Boneless & Bone-in Chicken: How to Cook Both to Perfection 

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How much of a difference does the cut of your chicken make? Turns out, plenty! 

Picture this: you’re making your way down the meat aisle of your favorite local grocery store, looking for the chicken you’ll be taking home tonight. First off, there’s the choice of brand (ahem, we prefer Do Good Chicken™, ourselves). Once you’ve narrowed that down, there are still a plethora of cuts to choose from, from breast to wing. And then there’s the matter of skin or no skin, and, we’d argue, the biggest debate: bone-in or boneless?

There’s no single best way to cook chicken. We all have our tried and true methods (and we keep going back to them for a reason). But if you want to expand your skills, your recipe repertoire, and learn how to achieve the perfect cooked chicken–no matter what cut you’re working with–then this article is for you. 

Let’s bone up on our knowledge of chicken cuts – and learn how to make the most of them.

Bone-In, Skin On, Pan Hot.

Bone-in chicken comes in many different cuts, but each has something in common: they retain the bones and skin of the chicken. Many professional and home chefs alike prefer bone-in chicken because of the flavor the bone inparts into the meat, plus the crispy skin is often the main event of the dish. Chicken bones provide a robust, meaty flavor that complements many dishes and prevent moisture loss during the cooking process, resulting in naturally juicy meat.

Cons? Bone-in chicken typically takes longer to cook and isn’t quite as lean as boneless chicken. And while some people prefer the juicy, finger-licking flavor of bone-in chicken, others find it to be a messier option. 

When you’re deciding between boneless or bone-in chicken, the main considerations are cooking time and the style of the dish you’d like to make. If you’re brining, keep the bones for maximum moisture. But if you’re breading, consider boneless chicken for a faster (and just as delicious) result. 

Bone-in: How to Cook

When you’re all about the skin

If you’re looking to achieve a perfectly browned, crispy skin, choose bone-in chicken thighs. The bone-in thigh is perfectly sized and shaped to crisp up beautifully in a skillet—something that’s not as easy with whole chickens and other cuts. 

Simply season with salt and pepper and brown, skin-side down, in a hot, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. This process crisps the skin, but it also renders some of the fat out of the meat. Continue cooking in the oven for about 10 minutes until done (this technique is called braising). It’s flavorful, it’s crunchy, it’s simple. You can’t go wrong.

When flavor is the name of the game

To add extra flavor to bone-in chicken breasts and thighs, consider a brine or marinade to infuse extra flavor before oven roasting.  (If time permits, marinating your chicken overnight can do wonders for the final results. But we know how it is when you’re hungry, and a one-hour marinade certainly never hurt anyone.) 

When roasting, cook your chicken breasts bone-side down. Roast until the meat around the bone is no longer pink, the juices are running clear, and a meat thermometer registers 165℉. Bone-in chicken breasts and thighs typically have comparable roasting times (40-55 minutes), but this can vary largely depending on the size of your cut. Both bone-in breasts and thighs can stand up to longer cooking times without losing moisture. You can also achieve a perfectly crispy skin in the oven. If you’re working with bone-in chicken thighs, simply season them and roast skin-side up for ideal texture and flavor. Dark-meat lovers could also cook up some drumsticks, which perform especially well on the grill and in the oven. The possibilities are endless.

Boneless and Ready to Roast.

No bones about it, lots of cooks love boneless chicken cuts because they’re easier and faster to prepare. They’re typically a lower-fat option, especially if you remove the skin. Boneless, skinless chicken is also ideal for soups and stews because it’s much easier to cut or shred into soups and stews, and you don’t have to worry about removing the bone from the final product. 

Just like its bone-in cousin, boneless chicken can be marinated, grilled, and baked; just remember that boneless, skinless chicken cooks more quickly. Another thing to note is chicken breasts usually have one thicker end, so if you want your chicken to cook more evenly and reach the necessary 165℉ internal temperature, you might try tenderizing (pounding) the boneless breast to a more consistent thickness. A thinner and flatter piece of meat also means that herbs and spices will be absorbed more evenly across the surface of the chicken.

When shopping for boneless chicken, the most popular choices are chicken tenderloins (the tender chest meat of the bird), chicken breasts, and chicken thighs. Because tenders tend to be smaller and cook much faster than other options, they make an excellent choice for a quick and healthy weeknight meal.

Boneless: How to Cook

When you need food, stat

Because chicken breasts sans bones can dry out, it’s best to use the “fast and high” technique – cooking at high heat for a short amount of time. That means boneless chicken breasts are excellent in skillet dishes, stir-fries, and on the grill. If you want to bake your boneless chicken breasts or thighs, just season, bake (being sure to flip halfway through), and let your meat rest for at least five minutes after removing from the oven to ensure that it retains its juices. If you have more time, boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs can also be prepared using braising techniques; by baking or roasting; on the grill; or in stews, soups, and curries.

When you’re trying to up your veggie intake

Because boneless cuts release fewer juices than bone-in cuts, they can be cooked alongside your veggies and are a great choice for a sheet pan dinner. Choose veggies that cook for about the same time as your chicken, such as broccoli, carrots, squashes, and cherry tomatoes. We love sheet-pan meals for the ultra-fast cleanup and for the melding of flavors that occurs when foods are cooked together!

We hope you’re inspired to experiment and to maximize flavor and time by using the best chicken cut for your recipe. 

Bone Appetite! Get it?

Recipes for Using Boneless and Bone-In Chicken 

Make some Thai Chicken Chili Bites, the perfect recipe for our boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Our recipe for Baked Chicken Thighs with Hot Honey  is delicious with either bone-in or boneless chicken thighs. 
Bone-in or boneless, any cut of Do Good Chicken is gonna be good for plate and planet! For more amazing recipes, as well as where to find Do Good Chicken near you, visit our store locator tool and follow us on Facebook or Instagram.