Pay Close Attention When Substituting Chicken Breasts For Thighs

Back in the 1980s, chicken breasts became wildly popular as a healthy meat choice. At the time, the poultry industry started cutting up, deboning, and skinning chicken parts, and while the rest of the world seemed to prefer dark meat, in the United States, people were opting to eat chicken breast instead. Chicken breasts were and still are convenient to cook with, plus, they were perceived as a healthier choice. Chicken in general is full of protein, according to WebMD, which is helpful when managing weight and guarding against heart disease. Other nutritional characteristics vary based on the cut of chicken, and areas with white meat, such as the chicken breast, have less fat than the darker meat, like the thighs (it's that higher fat content that makes chicken thigh recipes so tasty and tender). 

Still, regardless of all these positive qualities of chicken thighs and the fact that they are usually less expensive than chicken breasts, some people just prefer the lighter meat and the taste of chicken breast. And as the popularity of chicken thighs is on the rise, you may find yourself wanting to replace chicken thighs with chicken breasts in a recipe more often. So can it work? The answer: it depends. Sometimes chicken breasts work just as well as the thighs and sometimes they don't. 

Can chicken breasts replace chicken thighs?

More often than not, when cooking with chicken, you can replace your chicken thighs with chicken breasts in your recipes. Just keep a couple of things in mind. First, chicken breasts cook faster than thighs and are easier to overcook. For example, if a recipe suggests cooking thighs for 30 minutes, the breasts may only take 20. The best way to avoid under or overcooking your chicken breasts is to test them with a meat thermometer. The USDA recommends chicken breasts cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The other thing to consider when substituting chicken breasts for thighs is that because of the extra fat on the thighs, more oil and fat will be rendered in the pan as the meat is cooked. Fat isn't always a bad thing when you need moisture or drippings from your meat. But, when cooking chicken breasts in place of thighs, you may need to add some additional fat to the pan to make up for the lower fat content. Usually, oil or butter is an excellent choice to get the job done. But beyond these considerations, a chicken breast for chicken thigh swap shouldn't cause you many problems.