Bone-In vs. Boneless Chicken: What You Need to Know

Last Updated on March 19, 2024

When it comes to chicken, so often we reach for what we’re used to: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, wings, tenders, or whatever your favorite cuts are. And while there’s nothing with leaning on those cuts, there are times when you might be better served with something else. Here’s your guide to different cuts of chicken and when to choose each one.

Boneless, Skinless Chicken

It’s hard to beat boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenders or thighs for convenience. They need barely any prep, they cook relatively quickly, and they’re versatile. Plus, they’re leaner than their bone-in, skin-on counterparts.

Reach for boneless, skinless cuts in recipes that call for cut-up pieces of chicken, like soups, stews, pastas, stir fries and curries. They’re also a good choice for marinating, then grilling or baking — but watch them closely, as they’re more prone to overcooking than their bone-in, skin-on counterparts.

Another thing to consider: Price. Boneless, skinless chicken is typically more expensive than bone-in cuts of chicken because of the labor involved in preparing it for sale. It may be worth it for the convenience on busy weeknights, but if budget is a concern, it may help to swap bone-in, skin-on cuts some of the time.

Cuts and how to cook them

Boneless, skinless breasts:


Boneless, skinless thighs:

Bone-In Chicken

Cuts of bone-in chicken are versatile and varied; there are quite a few more than there are in the boneless, skinless category.

Along with the familiar breasts and thighs, there are drumsticks, wings and — one of our favorites — whole chicken.

These cuts tend to be less expensive than their boneless, skinless counterparts, since there’s less labor involved in processing them. But another advantage is that bone-in, skin-on cuts tend to be juicier and more succulent.

Bone-in cuts of chicken are often sturdier than their boneless, skinless counterparts, so they hold up to low and slow methods like braising and roasting. The bone serves a purpose: It helps keep the distribution of heat even. Plus, the skin both contains fat that falls into the meat while cooking, and protects the meat from drying out due to the heat of the oven or grill.

Cuts and how to cook them

Chicken thighs:



Whole chicken:

Bonus: Once you’ve enjoyed your whole chicken, use the carcass to make your own chicken stock. It’s nourishing and delicious, and it cuts food waste. Use it as a base for soup, to cook rice, to flavor sauces — or just sip a cup.