White Chicken Meat
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White Meat on a Chicken is primarily found in the Chicken BreastWhite Meat can also be found in Chicken Wings, which can have both White Meat and Dark Meat. The purpose of this resource page is to discuss White Chicken Meat. White Meat and Dark Meat are discussed in general on their own Smart Kitchen Resource Pages. The term “White Chicken” is slightly different and refers to a Chicken whose skin has been scalded to 135˚ F (52˚ C) to remove the cuticle for better breading and battering.

Up until the latter half of the 20th century, most Chicken sold at retail was in the form of whole birds. The industry practice began to change after the 1957 passage of the Poultry Products Inspection Act, which mandated continuous federal inspection of poultry processing. Rather than discarding birds that fell below the Grade A standards, and therefore losing money on them, chicken producers began to recycle the substandard carcasses by selling them in portions and parts.

When given a choice to buy portions of the bird, consumers’ historic preferences for the more tender White Meat came to the fore and sales of White Meat began to pull ahead of Dark Meat.  According to William Roenigk, Senior Vice President of the National Chicken Council, surveys of Americans show that we favor White Chicken Meat over Dark Chicken Meat by a 2-to-1 margin. When the public’s buying habits are analyzed, we actually purchase 4 times as much White Chicken Meat as Dark Chicken Meat. There are a few reasons for this preference. 

Historically, the Chicken Breasts of traditional, mostly flightless, Chickens were much more tender than the hard-working Chicken Legs which propelled the hen or cock around the farm yard.  Americans have preferred the milder, tender Chicken Breast as long as records have been kept.

Coincident with the beginning of processing and selling Chickens in parts, medical science determined in the 1960’s that Fat and Cholesterol were complicit in heart disease. The nutrition of both White Meat and Dark Meat was measured. It turned out, as makes sense for a quick acting muscle, that White Meat was leaner than Dark Meat. The difference was not great, only .44 g per 100 g of skinless meat, but it was enough of a marketing angle for the poultry producers. They extolled the health virtues of White Chicken and began charging a premium for it. No one disparaged the Dark Meat, per se, but with all the health messaging favoring White Chicken Meat, Dark Chicken Meat got short shrift. The already popular breast meat became even more desirable.

Today, again according to William Roenigk, health is the primary reason given by consumers when asked why they prefer White Chicken Meat over Dark Chicken Meat, even though The Health Differences between White Meat and Dark Meat are actually pretty minor, with some advantages (Niacin and minerals) actually accruing to Dark Chicken Meat.

 A third reason for the consumer preference for White Chicken Meat instead of Dark Chicken Meat may have to do simply with color. On some level, consumers perceive White Meat as “cleaner” than Dark Meat. There is no truth to the “feeling,” but frequently perception is reality.

A fourth and more recent reason for consumers’ preference of White Meat over Dark may be morphic (having a specific or specified shape), as a growing number of consumers prefer not to know that their meal began with an animal. It is easier to delude yourself about the origin of Boneless breast meat, which is not very easy to place anatomically on a chicken. 

A final reason may simply be familiarity. Consumer surveys show that many Americans prefer the blander, more familiar taste of Chicken Breast. In fact, when asked what would get them to eat more dark chicken meat, many consumers answer, “better taste.” 

To take advantage of the market desire for White Meat, poultry producers have been working on the ratio of White Meat to Dark Meat in their Chickens since the 1970s through selective breeding programs. Breast meat accounted for 36% of the total weight of the bird in the 1970’s. Modern chickens yield closer to 40% breast meat by weight. Breasts that used to weigh on average 8 oz (227 g) now weigh in at 10.5 oz (298 g) on average.

Today, mostly because of commodity feed prices, inflation and International demand for proteins, prices for White Chicken Meat are surging. The price increases come at a time of economic uncertainty, and some Americans are reconsidering their White Chicken Meat choices. For almost half the price, they prefer to employ some Moist Heat Methods, expand their palates and learn to enjoy the more economical Chicken Legs.

Purchasing

When buying packaged Chicken Breasts or Chicken Wings, the first step should be to check the package. What grade of product is being sold? Is the packaging secure, unbroken and without punctures?  Does the package have a “Sell-By” date? How long until the package goes out of date?

How does the product look? Is the skin creamy white to deep yellow? Does it look healthy or is the meat pasty looking? Does the package have a persistent “off” odor?  If it does, don’t buy it. 

If you get a package of White Meat and it smells upon opening, the meat may be bad, or some Oxidation may have caused a bad smell. If it is only Oxidation, the bad smell should pass quickly. If in doubt wait a few minutes after the package is opened before deciding if it is good or bad.

Oxidation is harmless and the odor should go away quickly. If the opened package continues to smell bad after a few minutes exposure to fresh air, it is spoiled. Don’t use it. Re-bag it in plastic wrap and return it to the store to get your money back. Remember to wash up after handling the raw, spoilt chicken to avoid Cross-Contamination. Smart Kitchen covers more about purchasing Chicken in our exercise Purchasing and Storing Chicken.

Storage

Raw, Fresh Chicken is good for about 2 days in the refrigerator in its original package before it should be cooked. If you don’t plan to use the chicken quickly (within 2 days) it should be frozen. You can freeze it in its original packaging for at least two months. If you plan to hold it frozen longer, you should see the Smart Kitchen resource on Frozen Food Storage and Avoiding Freezer Burn.

If you are freezing packages of White Meat, it can be a time saver if you re-package them into portions before freezing. Thawing the proper amount of food for your crew will save time on cooking days and cut down on waste, the enemy of all budgets. Smart Kitchen covers more about storing Chicken in our exercise on Purchasing and Storing Chicken.

Culinary Uses

Since White Chicken Meat has very little Fat, and is almost 70% water (raw with skin on), White Chicken Meat can be cooked “fast and hot” with Dry Heat Methods. Cooked chicken breast becomes “blanc de poulet” in the classic French kitchen (meaning White Chicken Meat).

GrillingBroilingSautéingPan Frying, Pan-Searing, Roasting, etc. are all methods that work well with White Chicken Meat. But be aware that no one likes dry, overcooked, rubbery chicken breast. They typical White Chicken Meat should be about 61% water when cooked. If it is less than that you will probably experience it as dry. 

White Chicken Meat won’t need much Tenderizing but can be flavored (if desired) with Marinades or Rubs. When properly cooked, a Chicken Breast should be tender and moist. The goal of cooking most White Chicken Meat is flavoring (BrowningCaramelization) and heating the meat throughout for palatability and sanitation reasons.

White Meat Chicken should go into the pan with the presentation side down first. At Smart Kitchen, that is almost always Skin-Side Down first. A nice golden brown skin makes an appealing presentation. We also like to start Skin-Side Down because placing the Chicken Skin close to the heat allows the natural Fat in the skin to Render and add flavor to the meat before joining the other flavorful fats in the pan to cook the meat.

White Chicken meat, like all Poultry, can carry the Salmonella bacteria. The U.S.D.A. recommended that all White Chicken Meat should be cooked to an Internal Temperature of 170° F (77° C) to ensure that it is safe to eat. They have since lowered the recommendation to achieving an Internal Temperature of 165˚ F (74˚ C) before pulling the White Meat from the heat. 

As a practical matter, Poultry, including White Chicken Meat, is almost always cooked Well Done because the U.S.D.A. guidelines call for such a high Internal Temperature. In our opinion, cooking to the U.S.D.A. specifications usually results in overcooked White Chicken Meat. If you are a fanatic about only the health of your cooked foods, or if you are cooking for people with weakened immune systems (very young, very old, etc.) jump ahead and ignore the next few paragraphs on cooking for health and flavor/texture.

On the minimal cooking side of the spectrum, where we can think about taste and texture as well as health, is the fact that most Salmonella on Poultry is found on the exterior surface of the meat and skin, where it is easily reached by cooking heat. The most heat resistant Salmonella strain (Salmonella senftenberg) shows significant destruction when exposed to 137° F (58° C) heat for at least 2.5 minutes. Remember, for a whole bird, the exterior surface will include the obvious outside skin of the bird and the less obvious interior skin and meat of the body cavity of the bird. Both have to reach a sanitizing temperature well over 137° F for safe consumption.

Smart Kitchen suggests cooking White Chicken Meat to a Pull Temperature of 155° F (68° C). Pulling the White Meat from the heat at 155° F and letting it rest will result in Carry Over Cooking, which will raise the internal temperature another 5° to 10˚ for a Finish Cooking Temperature of 160˚ (71˚ C) to 165° F (74° C).

White Meat Chicken and White Meat Turkey are low in Fat so they quickly become dry and unpalatable if overcooked. Even Duck & Goose, which are very fatty meats, will taste dry and get stringy if cooked too much. When cooking White Meat, if we aim for 155° F as the Pull Temperature, we will be well above the safety temperature of 137° F (58° C) and much more at risk of overcooking than undercooking it. If you err a bit on the side of undercooked, you can always return it to the heat. You can’t undo overcooking, but you can fix undercooking.

Most texts and cooking sites will tell you to cook White Meat until all traces of pink are gone and until the juices run clear. We think this gives you an overcooked dish. At Smart Kitchen, our Visual Clues of choice are to allow a faint-hint of pink in the center and to look for mostly clear juices that may have a tiny bit of red. Of course, which Visual Clues you should use depends on your preferences, your risk tolerances, and who you are cooking for. 

No matter which Internal Temperature you aim for, quick cooking with a single, high heat technique can be used from beginning to end for thinner pieces of White Chicken Meat. Thicker pieces may need to be cooked with Multiple Cooking Methods, in order to fully cook the interior of the meat without charring the exterior.

For example, for thicker pieces of White Chicken Meat, you may start with a Pan Sear to get good color and caramelization with the Sear and then Finish Cook the Chicken in the oven. The concept is similar with Grilling.  Make some good Grill Marks and pick up some smoky flavor on the Grill, but then Finish Cook the Chicken in the oven or over lower heat on the grill in another Heat Zone

Finally, White Chicken Meat cooks more quickly than Dark Meat. This fact makes properly cooking a Whole Chicken problematic. Many chefs prefer to separate the White Meat from the Dark Meat when cooking both at the same time. Separated, the White Chicken Meat can be removed from the Oven when it reaches its proper Pull Temperature™ and the Dark Chicken Meat can continue cooking. Smart Kitchen’s Exercise on Roasting a Whole Chicken can help show you how it is done.

For more specific information on cooking specific White Chicken Meat Portion Cuts, see Smart Kitchen’s Chicken Topic and the individual exercises for each Primal CutSub-Primal Cut or Portion Cut.

Pairings

Flavors that go well with White Meat Chicken include the following (by category):

Dried Herbs & Spices - AniseAllspiceCardamomCayenne PepperCelery SeedsClovesCorianderCuminCurrantsCurry LeavesCurry PowderMustard SeedsNutmegPaprikaRed Pepper FlakesSaffronSaltSea SaltKosher SaltSesame SeedsStar AniseWhite SugarBrown SugarBlack PepperWhite PepperPink PepperTurmericChili PowderBay LeafCinnamonTarragonParsleyOreganoBasilGarlic PowderRosemaryDillMintSavory

Fresh Herbs OreganoChivesParsleyCilantroBasilSageTarragonMarjoramThymeRosemaryChervilDillCorianderMintSavory

Dairy MilkButtermilkButterYogurtCrème FraicheSour Cream

Wet Ingredients Beer, Coconut MilkOilsCream, Fish Sauce, Soy Sauce, Grand Marnier, Sherry, Stocks, Wine, Vermouth, Vinegars, Whisky, Brandy, Cider

Thick Ingredients Hoisin Sauce, Honey, Maple Syrup, MayonnaiseMolassesMustardsTomato Paste

Vegetables Artichokes, Bell Peppers, CapersCarrotsCauliflowerCeleryCelery Root, Chile Peppers, GarlicOnionsGingerKale, Lemongrass, Mushrooms, PotatoesSpinachTomatoes, Turnips, Chard, DaikonEndiveEscarole, Parsnips, Leeks

Fruits Apples, OlivesAvocadoes, Bananas, Figs, Raisins, Cranberries, Dates, Guava, Grapefruits, Grapes, LimesLemons, Oranges, PeachesPomegranates, Pears, Apricots.

Nuts AlmondsCashewsHazelnutsWalnutsPeanutsPine Nuts

Meats Bacon, Ham, ProsciuttoPancetta, Sausages, Turkey

Substitutes

Dark Chicken Meat

Nutritional Value USDA
CHICKEN,ROASTING,LT MEAT,MEAT ONLY,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 109
%Daily Value*
 
1%
Total Fat 1g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
19%
Cholesterol 57mg
2%
Sodium 51mg
5%
Potassium 252mg
0%
Total Carbohydrate 0g
0%
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 22g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

White Chicken Meat has a reputation of being among the leanest of meats with the lowest calories, and it is. The wrinkle is that it is the leanest and least caloric by only a very small amount. Boneless, skinless Chicken Breast and boneless, skinless Chicken Thighs vary in Saturated Fat content by only 0.2 oz. (0.44 g) per 3.5 oz. (100 g) serving of meat. According to the Department of Agriculture’s White Meat Figures, 100 g of the Breast meat contains 0.56 grams of saturated fat and 114 calories, and 100 g of Dark Meat contains 1 gram of saturated fat and 119 calories. White Chicken Meat is also lower in nutrients like IronZincRiboflavinThiamineVitamin B6 and Vitamin B12 than Dark Meat.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes