How To Cook Chicken from the Breast to the Wingtip (Yes, That's a Thing)

If you're like most Americans you eat a whole lotta chicken — around 93 pounds per person per year.

But even with all that chicken flying around, you might not know a drumstick from a drumette. And if that's the case you may not be using the cooking method that's best for each cut.

The primer below will get you better acquainted.

Whole chicken

This is the chicken our grandparents ate before supermarkets started selling it piece by piece.

Whole roasted chicken is a classic, whether you prepare it rotisserie-style or bacon-wrapped. Cut the whole chicken up and you can do pretty much anything: grilling, braising, frying, baking, broiling.

Eight-piece cut

The whole bird is cut into two breast halves with ribs and back portion, two wings, two thighs with the back portion and two drumsticks. This can also be labeled "whole cut chicken."

Half chicken

A half chicken is simply a whole chicken split from front to back through the backbone and keel, resulting in two mirror-image halves. Like a whole chicken, this is a great cut for roasting but its more manageable size means you could also grill it.

Breast quarter

This cut includes a portion of the back, breast and wing. Roast it, grill it, but don't overdo it. Because it is all white meat, it dries out easily. If you're baking it, you might want to baste it.

Split breast

A breast quarter with the wing removed, it comes with or without a portion of the back.

Boneless, skinless breast

A split breast that has been deboned and skinned, it can be grilled, pan-fried or baked. Sliced, it's great for sandwiches. It's healthier without all the fat from the skin but also way more likely to dry out, so proceed with caution.

Whole wing

This all-white-meat portion of the chicken has three sections: the drumette, mid-section and tip. It's a versatile cut, but also one that is prone to drying out, so be sure not to overcook.

Wing drumette

This is the portion of the wing between the shoulder and the elbow. Grill, braise, bake or broil.

Wing mid-section

Also referred to as the wing flat or mid-joint, this is the section between the elbow and the tip. Probably its most famous use: Buffalo wings. This cut is very versatile and can be broiled, baked or grilled.

You can also purchase the wing mid-section with tip, which includes the flat center portion and the very end of the wing. Cooks usually throw out the tip but at least one food writer likes to roast his wings tip and all and implores us to  please appreciate the wing tip.

Whole leg

The drumstick-thigh combination is different from the leg quarter because it doesn't include a portion of the back. You can buy it bone-in and with skin, or boneless and skinless. It's good braised (especially the boneless, skinless variety) or grilled, but the balance of fat and flavor makes it crazy good when fried.


The portion of the leg cut above the joint of the knee, it's typically available bone-in with skin, or boneless and skinless.

Go ahead and roast or grill those thighs if you want. They are also excellent for braising; this makes the chicken extra tender and showcases the rich flavor. You can bake them too, but with care, especially the boneless and skinless variety. Shoot for an interior temperature of 165 degrees F.


Drumsticks are the lower portion of the leg quarter, between the joint of the knee and the hock. They are well suited to braising, grilling or even baking.


Giblets are the edible offal of the chicken, including the heart, gizzards, liver and often the neck. If you buy a whole chicken from a butcher, you might get the giblets in a sealed bag tucked right inside the cavity of the bird, just like you would with a Thanksgiving turkey.

Giblets add deep flavor to stuffings, stocks, and sauces, notably giblet gravy. There's even a French stew called alicot for people who really like giblets.

November 17, 2018
More to Explore
Now Reading
How To Cook Chicken from the Breast to the Wingtip (Yes, That's a Thing)