You may have heard that buying a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself is cheaper than buying chicken parts (legs, thighs, wings, breasts) separately. And most of the time that’s absolutely right – especially when whole chickens are on sale. But there are times when chicken parts are cheaper than a whole chicken (usually when they’re on sale and whole chickens aren’t).
The question is: how do you know when you’re getting a good deal? Well, with some information from the More-With-Less Cookbook based on data from the USDA, here’s how to know when it’s cheaper to buy chicken parts instead of a whole chicken.
- Breasts – Buy chicken breasts when their per pound price is equal to or less than 1.4 times the per pound price for whole broiler-fryer chickens.
- Drumsticks, Thighs, or Legs – Buy chicken drumsticks, thighs, or legs (the drumstick & thigh together) when their per pound price is equal to or less than 1.3 times the per pound price for whole broiler-fryer chickens.
- Wings – Buy chicken wings when their per pound price is equal to or less than 0.8 times the per pound price for whole broiler-fryer chickens.
How to Use This Information
When you’re going to buy chicken, simply look at the per pound price for a whole broiler-fryer. Multiply by the appropriate factor (1.4, 1.3, or 0.8) and compare that to the price for the respective chicken parts (breasts, drumsticks/thighs/legs, or wings). If the price for the part is equal to or lower than the price you came up with, then the parts are a good buy. If not, you should buy the whole chicken.
If you want several of one particular chicken part but they’re not on sale, then your best option is to buy several whole chickens, cut them up yourself, and freeze the rest for later. Now, I’m sure many of you have never cut up a whole chicken before, so if you need a little guidance I recommend this episode from Good Eats by Alton Brown:
Another good option when whole chickens are on sale is to simply roast the whole chicken in your oven. The meat itself is often enough for two or three meals for a family of four, plus you get the bones for making chicken stock (very useful and tasty stuff). Again, some Good Eats episodes are quite handy for this. I’d suggest these two:
Have you ever bought a whole chicken and fixed it? What are your tips for first-timers? Share your ideas in the comments below!
P.S. Thanks to The Digerati Life for reminding me to write about this!