Many people opt for ground chicken over ground beef, believing it to be a healthier alternative. But is ground chicken healthy, or is this just a myth? Let’s find out.
Is Ground Chicken Healthy?
Ground chicken is an excellent source of protein. It also contains essential amino acids and B vitamins. When it’s made from just the white meat, the fat content is negligible—and a 3-ounce serving contains just 120 calories.
About Ground Chicken
Ground chicken is just what it sounds like: chicken meat that’s been forced through a grinder to give it a softer texture.
When it’s ground, the chicken usually resembles small tubes, unless it was done in a food processor. In that case, it will look more like a paste.
You can buy chicken and grind it yourself if you want to control the amount of fat that goes into the mixture. The ground chicken you buy at the store usually consists of a mixture of white and dark meat, although some products are made of white meat only.
Is Ground Chicken Healthy?
When compared to ground beef, ground chicken is certainly a healthier choice. Per serving, it’s lower in fat and cholesterol while still being a great source of protein.
A 3-ounce serving of ground chicken contains about 120 calories and 7 grams of fat. The same serving size offers up 15 grams of protein and 50 milligrams of sodium. Since it contains no carbohydrates, ground chicken can be a part of a Keto diet.
In addition to protein, ground chicken is a good source of niacin, phosphorus, and vitamins B6 and B12. There are also trace amounts of essential amino acids included. As such, ground chicken can be considered a healthy protein source.
Ground Chicken vs. Chicken Breast
Is ground chicken a healthier choice than chicken breast? Not if you buy the regular kind.
Because ground chicken typically includes a combination of white and dark meat, and often bits of skin as well, it has a higher fat content than regular chicken breast. What’s more, it’s saturated fat, which is something that health-conscious diners try to avoid.
If you’re selecting a product based on its fat content—or lack thereof—chicken breast is the superior choice. As we’ve pointed out, though, it’s possible to find ground chicken that’s made up of breast meat only. Check the label if you’re not sure.
Another alternative would be to purchase chicken breasts and grind them yourself. If you don’t have a meat grinder, you can use a regular food processor. The ground meat will have a slightly different texture, but you won’t notice it once it’s cooked.
Is Ground Chicken Easy to Digest?
On its own, ground chicken should be easy enough to digest. Since the meat is fairly lean, though, you’ll probably want to add some oil, depending on the cooking technique that you choose. If this is the case, the oil might cause digestive issues.
How To Make Ground Chicken
To begin, decide how lean you’d like your product to be. The more white meat you include in the blend, the leaner the ground chicken will be—but it will also have a drier texture once it’s cooked.
Here’s a guide to help you find the perfect ratio:
- 5 pounds of chicken breast—99 percent lean
- 3 pounds of chicken breast and 2 pounds of thighs—97 percent lean
- 2 pounds of chicken breast and 3 pounds of thighs—95 percent lean
- 5 pounds of chicken thighs—93 percent lean
Although some commercially prepared blends include chicken skin, we don’t recommend using skin-on cuts when making ground chicken at home. The skin doesn’t always cook down well, and it might clog up your grinder or food processor.
Begin by freezing the chicken for about 20 minutes. This will make it easier to process. If it’s too warm, the meat will turn to mush, which will clog up the works and make your cleanup duties that much more difficult.
Cut the chicken into small chunks or strips. At this point, if you don’t mind a coarser texture, you can chop the meat finely using a knife. This won’t work for all recipes, but it’s fine for minced chicken salads such as larb gai.
If you’re using a food processor to grind your chicken, the results will be more satisfactory if you’re using the meat in a sauce, rather than for things like meatballs and burgers. It’s not our preferred method, but it will work if you don’t have a meat grinder.
Place the chicken cubes or strips in the bowl of the food processor. You might have to work in batches, depending on how much meat you have—and the size of your unit.
Pulse the meat 5 to 6 times, or until it’s ground into a paste. Be careful not to overprocess it, or the chicken will turn to mush. You can remove larger chunks by hand and chop them using a knife if you have to.
To use a meat grinder, select your grinding plate. If you’re planning on forming the meat into burgers or meatballs, you should use the coarse plate. For salads, sauces, and noodle dishes, use the medium grinding plate.
After setting a bowl beneath the grinder, feed the chicken into the chute a handful at a time. Use the tool to push the meat through the grinder, but don’t force it through too quickly. Continue until all the chicken is ground.
Storing Ground Chicken
Since many recipes call for 1 pound of ground chicken, it’s a good idea to store and freeze your homemade product in one-pound batches.
Form the chicken into flat squares before adding it to storage or freezer bags. This comes in especially handy when you’re freezing the meat, as the squares will be easy to stack.
Keep ground chicken in the fridge for no longer than 2 days. If the chicken was already in the refrigerator for a couple of days before you ground it, you’ll want to either cook or freeze it right away.
To store the packages in the freezer, label them with the date and contents. Make sure your freezer temperature is set below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. You should thaw and cook the ground chicken within 3 months for optimum flavor and texture.
Ideas for Ground Chicken
You can substitute ground chicken in just about any recipe that calls for ground beef. The flavor and texture will be slightly different, but that can be a good thing.
If you want to get creative, try using recipes and ingredients that will take advantage of chicken’s milder flavor. Add minced sundried tomatoes and Kalamata olives to the ground meat to make Greek-inspired turkey burgers.
You can use ground chicken as a pizza topping, a taco filling, or in a sauce for chicken lasagna. Chicken chili makes for an excellent game-day meal, especially when topped with shredded Jack cheese. The possibilities are both numerous and exciting.
Is ground chicken healthy? In fact, it is—at least, more so than most ground meat products. If you’re worried about fat content, you can create your own ground chicken using only the breasts, which will boost the product’s health benefits even more.