Chicken breast is one of the easiest cuts of meat when you’re stretched for time and ideas about what to prepare for dinner. It is versatile, you can prepare it in many different ways, and its mild flavor usually satisfies even the pickiest of eaters.
However, sometimes you see terms in a recipe that you may not understand. One of these is a chicken breast half.
Before you panic about halving chickens and finding this mysterious cut of meat, don’t worry. A chicken breast half is actually quite common and easily accessible at the grocery store.
Here is everything that you need to know about chicken breast halves and how to prepare them.
How Chicken Is Sold
Think about the last time you picked up chicken breast at the grocery store or butcher. Chances are, you picked up two round lumps of chicken breast.
What you bought were actually two chicken breast halves! Most stores sell chicken breast that is already cut in half.
Most packaged chicken is already cut into halves because that makes it easier to sell and serve. Full chicken breasts tend to be quite large as modern chickens have lots of meat in that area. Selling chicken breast halves makes for more efficient packaging and makes life easier for the consumer at the end.
You were probably already buying chicken breast halves without knowing it. If a recipe calls for a chicken breast half, then you can just prepare the slice you got at the grocery store without any more prep work.
Since chicken breasts are fairly large cuts of meat, a half is usually enough for a filling meal, particularly if you serve it with a side dish.
Bone-in Versus Boneless Chicken Breast Halves
Not all chicken breast halves are created the same. You can get boneless or bone-in chicken breast.
Most chicken breast that you get at the store is already prepped for you. It is boneless and usually skinless. Sometimes the two halves are connected with a narrow strip of skin that you can easily cut in half with a regular kitchen knife.
However, you can also get chicken breast halves that are connected by the bone. Usually, you will find this cut of meat at a butcher instead of a regular supermarket or grocery store. However, you can sometimes find it at the grocery store labeled as “split chicken breast.” It looks somewhat like a butterfly because the two halves stand up instead of laying flat.
If you buy bone-in chicken breast halves, you will probably need to prep the meat by separating it from the bone with a boning knife. This is not an impossible task, but you will still need to be careful to avoid cutting yourself while separating the flesh from the bone.
Alternatively, you can find recipes that call for chicken breast halves with the bone still in them, such as this baked chicken recipe.
Boneless chicken breast halves are much easier to prepare since most times, you do not need to cut them at all. However, they are also dryer and less flavorful, which is why some home cooks go to the extra effort of buying bone-in cuts despite the pain of preparing them.
How to Split Chicken Breasts
Sometimes, you can only find a full chicken breast at the store, or you find that even your chicken breast halves are too large for the recipe that you want to make. Or, you took the plunge and bought bone-in chicken breasts.
Whatever the reason, if you need to learn how to prepare chicken breast halves before you cook them, here are a few tips.
For Boneless Chicken Breast Halves
Most boneless chicken breast halves are already split and have the skin removed as well, so you won’t need to do much prep work. However, sometimes even the halves are too large for one person.
If you want to make your chicken breast halves smaller or just need a thinner slice of meat, you can split the breasts using the butterfly method.
First, put the chicken breast flat-side-down on a cutting board. Put your palm on top to keep everything steady then cut through the chicken breast horizontally, leaving a thin strip at the end intact.
Once you’ve made the cut, spread out the chicken breast so that it looks like a butterfly. You can leave this intact, for example if you are making schnitzel, or cut through the middle to make two-serving portions.
For Bone-in Chicken Breast Halves
Bone-in chicken breast halves require a bit more preparation and care, but it will be worth it in the end. To prepare this cut of meat before cooking, you will need a special boning knife (or a paring knife) and a cutting board.
First, put the chicken breast on the cutting board so that the skin side is facing down and the bone is facing up toward you.
Then, run your knife underneath the main breastbone, separating it from the meat. Use angled, decisive cuts to separate the rest of the bones from the meat. Don’t forget about the ribcage or the wishbone.
It may take some practice, but if you want the extra flavor that comes with cooking skin-on chicken breasts, then you will be able to handle a few bones.
The reason chicken breast is one of the most popular cuts of meat is that you can serve it in so many different ways. Whether you buy your chicken breast halves already split or on the bone, here are a few serving ideas.
Baked or roasted chicken is always a healthy, flavorful dinner idea. For a bit of flavor, you can cut up the chicken breast to make stir fry with your choice of vegetables and sauce, cook it in yogurt sauce for Mediterranean-inspired flatbreads, or even use it to make soup.
The Truth About Chicken Breast Halves
You may never have seen the term “chicken breast half” before, but you’ve probably already bought one since supermarket chicken breast comes already halved.
Even if you can’t find halved chicken breast or want to use bone-in meat, prepping the meat is still easy.