Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs: Is removing the skin and bones yourself really cheaper?

Chicken Thigh Recipes
Find the links to these chicken thigh recipes and more below.
I've stood there a hundred times I'm sure; halted in my tracks, standing in front of the supermarket chicken display, staring at chicken thighs wondering whether it's best to buy the boneless skinless variety or buy the parts on the bone and do the work myself. The question of which is more economical has always caused me to hesitate and have that internal debate. In my cooking, I use chicken thighs as much as I do breasts. I actually prefer their richer flavor and much better ability to be slowly braised in stews, curries or for pulled chicken so that debate naturally happens quite frequently. With the boneless skinless variety most often being at least twice the price, is it worth the extra cash? Convenience aside, the real question in terms of value though, has to be: How much of that chicken thigh is actually skin, bone and fat and how much is usable meat? I set out to find the answer.

I purchased 3 pounds (1.36 kg) of untrimmed bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and broke them down myself. Having probably bought a ton of the things over the years, I would have to say that this package was pretty typical in terms of lack of trimming. I find that, in supermarkets particularly, there is little to no attempt to trim any excess skin or fat from chicken thighs when packaged. Some markets even appear to hide as much unnecessary excess skin and fat as possible by folding it under the thigh when packaging but thankfully that was not the case with the thighs that I worked with on this occasion. I'd say they were pretty typical but I point out that it is entirely possible based on my experience, that the skin and fat content in some packaged chicken thighs could conceivably be even higher than those used here. I removed bones, all the skin and as much as the visible fat as I could from these chicken thighs for the purposes of this comparison. I should note that part of the backbone was still attached to the chicken thigh joints in those I used.
On to the results. Here's the breakdown:

Starting weight            3 pounds (1.36 kg)
Usable meat                 1 pound 3.6 ounces (0.56 kg)
Bones                           14.6 ounces (0.41 kg)
Skin and trimmed fat   13.8 ounces (0.39 kg)

So that means that of the starting weight of the chicken:
  • 41% was usable meat
  • 30% was bone
  • 29% was skin and trimmed fat
My conclusion is that the numbers support buying the boneless skinless chicken thighs. For example if you needed to buy 1 pound or kg of boneless, skinless chicken thighs you would need 2 1/2 times that amount of thighs that have not been deboned and skinned.

I know that some supermarkets and big box stores do remove the backbone portion of the bone when packaging but this does not affect the usable meat portion. You would still be better off buying the boneless skinless thighs...plus you save all the time and trouble. Just let the butcher do it.

My new rule of thumb is that if the boneless skinless thighs are 2 to 2 1/2 times the cost, I will choose to but them from now on...now, what about chicken breasts? Stay tuned.

Now, how about some recipe suggestions for those chicken thighs. Here are a few of my favorites:

Quick & Easy Butter Chicken 

Low Fat Tomato Tandoori Chicken Curry

Apple Braised Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Pink Peppercorn Pickled Red Onions

Tomato Fennel Braised Chicken Thighs

Easy Chicken Korma

Onion and Fennel Braised Chicken with Brown Butter and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes


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