Why Bobby Flay Likes To Use Skin On All-Dark Meat For Grilling Chicken

If there's anyone who knows his way around a grill, it's Bobby Flay; after all, this is the man who hosted the television series Hot Off the Grill, Grillin' & Chillin', Grill It!, and Boy Meets Grill. Clearly this is someone we can trust when it comes to giving the very best advice on grilling tips and tricks.

That's why when we came across a Food Network video of Flay grilling up some Tangerine-Maple Glazed Chicken, we sat up a little straighter in our seats. First of all, that flavor combination sounds delicious, and second of all, we knew good ol' Bobby would share some general grilling wisdom in addition to this fire-sounding recipe. 

We don't know about you, but although we love grilled chicken, we sometimes struggle with keeping it moist. Various things can help, including brining your poultry and cooking it over a moderate, not burning-hot, flame — but there's one method that Flay relies on to ensure perfectly juicy chicken that it pays to remember: using skin-on dark meat. Let's listen to the grill master himself about why he prefers to grill up drumsticks and thighs.

It's all about the fat

We've all been to countless cookouts where there's a pile of skinless, boneless grilled chicken breasts that look great from afar, but when sampled prove to be bone-dry. That's mostly due to white meat chicken's super-low fat content; one serving of skinless breast contains only about three grams of fat, compared to about nine grams of fat in a serving of skin-on chicken thigh (via VerywellFit). Those added fat pockets inside the dark meat's muscular structure melt when they hit heat, according to MasterClass, keeping dark meat chicken juicier than its white meat counterpart. Or, as Bobby Flay explains it in his Food Network video, "the dark meat is gonna have more flavor and more moisture than white meat." 

Another factor bringing fat to the game is Flay's choice to leave the skin on the chicken. "I like the crispiness of the chicken skin when you cook it correctly," he notes. We love that too — and, as the chicken skin cooks down over the high heat of a grill and renders most of its fat, that extra fat continually bastes the chicken meat below, keeping it juicy and tender (via the Los Angeles Times).

Flay keeps the bone in, too

So now that we understand why Bobby Flay prefers dark meat chicken with the skin on for grilling, let's take a look at why he also makes sure to select bone-in cuts. "When you keep the bone in, it has less of a chance to dry out," he explains in his Food Network video.

So why would that be? As the test kitchen experts at Cook's Illustrated explain (in an article that references bone-in breasts but which applies to dark meat cuts too), bones provide an extra layer of protection against a piece of chicken drying out too much. Why? A bone-in piece of chicken will be colder in the middle, which means it will take longer to cook; as it comes to temperature more slowly, it will be less prone to drying out.

That bone inside your drumstick or chicken thigh contributes to flavor, too, according to Bon Appétit. "When you cook chicken thighs with the bone in, the flavor that's housed inside the bone spreads out into the meat, leaving you with chicken with a deeper, meatier, more chicken-y flavor," the magazine explains. So take it from Flay: stick to skin-on, bone-in chicken cuts the next time you fire up the grill. Your BBQ guests will thank you.