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Apr 5, 2009 12:14 AM

I want to lash out against the chicken breast-ification of restaurant food

I really need to vent. Everywhere I go if I order something in a restaurant that has chicken in it it is usually overcooked tasteless, skinless, chicken breast. Aside from the places that offer a whole, half, or quarter roasted chicken, it seems like chicken breast is the only option. I am primarily talking about places I go to for a quick lunch or non-special occasion, weeknight dinner. Is anyone else tired of chicken breast or is it just me?

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  1. I never order chicken in a restaurant any more, unless it's fried chicken, and it's half a chicken (like at one of our local places). I don't even order it at the local Chinese-American places.

    I've come to loath chicken breast, though I have some very serviceable recipes that use it (I have a lovely braised chicken breast recipe that's worth the effort, maybe I should buy a few). Mostly it's just bleah.

    Get the fish instead. ;)

    1. Your both right. The main thing here is what the market demands, and unfortunatly americans are ever increasingly lazy. I've heard "Idon't eat chicken with bones" hundreds of times. The majority don't know (or don't care) that the breast is the most tasteless part of the bird. Everything is "conveinience", anything we can shove in our face and get it over with so we can get on with our "busy lifestyle". Nation of sheep.

      17 Replies
      1. re: mrbigshotno.1

        It's appealing to the lowest common denominator, plus what the wholesale market provides.

        At home, I cook bone-in chicken thighs almost exclusively. If I buy a chicken breast, it's to make salad, and I poach it. In restaurants, I avoid chicken most of the time for the reasons Tracy L mentioned.

        Between the "I don't eat chicken with bones" folk, and those that believe the breast is best and turn up their noses at "the cheap cuts", the restaurant world is awash in "white meat". Gimme the dark, tasty stuff every time.

        1. re: mcsheridan

          For the past six months I've been using chicken thighs, too - boned and boneless.
          All I use the boned breast for is something like kiev, which is cooked quickly. I haven't ordered chicken in a restaurant in years.

          1. re: mcsheridan

            So, anyone who prefers breast meat is part of the "lowest common denominator"? Personally, I prefer the taste and texture of white meat. I always have. If you think that your preference for bone-in thigh meat makes you more enlightened or higher class than me, than that says more about your than it does about me.

            I don't care about the bones, but I simply don't care for the stronger flavor and different texture of dark meat. And I don't live in America. I live in Japan. All of the meat except tiny little drumsticks is de-boned in Japan because the Japanese don't like to bother with bones either and sasami (a sort of white meat filet) and breasts are sold aplenty. I guess that also makes them part of the LCD, eh?

            1. re: Orchid64

              I'm sorry if I offended you (or indeed anyone else) but I did not mean "lowest common denominator" as a put-down, it's merely a marketing shortcut to take the easy way out. And I don't think that those who prefer dark meat are better or more enlightened or higher-class than those who don't.

              In fact, my statement about "the cheap cuts" implies that those who are "higher-class" are among those preferring breast to thigh.

              And I'll bet the chicken sold in Japan has a bit more (or maybe even a lot more) flavor overall than the overprocessed birds sold here.

              To each his own taste, always...

              1. re: Orchid64

                Orchid64, I am going to question your basic assumption. You are CONDITIONED to prefer the taste and texture of white meat. I know, because I was conditioned that way too. It takes effort, sometimes, to break the conditioning and truly let yourself go. It is a process, not always easy, but one that can lead to extraordinary pleasure.

                Quite frankly, I think there are certain applications for which it makes no sense to prefer white meat. In a long simmering stew in which the dark meat (on the bone) can lend more flavor to the liquid. For high heat charcoal, like tandoori (again, on the bone). I still like my fried chicken pieces to be breast meat, because the process is oily. But at least there is a reason for my preference.

                On Chowhound, I think it should be a goal to constantly broaden our horizons and unburden our tastes from years of conditioning. I'd love to get to the point one day when I don't have to say "becuase that's the way I prefer it" or "that's the way I've always liked it" but to be able to make an honest (with myself) appraisal after serious investigation.

                1. re: Steve

                  Forgive me but I think it is rather presumptuous of you to assume that Orchid64 is conditioned to prefer the taste and texture of white meat as if there is some sort of conspiracy planned by a nefarious chicken breast pusher crime organization. [ Chicken breast Yakuza?] Orchid64 lives in Japan and from what i have experienced, they have no qualms in offering every part of the bird and in some ingenious ways, Perhaps Orchid has tried dark meat and still prefers white. Not my or your choice but hardly some sort of Pavlovian Conditioning.

                  1. re: currymouth

                    i agree with curry. Perhaps not everyone likes what you like, and no, it is not always about a conspiracy.
                    Steve, you say that a Chowhound must broaden its horizons. Well, start now!

                  2. re: Steve

                    I stated my strong preference for thighs and wings, but IMHO, everyone has their own palate to satisfy. I personally think everyone has the right to embrace the notion, "to each his/her own."

                    1. re: Steve

                      Wow, that is fairly tough and uncalled for.

                      Orchid specifically stated, "I don't care about the bones, but I simply don't care for the stronger flavor and different texture of dark meat."

                      Sounds like due diligence performed here Steve, just a differentconclusion.

                      1. re: Steve

                        I grew up eating chicken thighs, wings, legs, backs and even necks. At some point during my early adolescence, I became turned off to the stronger flavor and softer texture of dark chicken meat. I am not sure why- I know very well what it tastes like, and that it is more tender and flavorful: it is that very flavor that I don't care for. I went through my teen and college years being the only one in the group who didn't enjoy a large basket of buffalo wings. Now, that's the opposite of conditioning!

                        1. re: vvvindaloo

                          Then I think you have indeed found your preference, except to say that I am sorry that the delight of buffalo wings is forever closed to you.

                      2. re: Steve

                        Steve, I couldn't possibly disagree with you more strenuously.

                        I have generally preferred lighter meats for my entire life. When I was a child, I wanted only white meat of chicken and turkey. I preferred pork loin to shoulder. Lamb breast was a nightmare to me.

                        You can't speak for another person's palette. "More flavor" is far from the only consideration. And especially speaking from a Japanese person's perspective, texture and preparation are vastly important, with refinement being a primary concern.

                        Broaden your own horizons and accept that fat and rich are not the ne plus ultra for every eater. As much as I enjoy an occasional decadent treat, that's certainly not the way I want to eat every day by a long shot. I'd take a chicken breast sandwich over a thigh one almost any weekday lunchtime, and it's certainly not because I have an inferior palette to yours. Mine is simply different, and more prone to fatigue, apparently.

                        1. re: dmd_kc

                          I used to be a dark meat eater growing up (which was an issue since we had 3 dark meat eaters and 1 light), but I switched over to liking light meat later on in life. When I lived in Japan, I found that the dark meat was a lot fattier than what we're used to in the states and found that preference for light meat to be a lot stronger. However, as huaqiao pointed out, the majority of Japanese cooking does seem to involve dark meat. Even at KFC and other fried chicken places, you're not likely to find white meat.

                      3. re: Orchid64

                        Isn't most chicken in Japanese cooking dark meat? Oyako-don, karage, chicken katsu, etc. I believe those are all made from dark meat usually.

                      4. re: mcsheridan

                        I'll take both sides of the battle on this one.

                        I prefer white meat chicken. I simply don't enjoy the taste of the dark. Nobody has conditioned me to eat only white meat. Health ain't got nothing to do with it - the more skin and fat the better. I love gnawing at bones.

                        I deplore the fact that most recipes tell you to cook chicken for far too long. I like my white meat at 155 F, and I don't get complaints about dark meat served at 160. While I don't know what I may be doing that differs from the norm, the dark meat cooks faster than the white when I cook a whole chicken. They are ready at the same time.

                        In my convection oven, a whole chicken (which I butterfly) cooks in 35 minutes at 400 F. A breast on the bone, depending on size, takes 15-20 minutes.

                        When I saute or grill a boneless breast, it's 5-10 minutes total cooking time (depending mainly on thickness).

                        Since I buy good chicken and don't overcook it, the white meat is usually juicy, tender, and very flavourful. Some of you bottom lovers may never have eaten a properly cooked chicken breast in your lives.

                        I deplore the fact that even restaurants serving good quality chicken overcook the breasts until they are as delicious as cardboard. Dark meat is simply much more forgiving.

                        I deplore that all of our local markets cook their prepared chickens beyond edibility. The dark meat survives the food code's 185 F (or is it 195?) "recommendation"; the white meat doesn't.

                        I use dark meat (on the bone and usually with the skin) in soup, and also in long simmering stews. The breasts contribute little to these preparations. I can eat the dark meat in these dishes because (let's be honest here) no particular chicken flavour remains after all that simmering. The meat tastes of its sauce or of nothing in particular.

                        Most of the chicken breasts I've had at restaurants are dry and tasteless. They aren't "tofu" analogues because tofu isn't tough. They are seldom worth eating other than as a generic protein source.

                        Then there is the stuff that looks like a chicken breast but has a weird texture and tastes of the chemicals processed therein. My heavens, what is that stuff?

                        1. re: embee

                          This is quite a good post, embee, very well reasoned. I will only add there are certain cooking techniques that are difficult to get right at home, like great tandoori kabobs. White meat can be good, usually you taste just the marinade really, but the thighs and legs when done properly are out of this world. Another example would be the Peruvian rotisserie chicken that is VERY prolific around my area (DC). Customers from all over Latin America line up and pay double the price of a grocery store-cooked bird for the flavor. They eat it all, of course, but the pieces of dark meat are especially prized, and with good reason.

                      5. re: mrbigshotno.1

                        I agree with all of this. I almost never use chicken breast, especially boneless. I almost always buy chicken thighs. I also rarely order chicken out, unless as others have said, it's fried.

                      6. The worst "mexican" meal I ever had (in Florida) was an order of chicken mole that turned out to be jarred sauce poured over perfect cubes of tasteless chicken breast. I would have had more fun by poking holes in the chicken cubes and starting a game of Yatzee.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Veggo

                          I could not agree more with all the above. I have always wondered what became of all those thighs-my favorite piece.

                        2. The whole "white meat" thing came about from the "eat healthy " gurus a decade or three back.
                          Red meat was bad. Dark meat from birds was better. Best was white fish and white meat. Lower fat, cholesterol, and unfortunately taste.
                          Remember the ads trying to hype pork as the "other white meat" ?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: hannaone

                            i think the white meat thing predates the eat healthy thong, in this country.

                            think thanksgiving - the iconic image is breast meat from a turkey...

                          2. I avoid orfering chic in restaurants, at home, I use thighs, awesome flavor.