Looking to buy some chicken for your next cookout or BBQ? You’ve come to the right place! This guide to buying chicken for grilling breaks down the six things you need to consider before making a trip to the grocery store.
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Chicken is a pretty safe bet for any cookout or BBQ, but what kind of chicken should you get? Bone-in? Boneless? What about the skin? And should you get white or dark meat?
If you need help deciding which chicken to buy, read through this six-step guide before choosing which type to grill up. All of them will have an impact so make sure to think about each one!
6 tips for buying chicken for grilling
Click the link below to go right to that section, or scroll through and read each one!
- How Many People Are You Feeding?
- White Meat vs Dark Meat
- Skin-On vs Skinless
- Bone-In vs Boneless
- Size of Chicken Pieces
- Air-Chilled Chicken
This guide assumes you’re buying fresh chicken, not frozen. While many of the things to consider are the same for frozen chicken, some of the steps won’t apply as you’ll have a harder time evaluating the chicken pieces you’re getting.
1. Think about how many people you’re feeding
Are you having a small gathering or a large gathering? How many people will be eating the chicken? And what kind of appetites do these people have? All of these are good questions to consider.
Around 8 ounces (1/2 a pound) of chicken per person is a good number to plan with, though you may want less if you’re feeding little kids or more if you’re feeding hungry teenagers.
Something else to consider is will the grilled chicken be the star of the show or more of a supporting character?
If it will be the main protein people are eating with few side dishes, you may want to go up to 10 ounces per person. If you’ll have a lot of sides or the cooked chicken is going in a salad (like in my Greek salad with grilled chicken), you may want to lower it to 4 or 5 ounces per person.
2. Do you want to serve white meat or dark meat – or both?
Serving one kind of meat is certainly easier, but it can be fun to serve two different kinds of chicken to give people a variety.
White Meat Chicken Options
- Chicken breast
- Chicken tenderloins
- Chicken cutlets
Dark Meat Chicken Options
- Chicken thighs
- Chicken drumsticks
- Chicken wings
Breasts and thighs are the most common pieces to grill as they have the most chicken meat on them. You can read more about the parts of a chicken here.
Something to consider when selecting the type of meat is that white meat tends to dry out faster as it has a lower fat content than dark meat. Dark meat chicken is more forgiving and retains its moisture better, making it a good option if you’re new to grilling chicken.
You could also try serving ground chicken, though you’d want to form it into something like meatballs or patties. If you’d like to consider this option, try these super easy ground chicken burgers.
3. Skin-on versus skinless
Most people tend to serve skinless chicken – either chicken breasts or chicken thighs. But there are sometimes benefits to buying skin-on.
First, skin-on chicken is typically cheaper. If you don’t want to cook it with the skin on, you can just remove the skin yourself by gently tugging it off the meat with your hands. You could even save the skin to make chicken broth by freezing it in a bag or other container.
Second, if you or the people you’re feeding like crispy chicken skin then you may want to grill with skin-on chicken! The most common piece of meat with chicken skin is bone-in chicken thighs. And that leads to the next point.
4. Bone-in or boneless
Both bone-in and boneless chicken will cook well on the grill, but boneless chicken typically cooks more quickly than bone-in chicken. So if you want to grill something fast, go with boneless.
Some people think bone-in chicken tastes better than boneless chicken. I haven’t found that to be the case. But bone-in chicken is typically cheaper than boneless. And since it cooks a little more slowly than boneless chicken it’s less likely you’ll overcook your chicken.
5. Size of the chicken pieces
Once you’ve determined what type of chicken you want to buy, try and get pieces that are roughly the same size.
This will help when you go to grill it as they’ll be done at roughly the same time. If you have pieces of all different sizes they will be done at different times.
While this isn’t a bad thing and is easy enough to check with a good meat thermometer – and we definitely have a favorite (affiliate link) – it’s simpler to put all of your chicken on the grill at once and take all of your chicken off the grill at once.
*TIP* If you decide to grill chicken breasts, consider cutting the thicker end of the breast or pounding it out to be all the same width. This will help it cook more evenly.
You could also cut your chicken into roughly same-sized pieces, especially if you’re doing something like grilled kabobs. Check out this post on cutting chicken breast for tips on how to do that.
If you want more information about the correct temperature to cook chicken and other meats to, check out this post on the internal temperature of meats for grilling.
6. Consider getting air-chilled chicken
If you’ve never heard of air-chilled chicken, you’re not alone! After processing, raw chicken (and other poultry) must be cooled to a temperature of 40 degrees F or lower per the USDA. This can be done either through air-chilling or water-chilling.
Chicken that is chilled in water tends to take on some of that water, which can mean less flavorful chicken. Chicken that has been air-chilled doesn’t have that same problem. Click here to read more about the benefits of air-chilled chicken.
What about organic chicken vs. non-organic chicken?
The decision to purchase organic or non-organic chicken is really a personal choice that’s primarily impacted by a person’s budget, and some budgets don’t allow for the added expense of organic food.
Since this is a personal decision, I can only tell you what my family and I do. When our budget allows, we purchase organic, pasture-raised chicken. Does this mean we always do this? No, sometimes our budget is tighter and doesn’t allow for it. But when we can, we do.
We typically purchase our meats from ButcherBox, and have for several years. If that’s something you’re interested in, click the box below to see the latest deal they’re offering when you sign up.
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Including 100% grass-fed and finished, pasture-raised beef, Heritage Breed Pork, and free-range, USDA-certified organic chicken.
Here are the answers to a couple of other common questions about chicken.
Is it better to buy frozen chicken or fresh?
Nutritionally there is no difference between buying fresh or frozen chicken. Frozen chicken will have some water in it, so it might be slightly less flavorful than fresh air-chilled chicken, as mentioned above. You also want to make sure your chicken doesn’t have freezer burn, as that will change the taste of the chicken.
How long can fresh chicken be stored in the refrigerator
Fresh chicken will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 days. After that, you should freeze it to maintain freshness.
Should you wash raw chicken before cooking?
No, you shouldn’t wash raw chicken because it could contaminate your sink and/or kitchen.
If you’re looking for grilled chicken recipes, try one of these at your next cookout!