Why Bone-In Makes the Most Flavorful Chicken Meat

I recently met a new friend who needed help butchering her chickens. It was her first time raising her own meat birds, and it was my first time butchering animals for food…needless to say, it was a great learning experience for both of us. As a result, my family took home some chickens and we’ve been LOVING the fresh flavor, juicy and tender meat, and lovely bone broth that I make with the uneaten parts. Such a fun experience!

What Makes The Most Flavorful Chicken Meat

After getting to use more chickens these past few months, I’ve learned that chicken meat tastes a lot better when it is cooked with the bones–our favorites are roasted whole chickens and whole chickens in our Instapot (the meat comes right off the bones and the drippings are incredible!). The meat is much better tasting than anything I could get from the store, and noticeably better than boneless chicken breasts. Why would there be such a difference in flavor between meat-only cuts versus bone-in chicken? And would the type of chicken meat (light or dark) make that much of a difference in the flavor?

At first I thought it may be a simple difference between light and dark meat. I prefer dark meat, but the two mixed together, like what you’d eat from a whole chicken, gives an overall delicious flavor, still much better than light breast-only cuts. It turns out that there are some differences between dark and light meat.

Dark Meat Vs Light Meat

According to this article, “dark meat is richer in nutrients than white meat and contains more iron and zinc…” and “Dark meat is also rich in vitamins A, K, B6, B12, niacin, folic acid, pantothenic acid and minerals like selenium and phosphorus.” That could explain why many of us enjoy the dark meat so much. But there’s also the fats. This article explains “that extra fat in the dark meat makes it juicier and contributes to a pleasing mouthfeel, much like marbling in steak.” Delicious! But I don’t think dark meat alone is the full answer to what makes the most flavorful chicken.

The Benefit Of Bone-In Meats

According to this holistic nutritionist, the enhanced flavor of bone-in meat could be due to the fact that:

“bones are surrounded by fat, so as the bone heats [,] the [marrow’s] juices penetrate the meat and add a depth of flavour that does not exist with a boneless cut.”

Not only do the juices that pass into the meat enhance the flavor, but bones contain nutrients that are passed into the meat during cooking making it more nutrient-dense and healthy for you. The author notes these other benefits of cooking bone-in meat: it provides more micronutrients, it supports gut health, it supports sustainability, and it saves money. I suspect that the collagen and any other beneficial parts of bone-in chicken melt while being cooked, mixing with the meat and making it juicy and taste even better. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to buying meat-only cuts of chicken!

My Favorite Whole Chicken Recipes

To make a whole chicken in the Instapot, we do 6 minutes per pound of chicken, cooking it on high pressure. Make sure to add one cup of water to the bottom of the pot and place your thawed (or partially thawed) whole chicken on the rack that comes with your Instapot. This makes super tender meat that comes right off the bones…we use the meat in soups, curries, or pulled-chicken with BBQ sauce. We save the bones to make bone broth. The chicken drippings are used in soups, rice, quinoa, or gravy. We love chicken prepared this way as it is extremely flavorful thanks to being cooked whole. For roasted chicken, I constantly find recipes on Lisa’s Farmhouse On Boone website and youtube. She is a talented mother and cook!

What have you found to make the most flavorful chicken? Do you have recipes or tricks you use?

Written by:


Diane is a wife, mother, and researcher with the goal of restoring the practice of traditional holistic approaches to wellness and sharing evidence-based information with the public. She lives in Grand Forks North Dakota with her husband and four children and receives raw milk and pastured meats from Bartlett Farms.


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