White And Dark Meat Chicken Parts & How To Use Them

Chicken, among rabbit and turkey meat, is considered white meat. However, not all parts are chicken meat. Some chicken parts are classified as dark meat. These different parts have different tastes, and textures and are used differently.

The differences between these two parts are not so wide but nutritionists applaud white meat over dark meat because of its higher protein content. Knowing the different parts of chicken meat and what they offer can help you curate a healthy diet.

This article details the different parts of chicken meat considered white meat. I’ll also discuss the dark meat chicken parts and all you need to know about them.

What is white meat?

White meat is a section of chicken meat that contains high-quality protein, few calories, and low fat. White meat also has more carbohydrates and less myoglobin.

The nutrient makeup in white meat supports its use for the bird. The white meat parts of a chicken are used for flight and are less worked, which is why they are white. This type of meat refers to the breasts, wings, back, and tenderloin cuts.

These parts have a mild flavor and are considered healthier than dark meat cuts because of their nutritional profile. These parts are also more tender and more prone to drying out, especially when overcooked.

What are the white meat chicken parts?

1. Breast

breasts- white meat chicken part - millenora

Chicken breast is a lean meat with high-quality protein. This chicken cut comes from the flesh underneath the junction of the sternal ribs and vertebrae. It requires a lot of processing, which is one of the reasons why it is the most expensive cut.

Other reasons why chicken breast is expensive are its high content of lean protein and the luxurious twist it adds to meals. As white meat, it is tender and low in fat. So, it is easily overcooked and becomes dry.

Chicken breasts come in four different forms – boneless, bone-in, split, and airline. As the name implies, boneless breasts do not have any bones in them, and bone-in breasts still have all the bones, cartilage, and tissue intact.

Split breasts are cut parallel to the breastbone and might include the ribs or not. The airline breasts have the drumette part of the wings still attached and can be boneless or bone-in.

Boneless breast is the most expensive of the four types while the bone-in breast cut is the most flavorful and juiciest.

Some dishes you can make with chicken breasts are tacos, sandwiches, kebabs, masala, chicken piccata, and garlic butter-baked chicken breasts.

2. Tenderloin

tenderloins - white meat chicken part - millenora

The tenderloin or chicken tenders are the softest white meat chicken parts. They are gotten from under the breast cut.

Tenderloins have a white stringy substance (the tendon) in them that some people find unpleasant because of their rubbery texture after cooking.

Just like the breasts and wings, one chicken has two tenderloins. Chicken tenderloins do not have a vast number of uses.

Some meal items you can make with tenderloins are chicken tenders, buffalo chicken sliders, chicken marsala, skewers, etc. While you can eat chicken tenders alone, there are also so many side dishes to pair with them to make a richer meal.

3. Wings

wings - white meat chicken part - millenora

Chicken wings are white meat, but they have a little more fat than other cuts, which makes them very juicy. They are cheaper than breast cuts and more flavorful. The common methods used for cooking wings are grilling, roasting, frying, and smoking.

They are often served as appetizers in restaurants. Chicken wings come in four different varieties – whole wing, wingtip, drumette, and wingette. Whole wings include all muscles, bones, and skin without the wingtip.

Wingtips are just the ends of the wings. They are often seasoned, breaded, and baked as finger foods. The drumette is between the shoulder and second joint of the wings. It looks like a drumstick and is very fleshy.

Wingette comes after the drumette. It is a flat, smaller cut with two bones and less meat than the drumette and more meat than the wingtip.

4. The upper back

chicken upper back - millenora

The chicken back has both white and dark parts. The white part comes from the upper back near the breast. It extends from the base of the neck to the tail area. This cut rarely comes by itself. It is often included in other cuts like the wings or thighs.

By itself, chicken back does not have so much meat after butchering. As a result, it is majorly used for making stock, broth, and some soups because of its rich flavor.

Methods for cooking white meat chicken parts

White meat chicken parts are tender and are best cooked fast and hot. The best cooking methods for cooking these parts are pan-searing, stir-frying, grilling, boiling, poaching, and simmering.

The first three methods use dry heat while the last three methods use moist heat to cook white meat. These methods are suitable for the tenderness of the breasts and wing cuts. They ensure that you do not lose the tenderness of your chicken to heat.

White meat chicken parts, especially the breast parts, tend to dry out fast. So, it would be best if you do not overcook these parts.

What is dark meat chicken?

Dark meat chicken parts are sections of chicken meat that have a darker color due to the presence of myoglobin.

The thighs, legs or drumsticks, and the lower back cuts are the dark meat chicken parts. These parts have increased blood flow and oxygen because they are highly active parts of the bird.

These parts have a richer flavor because of their high-fat content. The fat content also helps retain their moisture while cooking and keeps them from drying out.

Dark meat chicken parts have more calories than white meat and are also richer in iron, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals. The nutrients in these parts are necessary for the activities they engage in.

Which parts are dark meat chicken parts?

1. Legs or drumsticks

chicken legs - millenora

Chicken legs contain fat and bones. They are very fleshy and flavorful. They are also packed with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Chicken legs can be eaten in several ways. You can grill, roast, bake, or add them to stews.

Most chefs would rather not work with chicken legs (if they have a choice) because they take longer to cook than cuts like the breasts and thighs. If you are learning portion control, eat chicken legs instead of the breast or wings cut because they are more filling.

2. Thighs

thighs - dark meat chicken part - millenora

Chicken thighs come boneless or bone-in. Bone-in thighs are more flavorful than boneless thighs. They are rich in fat and moisture, which keeps them from drying out. The preparation of chicken thighs often involves using a marinade to add extra juiciness.

Common methods used to cook chicken thighs are grilling, slow braising, frying, and baking. You can make dishes like pasta bakes, casseroles, jambalaya, baked chicken thighs, and chicken tacos using chicken thighs.

3. Lower back

chicken lower back - millenora

The lower back of the chicken is the dark meat part. It is located between the legs and the tail. It is a little juicier and more flavorful than the upper back but can be used for the same purposes.

Methods for cooking dark meat chicken parts

The dark meat chicken parts are fattier and tougher than the white parts. They can withstand high temperatures and long cooking durations without losing their moisture or becoming tough.

These parts have tough muscles that require high heat and long cooking durations to tenderize the meat and make it chewable. The fat keeps the meat moist and juicy even after cooking.

Therefore, the suitable cooking methods for these parts are baking, roasting, BBQing, grilling, braising, and frying.

Differences between dark and white meat chicken parts

Below are the differences between dark and white meat chicken parts:

  • White meat has more demand than dark meat
  • There is a wider range of use of white meat chicken part than the dark counterparts because they take on seasonings better
  • Dark meat chicken is fattier, juicier, and more flavorful than white meat
  • White meat is more tender and cooks faster than dark meat chicken
  • White meat is more expensive than dark meat chicken

Is white meat healthier than dark meat parts?

White meat chicken is a better choice for protein, calories, and fat. However, if you need meat with more nutrients, dark meat chicken has the upper hand.

Chicken meat is very delicious and can be highly indulging. No matter the type you choose to eat, ensure that you are eating in moderation and using healthy cooking methods.

Why do chickens have white and dark meat?

Chickens have both white and dark meat parts because there is an uneven distribution of red and white muscle fibers and myoglobin across the different parts of the bird. The use of the various parts determines the flow of oxygen and blood in these parts.

Why do white meat chicken parts have less myoglobin?

White meat chicken parts have less myoglobin than dark meat parts because these parts are used less frequently, so they require less oxygen and blood flow.

Animals have two types or colors of muscle fibers: red and white muscle fibers. The red muscle fibers have more capillaries. There is more blood flow and oxygen in parts where these muscle fibers are abundant.

The white muscle fibers, on the other hand, have fewer calories. Parts that have these fibers in abundance have reduced blood flow and oxygen.

Chicken meat parts with more red muscle fibers have a rich red hue which is a result of myoglobin while parts with more white muscle fibers have less myoglobin which is why they are white.


What is the most expensive part of chicken meat?

Chicken breast is the most expensive chicken meat cut. This is because it is high in lean protein and is boneless. Moreover, it has a luxurious twist regardless of the cooking technique used in preparing it.

Is chicken egg considered white meat?

Chicken egg is not white meat nor is it a type of meat. Eggs are considered poultry whereas meat is the muscle tissue from animals.

Is chicken skin meat?

Skin is an organ, not meat. It is not considered a healthy part of chicken meat, but you do not have to avoid eating chicken skin completely.

You can get the nutritional benefits it offers if you eat in moderation and eat chicken skin prepared using healthy cooking techniques.


All parts of chicken meat contain myoglobin, the oxygen-binding protein in muscles. The white meat parts have less myoglobin than the dark meat parts.

While the white meat parts have more lean protein, low fat, and calories, the dark meat chicken parts also contain protein but not as much as the white meat parts. Also, dark meat chicken parts have a higher fat content and more vitamins and minerals.

White meat chicken parts have more recommendations because of their nutritional benefits but dark meat parts are more tender, flavorful, and juicier.

Whichever part you choose to eat, eat in moderation. Eating chicken every day is not a very healthy choice.

Thanks for reading.