The Cost of Chicken: A Ranking of Chicken Cuts from Least to Most Expensive

The Cost of Chicken: A Ranking of Chicken Cuts from Least to Most Expensive

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Kelli Foster
Apr 27, 2017
(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Look inside the meat case and you'll find quite a few options when it comes to buying chicken — everything from budget-friendly options like drumsticks and thighs to far pricier options like chicken cutlets.

We wanted to consider the big picture of cuts and cost and present all the information in one place for comparison. Here is a complete ranking of the most popular cuts of chicken, from least to most expensive, plus the best ways to cook each one.

A Ranking of Chicken Prices

From the whole bird to individual pieces, these are the cuts of chicken that are both popular with consumers and readily available in the grocery store.

I chatted with Tom Super from the National Chicken Council to get more insight into the price of chicken. I learned that the average retail prices for chicken can gently fluctuate from week to week, although the trend stays the same over time. From least to most expensive, here is a ranking of chicken cuts.

1. Chicken Leg Quarters

Average national price: $0.89 per pound

What they are: Also referred to as whole chicken legs, the leg quarters consist of both the thigh and drumstick. This cut is sold bone-in and skin-on. It's an economical cut that comes with a considerable amount of fat and flavor.

Best ways to cook them: Leg quarters are versatile and can be cooked whole, or the thigh and drumstick can be separated and cooked as desired. When left whole, the leg quarters are delicious when roasted or grilled.

2. Whole Chicken

Average national price: $0.94 per pound

What it is: This is the whole bird — meat, bones, skin, and all.

Best ways to cook it: Whole chickens are really versatile and can be cooked as is, or broken down into individual pieces. Roasting in the oven is the most traditional cooking method, although whole chickens are wonderfully juicy and tender when cooked in the slow cooker or on the stovetop in milk. They can also be cooked on the grill.

3. Chicken Drumsticks

Average national price: $1.20 per pound

What they are: The drumsticks are part of the leg and connected to the thigh. This cut is sold bone-in and skin-on. Similar to thighs, drumsticks are a fattier, tougher cut of meat compared to lean chicken breasts, although they also come with a lot more flavor.

Best ways to cook them: Drumsticks are cooked similar to thighs. They benefit from roasting or baking in the oven, and being cooked in the pressure cooker or on the grill.

4. Bone-in Chicken Thighs

Average national price: $1.25 per pound

What they are: This is the upper part of the leg that is connected to the body of the chicken. This flavorful bone-in cut is sold with the skin on, and takes a bit longer to cook than its boneless counterpart.

Best ways to cook them: Bone-in chicken thighs are incredibly versatile. They're ideal for making sheet pan suppers and skillet meals, roasting, grilling, and cooking in the pressure cooker and slow cooker. The cooked crispy skin also works as a canvas for glazes and sauces to cling to.

5. Split Chicken Breast

Average national price: $1.72 per pound

What it is: Split chicken breast, also referred to as bone-in chicken breast, is just that — bone-in, skin-on chicken breast. Like the boneless breast you're familiar with, this cut is lean with a little extra flavor. The potential drawback for some is that it takes longer to cook since the bone is still attached.

Best ways to cook it: Split chicken breast benefits from being roasted in the oven. This cut also takes particularly well to stuffing.

6. Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs

Average national price: $2.28 per pound

What they are: This cut comes at a premium to bone-in thighs because of the extra processing to remove the bone and skin. It's part of the leg, and it's slightly fattier and a whole lot more flavorful than lean chicken breasts.

Best ways to cook them: Boneless chicken thighs are faster-cooking than bone-in, although come with the same versatility. Boneless chicken thighs can be baked in the oven, or cooked on the stovetop or grill, or made in the slow cooker. This cut also makes a flavorful substitute for soups and chilis that call for lean chicken breast.

7. Chicken Wings

Average national price: $2.40 per pound

What they are: Think of the wings as the arms of the bird. This tiny cut is composed of three parts (the tip, flat, and drumette), and while each one doesn't come with a lot of meat, it is super flavorful. Wings are typically sold bone-in and skin-on. We love them for a potent chicken stock.

Read more: An Anatomical Guide to Chicken Wings

Best ways to cook them: Chicken wings are best when baked in the oven, fried, or grilled. You can also use them to enrich stock.

8. Boneless Chicken Breast

Average national price: $3.33

What it is: Boneless, skinless chicken breast is one of the most popular and the most expensive cuts of chicken. It's an ultra-lean cut with little fat and a very mild flavor.

Best ways to cook it: Boneless chicken breast is extremely versatile when it comes to cooking, although because it contains so little fat, it can be prone to dryness if overcooked. This cut can be baked, seared, or sautéed on the stovetop, poached, stir-fried, grilled, and cooked in the slow cooker.

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