White meat VS dark meat chicken? What is the difference between these two types of meat?
Whether you are a chicken handler or not, you have probably heard others talk about white and dark meat. You might have even heard arguments regarding which of the two is better.
You do not have to wonder anymore! Today, we will be talking all about white and dark chicken meat.
Quick Overview Comparison For Each Criterion
Before we tackle the nuts and bolts of chicken meat, let’s first give you an overview of the criterion and their differences.
|Criteria||White Chicken Meat||Dark Chicken Meat|
|Part||Breast, tenderloin, and wings||Drumstick and thighs|
|Fibers||White fibers dominate (also known as fast-twitch fiber)||Red fibers dominate (also known as slow-twitch fiber)|
|Nutrition||Lower in calories; higher in potassium and phosphorous||Higher in calories; contains more iron, zinc, and vitamins B2, B3, and B12|
|Taste and Texture||Have a milder flavor and less juicy||Flavorful and juicy|
|Cost||Chicken breast is pricier because of the high demand||Cheaper in price|
White Meat VS Dark Meat Chicken
Telling the difference between white and dark meat is not as black and white as one would think.
When talking about white meat, many immediately thought of the breast part. That is not wrong, but that is not the only member of the white side. The tenderloin and the wings are also part of the white team!
On the other hand, dark meat is at the thigh and the drumstick.
Now that we have tackled the basics. Let us talk about how white and dark meat is different from each other.
Two fibers are crucial to talk about when differentiating between white and dark meat. Those are the white and red fibers.
As you might have guessed, white fibers dominate white meat. This fiber is also called the fast-twitch fiber. It allows chickens and other organisms to make fast and sudden movements.
Earlier, we mentioned—that white meat is in the breast, tenderloin, and wings. Notice the movement of your chickens when they use those parts. Their actions are sudden and forceful.
On the other hand, red fibers dominate dark meat. This fiber is also called the slow-twitch fiber. In a way, you could say that it does the opposite of what the white fiber does. White fibers are for quick, short-duration movements, while red fibers are for sustained, long-duration activities and posture maintenance.
With all that said, it is good to note that white meat does not only have white fibers. Additionally, dark meat does not only have red ones. The two kinds of meat have a combination of both white and red fibers.
Next, let us talk about myoglobin.
Myoglobin is a protein that is in the muscles of many organisms. It plays a vital role in terms of oxygen supply and energy production. In other words, it is essential for parts often used.
Now, think of our chickens. Most chickens cannot fly. They get around by running here and there. These birds use their legs more than their wings. With that, it is natural to expect that there is more myoglobin in their leg area. Chickens do not use their wings that often. Because of that, it needs less myoglobin.
Myoglobin is what gives the meat its color. The more myoglobin, the darker the meat will be.
Which is Better?
Let us answer this question before we continue comparing and differentiating white and dark meat.
There has been a long-standing debate in terms of white and dark meat. One side insists that white meat is the best choice. The other side presses that dark meat is the better choice.
So, which is which?
Well, there doesn’t need to be any debate! Chicken meat is healthy. So that makes white and dark meat both healthy. What would be a better choice would depend on what your goal is.
Are you aiming to reduce your caloric intake? Or is your primary focus on the flavor? These are just some of the questions you might want to consider when choosing between white and dark meat.
The following portions will hopefully help you decide what meat to use for your next meal.
White meat and dark meat both offer good things. You can say they only have a different set of nutrition.
|Nutritional Value||White Meat (3oz chicken)||Dark Meat (3oz chicken)|
|Fat||4 grams||8 grams|
|Saturated Fat||1 gram||2 grams|
|Protein||26 grams||23 grams|
White meat has fewer calories and less fat than its darker counterpart. For years, this has been the argument when favoring the white portion more. Recently, some have taken a double look at this idea. Read more about the calorie count for different parts of the chicken,
What some have forgotten is not all fats are bad. Dark meat does have more fat than white meat, but it also has more healthy fats. Dark meat is also a good source of iron, zinc, and vitamins B2, B3, and B12.
Does this mean that white meat does not have nutrition to offer? No! White meat has more Potassium and Phosphorus for one.
Additionally, even if the white or dark meat is richer in one element than the other, the difference is not that large. In the end: both types of meat are healthy but in different ways.
You may opt for white meat to cut back on calories. Alternatively, you may choose dark instead if you are at risk for coronary heart disease.
Overall, we still think a healthy mix of white and dark meat is good!
Taste & Texture
Do you have a favorite part when it comes to chicken? This next part may explain why. I used to like the drumstick part best. I thought it might just be because of its shape. As it turns out, it is not!
When it comes to taste, white meat has a milder flavor. It can even be bland for some. On the other hand, dark meat is more flavorful.
In terms of texture, dark meat is juicier, while white meat is not that juicy. The amount of fat in the two types of meat is the reason behind that.
Furthermore, it is easy to overcook white meat. When this happens, it can dry out fast. This problem is not as prominent with dark meat. That is because dark meat is difficult to overcook. However, it can be leathery when not cooked properly.
As you can see, there are dishes where one kind of meat would be a better choice compared to the other.
When the talk of white and dark meat comes up, many forget to mention costs. So, let us take a look at the two types of meat in terms of cost-effectiveness:
How to Cook White and Dark Chicken Meat?
If you want to get the best out of the chicken’s white and dark meat, you might want to try out these tips.
White meat is easier to overcook, and you want to avoid that. When the white meat is overcooked, it could dry out fast. To dodge this problem, you can try cooking it quickly at a high temperature. Make sure the meat is white and not pink.
Since the white meat is not that flavorful, you might want to keep the skin on to add flavor. White meat would be great for broiling or grilling. Anything fast and hot!
On the other hand, dark meat is more forgiving. It is hard to overcook. Going fast with dark meat is not advisable. It is leathery in comparison to white meat. It needs a longer time.
Braising and roasting are great for dark meat.
What Chicken Dishes Can I Try?
Now we know the difference between white and dark meat, let us get cooking! Here are some chicken dishes you might want to try.
White Chicken Meat Dishes
White meat may not be considered the tastiest meat out there, but these dishes will surely tickle your taste buds:
- Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms and Shallots– Feeling a little fancy? Maybe you want some Italian dish! If that is so, this one is for you.
- Chicken Salad with Avocado, Corn, and Miso Dressing– On the other hand, if you’re in for something Asian, this meal might suit your taste buds better.
- Grilled Chicken and Cabbage Salad with Creamy Tahini Dressing– In the mood for some salad? This one might be for you! It’s also great if you have some leftover chickens.
- Easy One-Pot Chicken Tinga– Of course, we can’t forget our fellas who have a liking for all things spicy! Alternatively, you can spice it down a notch if you’re not that great with spicy food.
Alternatively, you can check this list from serious eats for other white chicken meat dishes.
Dark Chicken Meat Dishes
Dark meat may take a little longer to prepare. But these dishes will undoubtedly make your effort and waiting worthwhile:
- Brad’s Campsite Jambalaya– If you’re looking for a hearty and filling dish, then this one might be up your aisle.
- Chicken Khao Soi– Want to try something oriental? Then you might want to try this Thai-inspired soup.
- Braised Chicken with Capers and Parsley– Here is another fancy dish you might want to try. It may be fancy, but it’s pretty easy to do!
- Sweet and Spicy Chicken Drumsticks– Maybe you want something simple? Well, this dish would be for you. A plus if you like spicy dishes!
Or you can check out this list by bon appetit if you want more dark chicken meat dishes.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is dark meat chicken bad for cholesterol levels?
As mentioned before, dark meat contains higher levels of fat and cholesterol. But despite it, those are healthy kinds. It means—they offer anti-inflammatory effects while supporting your heart health. If you want to stay on the safe line, you can ask for a skinless serving instead.
2. Is dark meat chicken easier to digest?
High-quality protein intake means powered digestion. That also means white meat is easier to digest compared to dark ones. The said compound helps repair our gut through a form of mucus.
It also assists the digestive enzymes to help you cut up carbohydrates, fats, and protein. If you fall short on this, you might not be able to absorb the nutrients from the food.
White meat VS dark meat chicken? Well, as you have seen, you don’t have to pick! Both white meat and dark meat are great.
They are different, but they both offer a variety of beneficial things. Each meat has various nutrients to give. Also, both render themselves useful for numerous delicious dishes. White and dark meat cater to different needs, but it’s still a good plan to have a healthy mix of both.
So, go ahead! You don’t need to worry about your next chicken meal anymore. Happy eating!
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken Scratch The Foundry.