Food & Drink

For more flavor, forget the breasts and try chicken thighs

Leeks and carrots complement braised chicken thighs.
Leeks and carrots complement braised chicken thighs.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are mainstays in our freezers and refrigerators. I suggest you try an alternative — chicken thighs.

Home cooks can be as creative with chicken thighs as they are with breasts, and because thighs are dark meat, many will argue that they are much more flavorful.

Maggie Green, author of The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook, which will be released by The University Press of Kentucky in April, said she uses bone-in and boneless thighs for many recipes.

"They are from an exercised part of the chicken, so they are 'dark' and more flavorful," she said. "The reason I buy them is for the flavor. I do compare the cost and buy thighs for these purposes over breasts if they are less expensive."

Green likes to use boneless thighs to oven-fry, she said, and she includes a recipe in her new cookbook.

"I like to use bone-in thighs for chicken soup or chicken and dumplings. You get the bone, which is good for the body of the broth, plus the flavor of the meat, and the meat doesn't dry out when it's simmered for a longer time, as opposed to breasts that have a tendency to dry out. I usually compare the cost of the bone-in thighs versus a whole chicken and go for the less-expensive cut when making soup or chicken and dumplings.

Green likes bone-in thighs for braised chicken dishes such as cacciatore or curry.

"In most instances, bone-in are less expensive than boneless, and they again can cook for a bit longer in the 'stew' without drying out," Green said.

As with any chicken part, always use a thermometer to gauge doneness. Bone-in parts should reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees, boneless and skinless parts 160 degrees.

Fresh, not frozen, boneless, skinless breasts cost about $2.49 a pound, while bone-in thighs are $1.19 to $1.39 a pound. It takes only a few minutes to remove the bones from thighs. Here's how, from Cooks Illustrated:

■ With the thigh skin-side down, make a lengthwise incision down to the bone. Then work the knife blade around the bone to free it from the meat.

■ Crack the thigh bone in half with the back of a large chef's knife or cleaver. Pull out the bone.

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