Why You May Start Seeing More Skin On Restaurant Menus

Remember when people used to take the skin off chicken? Decades ago, a boneless, skin-free chicken breast was a favored cut of consumers. This was partly credited to how undemanding the cut was to cook. But skinless chicken was also considered a healthy choice at that time as low-fat diets were widely touted for helping to prevent heart disease, per Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences.

It's unlikely anyone would take the skin off chicken today, and not just because we know unsaturated fat — the kind of fat chicken skin is bursting with — has numerous health benefits, including reduced inflammation and cholesterol, as Harvard T.H. Chan's School of Public Health explains. Instead, just weeks into 2023, no less an authority than The New York Times has predicted that chicken skin will be a major hit in the coming months as it named the treat as its "snack of the year."

Chicken skin isn't the only skin that's seeing a resurgence, however. Skin of all kinds, from chicken skin to pork rinds and other international specialties, are becoming increasingly popular with chefs at restaurants around the country.

The reasons skin has become a major food trend

According to The New York Times, which tabbed chicken skin as a major food trend in 2023, its popularity is increasing due to several factors. One is simply our obsession with "crunch," a quality most Americans seek out in their snacks. The inflationary price increases of the past year, which have encouraged creative uses of under-utilized chicken parts, is also a factor, as is the resurgent interest in fried chicken — a dish in which chicken skin is front and center.

The popularity of high-fat ketogenic diets is another interest driver. "Keto diets have really helped the eating of skin," notes Rob Newton, executive chef at Fleeting restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, in The Washington Post. "You can eat chicharrónes or fish skins in cured egg yolk. People want their crunchy, salty thing without a potato or corn, and pig skin has really stepped into that role."

Chicken and fish skins, as well as chicharrónes (fried pork rinds), are among the many skin types currently being showcased on restaurant menus by some of the nation's top chefs, reports The Washington Post. It's not all animal-based skin either. Chef José Andrés, for instance, is grilling eggplants, onions, and a variety of other vegetables with the skin still on. 

Skin has been gaining traction and it's starting to show up in a variety of menu items, from soups and salads to sandwiches and entrées.