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Nov 3, 2013 07:27 PM

Boneless vs. Bone-in Fried Chicken [split from Boston]

(Note: this thread was split from the Boston board at: -- The Chowhound Team)

i've never seen any reason to try boneless fried chicken. The bone is what gives chicken it's flavor and boneless is almost always breast meat which is about the least flavorful part of the chicken to me.

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  1. I'm pretty sure that the whole bone/flavor argument has been largely debunked

    23 Replies
    1. re: jgg13

      not by my tastebuds. the whole experience of eating chicken on the bone vs. cutting into a hunk of boneless white meat is chalk and cheese. try making chicken soup with boneless white meat chicken vs. chicken with bones. taste, texture, whole experience is changed. if you're not a person who gnaws on bones this might be lost on you.

      1. re: teezeetoo

        Soup making with bones is not the same as frying for 10-15 minutes and the effect is completely different . You're describing flavoring a soup, not the meat. Your last statement is in regards to gnawing on bones, not the flavor of the actual meat

        And in your first statement you're clearly bringing the experience into account. Try doing a double blind where the chicken cooked on the bone is removed so that you can't tell which is which.

        1. re: jgg13

          I have no bone to pick in this discussion, and have nothing against boneless chicken, or people that like it.

          I have to believe though, the same element(s) from the bones to flavor a soup broth could also benefit in flavoring the meat on it when frying.

          The flavor from the bones, which is probably a protein is going to transfer to the meat, and if you don't have the meat on the bone, you're not going to get that flavor from it, however subtle or deeper it may be.

          Personally for fried chicken I only like dark on the bone, but I can always talk myself into a Cutty's sandwich if the stars a lined up correctly.

          I also think we should have a Globe/Devra thread, so every time people see's something mentioned in the Globe, they can post it in that one spot.

          Seeing crowds ordering boneless fried chicken w/crunchy buttermilk coating, served over potato puree , w/ greens, BBQ drizzle and puffy, honey scented doughnuts. This just doesn't excite. In fact it sounds like people at McDonalds ordering McNuggets.

          I just don't see how this recently open restaurant belongs in a best fried chicken thread, when two people who have written about it haven't even tried it.

          This thread and Back Bay Harry deserve that question "has anyone tried it" be asked in it's own thread.

          1. re: Infomaniac

            Don't get me wrong, I typically associate boneless chicken with watered down mediocrity. I also am fine with the more aesthetic angle which teezeetoo mentioned.

            But for non-stock/stew type purposes, my understanding is that the bone == flavor thing has been largely debunked. For instance, Kenji did a piece on it:


            Note that he also touches on there being other plusses and minuses to using the bone-in meat, but that flavor isn't one of them.

            1. re: jgg13

              Hmmm the test was a beef roast NOT chicken, so not debunked at all, for fried chicken in particular the bones keep the meat moister, then there is the esthetic of gnawing, which I love, followed by crunching the bones and eating the yummy marrow! Case closed.

              1. re: StriperGuy

                "for fried chicken in particular the bones keep the meat moister"

                I'd love to be pointed to a (preferably double blind) comparison of this

                "then there is the esthetic of gnawing, which I love, followed by crunching the bones and eating the yummy marrow"

                None of which has anything to do with the flavor of the meat. I already said that there are reasons besides meat flavor/texture why one would want bone-in meat. I too prefer it.

                "Case closed"

                Hardly. For instance, by what mechanism does the bone being in the chicken for the 10-20 mins it is in the fryer does the bone impart superior moisture retention? Your post isn't exactly QED

                1. re: jgg13

                  Case closed for me. A drumstick on the bone is moister, I don't need some silly double blind experiment to prove this particular point. If you like your chicken off the bone knock yourself out.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    I've already said that I do not prefer it that way.

                    The moistness you're perceiving is more likely to be the broken down connective tissue than any benefit from the bone itself. On a leg, it is more likely that meat removed from the bone will be sans connective tissue. How often do you see boneless chicken legs?

                    The connective tissue doesn't start breaking down until roughly the 180F range. If one is frying chicken breasts, that meat better not be getting anywhere near that hot if one wants it in a discussion of which is the best. To bring this back to the post which started it all, teezeetoo mentioned that boneless is almost always breasts and that this is the cut which suffers the most from it.

                    You keep bringing up red herrings. First it was your fondness of chewing on bone and marrow, which have nothing to do with the flavor of the meat. Now it's a boneless chicken leg - a beast which I've never personally seen (is it even really possible?).

                    1. re: jgg13

                      Boneless thighs are a retail commonplace. I don't think I've ever seen a restaurant boneless chicken dish that wasn't based either on breast meat or meat slurry.


                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        Oh I know thighs are common boneless. Sometimes they come in handy, although thighs are so easy to debone I typically buy them whole even for boneless preparations.

                      2. re: jgg13

                        You clearly don't spend much time in the supermarket where bones chicken legs are common. Likewise it seems unlikely you've actually eaten a fried leg on the bone, they are juicier.

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          No, I don't spend much time at the supermarket as I buy all of my meat from a farm.

                          You still have yet to posit a theory as to how bones make meat moister. Red herrings and repeating "nyah nyah yes it is!" doesn't an argument make.

                          I've explained one mechanism by which chicken legs especially (and thighs to a lesser extent, for multiple reasons) could be perceived to be moister. That theory could NOT work with breasts, which a) were the cut originally mentioned and b) comprise a large amount of the boneless meat sold out there. It also doesn't *require* the bone in the leg/thigh, depending on how it is deboned.

                          If you'd like to put forth an actual argument for how exactly bone imparts moisture to the meat during cooking, I'd love to hear it. Otherwise you're simply being akin to the talking heads on cable news, shouting over the other person w/o any real argument. Arguments are not made on cheap insults (e.g. "Likewise it seems unlikely you've actually eaten a fried leg on the bone") - I've stated *multiple* times now that I personally prefer bone-in chicken. I've stated *multiple* times now that there are obvious reasons why one would prefer this beyond bone-derived moisture. I've stated *multiple* times now that things such as "i get to chew on the bone!" doesn't mean the meat is any moisture as a direct result from the bone. If you've got any sort of argument beyond that, please make it. Otherwise, g'day to ya.

                          1. re: jgg13

                            What about the theory that the element of flavor from the bone transfers to the meat when frying.
                            You never answered that.
                            If the element is not there, the flavor from it can't be there.
                            Your understanding doesn't make the case.
                            I'm talking the elements/chemistry substance that comes from the bones. How can you get any of that from boneless?

                            1. re: Infomaniac

                              The flavor transfer from the bone was the first thing I posted about. StriperGuy immediately rejected the link I posted as being based on beef and not chicken - without addressing *why* that would matter in terms of flavor transfer from bone. What's special about a chicken bone which would allow this to happen and not in a beef bone? Perhaps density, thickness, etc - but that was never brought up - but instead Striper states things like "it's completely different!" without providing an example as to *how* it is different or *why* it'd act differently in this case.

                              The goodies in the bone are brought forth in things like stock making which is why bone-in is vastly superior for braises and other slower cook methods. There's a reason why bones in stock making are better off being but up in a few places as it allows the marrow and such to be brought forth more easily.

                              1. re: jgg13

                                Let me put forth another possible world, culled with tidbits presented by just about everyone here:

                                a) Boneless fried chicken will be overwhelmingly breast meat (or as MC pointed out, perhaps a slurry)

                                b) Dark meat - i.e. legs and thighs are demonstrably more flavorful & moister than breast meat

                                c) I'm betting most people here prefer dark meat to breast meat regardless, for the reason stated in b

                                d) Most boneless fried chicken that people here will have had will be breast meat, for the reason stated in a

                                Taking these into account, could it not simply be the case that people associate boneless fried chicken w/ being dried out and less flavorful because it's breast meat, which has a tendency to be dried out & less flavorful when not prepared with care?

                                I honestly can't say this w/ personal experience but I'd imagine that if one went to KFC they wouldn't find a huge flavor/dryness difference between the breasts and the boneless bits. Although that's a little too frankenfood-y for even me to claim as an argument.

                                1. re: jgg13

                                  And another link. I don't view this guy as being in the same realm as Kenji, but he does dig into things pretty well:


                                  Meathead is talking about beef & pork bones. Again, if one wants to claim that this is somehow different for chicken, I want to know how and why the chicken bones are somehow different in this regard, not simply "it's different!"

                                  1. re: jgg13

                                    Cutting meat off the bone, particularly in smaller animals like chickens, severs connective tissue, breaks up muscle groups and disturbs the integrity of tissues that are designed to, in part, retain moisture. Cutting beef ribs off the outside of a rib roast is indeed quite different from ripping the thigh bone (or leg bones and associated tendons) from a cut of chicken. Carefully seaming and disarticulating the muscle groups from a leg of lamb will give you different results that cutting those same muscles across the grain into steaks. I've never seen this properly explored, but it very well may be your "why". The best fried chicken I ever had was an itty bitty quail leg preparation at the French Laundry. It was on the bone.

                                    1. re: loper

                                      I suggested above that the loss of connective tissue, etc could well be the culprit (which wouldnt' really apply to breast here).

                                      That still doesn't imply that the bone is somehow imparting flavor to the meat. Some here are implying causation when this theory would be correlation.

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        I guess i just can't see how one can deny flavor coming from the bone when the bone has some element of flavor to it.

                                        1. re: Infomaniac

                                          Because the elements of flavor are on the inside and somehow need to get to the outside. Note t I'm referring to just the bone here, not connective tissue.

                  2. re: Infomaniac

                    you pretty much shut down your whole argument haven not tried it.

                    I'm ganna make me some chicken milenese that would nock your socks off!

                    1. re: Bellachefa

                      I love a good cutlet, but suggesting that this very different (pounded / breaded / pan-fried) creature has any bearing on the boneless vs. bone-in (untenderized / battered / deep-fried) fried chicken debate strikes me as a stretch.


                      1. re: MC Slim JB

                        My Italian wife does great Milanese but agree with MC, totally different beast.

            2. Totally agree. Boneless fried chicken does nothing for me.

              1. The test of a well-fried (or well-roasted) chicken is that parts of the bones themselves become very delectable. (Indeed, for some of us at least, the best part.) Boneless fried chicken can't compare in breadth of delectability. Y;all are welcome to your critters from the boneless chicken farm, just get out of my way to the real chicken with bones.

                (Btw, the Chinese - among others - tend to have the same feeling about the American preference for filleted fish. Of course, Chinese manners make greater allowance for dealing with fish bones than American manners do. But the Chinese know that the flesh closest to the bone tends off the best character.)

                1. The skin is more important than the bone, where breast meat is concerned. I've switched from packaged boneless, skinless breasts to boneless, skin-on breasts. I don't fry them, however. I broil briefly to precook the skin, then put in a pan in the oven, skin-up, to roast. Keeps them moist.

                  1. No longer in Boston now. As to boneless vs bone in, I like them both if prepared properly. There is an izakaya that prepares kara-age from boneless thigh meat. Its a crispy tasty wonder. No bone and the flavor is outstanding.

                    The biggest difference in my view is that bone in probably slows the cooking process so its less likely to result in overcooked chicken by an inattentive cook though I've had plenty of mediocre bone in fried chicken.

                    My own preference is that fried chicken has to have crispy skin. Without skin, its just a cutlet. If bone in is so good, how many of you would want skinless but bone in fried chicken? The skin is the most important part.