Times offers some advice on the best way to braise whole chicken legs with easy swaps to customize their recipe to suit your needs. Food & Wine grills chicken legs marinated in yogurt and spices for a tandoori inspired meal. Of course, there's always the southern classic buttermilk fried chicken — check out the video Tasty made, which prepares this dish using a skillet instead of a deep fryer.

Once you decide what recipe to use, you may need to separate the chicken leg into two pieces and debone the thigh. Serious Eats has a handy step-by-step guide with pictures, breaking down the whole process. All you need is a sharp knife and you're well on your way to becoming your own butcher.

Equipped with a few go-to recipes and some simple butchering skills, cooking chicken legs can be just as easy as using other (more pricey) cuts of meat.