Why are chicken thighs so cheap compared with other cuts of chicken—or meat in general? Is it because they’re inferior, or are there other reasons? We decided to put together this guide in an attempt to answer these questions.
Why Are Chicken Thighs So Cheap?
Chicken thighs tend to be priced lower than chicken breasts because dark meat cuts aren’t as popular. They take longer to cook, for one thing, and most people aren’t as used to them. If you have the time and inclination to deal with them, however, chicken thighs offer superior flavor and texture.
A Word About Chicken
Chicken is a popular choice for many shoppers. It’s easy to find, versatile, and nutritious. For many, chicken is viewed as a leaner and healthier alternative to red meat like beef and pork.
Some portions of the bird are more popular than others, though. For example, while chicken breast is a household staple, the giblets don’t see much action unless someone’s making gravy out of them. And the thighs aren’t as sought-after as the breast, either.
Why Are Chicken Thighs So Cheap?
Chicken thighs are considered dark meat, whereas the breast portion consists of white meat. That’s the main reason why you can procure the thighs at a lower price.
Dark meat contains more myoglobin, the pigment that gives meat its reddish color. That’s because the thighs get more of a workout, which means they require more oxygen. The myoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen to the muscles.
Since the white meat of the breast is leaner and has a milder flavor, it’s more versatile than the thigh meat. Restaurants tend to use it in dishes like chicken marsala and chicken Parmagiana, and it’s a staple on fast food menus.
The thighs are also fattier than the breast meat, and they take longer to cook. Many home chefs shy away from them just because the breast is easier to deal with. That drives up the price of the breast, so the thighs are more affordable by comparison.
There’s also the fact that chicken breasts are usually sold boneless, though you can find bone-in breasts if you look hard enough. Chicken thighs may be sold boneless or bone-in, and the latter require more preparation and take longer to cook.
In addition to cooking more quickly, chicken breast is easier to eat. With thighs, you have to be on the lookout for fat and gristle even if there are no bones involved. If you’re looking for a quick meal that can be eaten on the go, chicken breast is a better option.
How Much Do Chicken Thighs Cost?
As of this writing, the average price of chicken thighs ranges from about $2.75 to $5.50 per pound.
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs fall on the cheaper end of the spectrum. You can expect to buy these for around $2.75 to $3 per pound. Since they require more work and take longer to cook, they’re a better deal than the boneless variety.
Boneless and skinless thighs are more versatile, which drives up the prices a bit. They typically sell for $4.50 to $5.50 per pound.
Be aware that chicken breast is also cheaper if you buy it with the bone in. These specimens are often labeled as “split chicken breast.” While these aren’t as popular as boneless and skinless breasts, they still have plenty to offer.
Are Chicken Thighs Inferior To Chicken Breast?
Not at all. While the cuts are certainly different, the thigh meat has plenty to offer.
For one thing, the dark meat has a richer texture and a more pronounced chicken flavor. The breast doesn’t taste like much of anything on its own, which is why it can be prepared in so many different ways.
Thighs are also more forgiving in terms of cooking time. If you overcook the breast meat, it will be unpleasantly dry. It takes longer for that to happen when you’re dealing with dark meat.
To be specific, you can cook chicken thighs to 185 or 190 degrees, and they’ll still retain a pleasant texture. By contrast, chicken breast that’s cooked past 165 degrees will have the consistency of sawdust.
Are Chicken Thighs Unhealthy?
It’s true that chicken thighs have a higher fat content than the breasts. However, that doesn’t make them bad for you.
Chicken thighs are an excellent source of protein. They also contain iron, calcium, and potassium, to name just a few nutrients. Despite the fact that they’re relatively high in fat, they’re still leaner than beef.
What’s more, you can offset the fat issue by choosing a healthy cooking application, like grilling. Chicken breasts are often breaded and deep-fried, or served in a sauce that’s loaded with butter. That’s not the case with thighs.
Can You Substitute Chicken Thighs For Breast in a Recipe?
That depends on the recipe. As we’ve pointed out, these cuts have differences that will affect the cooking time, not to mention the flavor. You’ll have to make some adjustments if you want to substitute one for the other.
For example, let’s say you’re making a stir-fry. That involves cooking the meat quickly over high heat. The thighs won’t cook through as quickly as the breast meat would, so you’ll want to add it to the pan sooner.
You should also take care when attempting to substitute chicken breast for thigh meat. Most of the time, when a recipe calls for thighs, it needs that richer flavor and denser texture in order to be successful.
As a general rule, steer clear of chicken breast when making a stew, casserole, or pasta sauce. The lean meat won’t hold up well to the low-and-slow cooking that these dishes require.
How Long Does it Take To Grill Chicken Thighs?
Boneless and skinless chicken thighs should cook through in 8 to 10 minutes, or 4 to 5 minutes per side. If you’re grilling bone-in thighs, increase the estimated cooking time to 15 minutes, or 7 or 8 minutes per side.
The total cooking time may vary, depending on the size and thickness of the cuts. The only way to tell for sure when the meat is done is to test it using a reliable meat thermometer.
Before you begin, make sure your cooking grates are clean and well-oiled. Use a set of sturdy grilling tongs to coat the grates with a thin layer of neutral oil.
If you’re grilling skin-on thighs, make several slits in the skin before you season and cook the meat. Otherwise, the skin will curl up when it comes into contact with the heat.
Use indirect heat when grilling chicken thighs. Set the burners on one side of a gas grill to medium, or build a medium-hot fire on one side of a charcoal grill. Then cook the chicken on the cooler side of the unit.
If you’re using a pellet grill, set the unit to cook at 350 degrees. This is high enough to cook the meat quickly, but still low enough to prevent scorching.
Take care when grilling chicken thighs over open flames, even if you’re using indirect heat. The fat may drip down and cause flare-ups, which can be both unappetizing and dangerous.
Chicken thighs are done when they reach an internal temperature of 185 degrees. For optimal results, take them off the heat when they’ve cooked to 180, then let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
We should point out that it’s technically safe to eat chicken thighs that have cooked to just 165. All the potential bacteria should be eradicated at this point. It’s just that they have a more desirable texture when they cook longer.
The relatively low cost of chicken thighs might seem suspicious, but in truth, it shouldn’t alarm you. This is a nutritious and versatile cut with great flavor. They just require a bit more care and attention than the breasts.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!
Hi there! I’m Darren Wayland, your BBQHost. My love of great barbecue inspired me to curate this site as a resource for all my like-minded fellow pitmasters out there. When I’m not researching and learning all I can about the latest tips and techniques, you can find me at the grill—that is, if you can spot me at all through the clouds of sweet-smelling smoke. And since you asked, yes, that probably is barbecue sauce on my face. Welcome to the party!