What Is a Chicken Tender?

updated Oct 4, 2023
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Extra Toasty Cheez-It Chicken Tenders on a sheet pan
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

After taking a look at the many different poultry items at the grocery store, you’ve probably wondered what a chicken tender is and how it’s different from other cuts of chicken. While we’re used enjoying chicken tenders when they’re battered and deep-fried, not everyone may know where this particular cut comes from.

Quick Overview

What Are Chicken Tenderloins?

Chicken tenderloins, or chicken tenders, are attached to the underside of a chicken breast. They are often sold cut off from the chicken breast in separate packaging, though you can still buy a chicken breast with a tenderloin attached. Chicken tenderloins, which are sometimes called “hanging tenders”, are around 1 1/2 inches wide and 5 inches long. The white string you find on a chicken tender is a tendon and, while technically edible, is unpleasant to eat and can be removed by pulling it from the tender.

So What Exactly Are Chicken Tenders?

Chicken tenders or chicken tenderloins are the little strips of meat that are tenuously attached to the underside of each breast (and thus sometimes called “hanging tenders”), so every chicken has two tenders. In fact, you can gently pull the tenders (which are about 1 1/2 inches wide and 5 inches long) off with just your hands! This cut of chicken is similar in location to beef and pork tenderloins.

Chicken tenders or chicken tenderloins are white meat and besides being smaller than the breast, taste exactly the same as breast meat and are tender and moist when cooked properly. Sometimes chicken tenders can be separately sold from the breasts, making them great candidates for stir-fries and skewers, where the chicken meat needs to be cut up anyway.

How to Remove the String from a Chicken Tenderloin

When you buy chicken tenderloins from the store, you’ll notice they usually have a white string attached to them that runs down the side. This white string is a tendon, and while it is technically edible, it’s not pleasant to eat. To remove the string, place the end in between the tines of a fork and carefully pull it through with one hand holding the fork and the other pulling the string. The string should tear away from the tender.

(Image credit: Christine Gallary)

Make Your Own Chicken Tenders

If your grocery store or butcher doesn’t sell chicken tenders separately, it’s quite easy to cut your own. Just take a boneless, skinless chicken breast and cut it lengthwise into pieces about 1/2 inch thick and you’re left with essentially chicken-tender sized pieces of white meat.