Pieces of Chicken, Ranked

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In the midst of the ongoing hullabaloo about Popeyes’ new chicken sandwich, we decided to settle a separate chicken-related argument that has raged for years.

What is the best piece of chicken?

We know the answer is subjective, so we decided to assemble a team of experts in the field of chickenology to end this debate once and for all. After we found out that many, if not most, of America’s finest culinary academies and institutions of higher learning do not offer advanced degrees in the poultry sciences, The Root’s senior writer, Michael Harriot, who has literally been begging to write this article since his first day of employment, said: “Fuck it. I’ll do it myself.”

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It is important to know that these rankings are based solely on fried chicken—specifically, chicken fried in hot grease. Baked chicken does not count because sprinkling Mrs. Dash on a piece of barnyard pimp and throwing it in the oven is not really a recipe. And the ancestors have spoken and informed me that air fryers are the products of satanic black magic and, therefore, cannot produce real fried chicken.

Here are the definitive rankings.

10. The chicken breast

Fast-food restaurants always brag that their chicken-adjacent products are made from real breast meat. At first, I thought this was a product of racism because, if pieces of chicken were people, then the breasts would represent Caucasians—they are the driest, least flavorful part, yet they get all the glory. In fact, the chicken breast is one of the few pieces of chicken one can eat with a fork and a knife without looking bougie.

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However, my research indicates that breast supremacy dates back to slavery. Slave masters would keep the biggest piece of chicken for themselves, so it wasn’t until the early 1900s that a black man even tasted a breast. But breast meat is trash. If it wasn’t for marinade, most chicken sandwiches would taste like banjo music and broken flip-flop straps. And everyone knows what the secret ingredient is in Chick-fil-A’s marinade:

Homophobia.

9. The nugget

I’m sure you’re saying: “But there’s no part of a chicken called the nugget!”

You’re right. However, this is not an anatomy seminar, nigga. This is about pieces of chicken and since Mickey Ds sells a “10-piece McNuggets,” the nugget is a piece of chicken. Plus, people who eat chicken nuggets don’t really care that they’re made of yoga mats and organic E-I-E-I-O grown on Old McDonald’s farm.

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Not all nuggets are bad for you. The American Medical Association notes that there are specific times when nuggets are very nutritional, like when you’re drunk, sitting on the edge of a bed and holding your eyes closed to keep the room from spinning. Instead of texting “WYD” to your ex, you should eat chicken nuggets.

In fact, scientists say that two-thirds of early-morning, after-sex hangovers are caused by nugget deficiency.

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8. The leg

Legs are easy to eat and come with a built-in handle, which makes them perfect for children and church picnics. But if you’re over the age of 9 and still eat legs, you need to grow up and make better life choices.

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The only redeeming part of the drumstick is the bone, whose marrow—according to my calculations—holds about 42 percent of the chicken’s flavor. If you eat a leg and don’t suck on the bone, you are wasting part of the chicken and are therefore contributing to global warming.

Look it up.

7. The liver

Chicken livers make great gravy and can sometimes be consumed over rice. The reason they are so far up on the list is that there is a little-known law that the only people legally allowed to cook chicken livers, chicken feet or chicken necks are grandmothers from Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and certain Caribbean countries. They are also required to have at least five grandchildren whom they collectively refer to as their “grand.”

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And they must have the Holy Ghost.

6. The gizzard

I don’t even know what a gizzard is but that shit is delicious.

For most of my life, I assumed a gizzard was that little piece of meat that dangles from the neck of roosters and Caucasian senior citizens. But one time, during an impromptu martial arts lesson, my cousin Reggie karate-chopped me in the throat. After my eyes stopped watering and I could speak again, I told my Aunt Marvell that her son punched me in the gizzard.

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She had no idea what I was talking about.

5. The finger

Like legs, chicken fingers should only be consumed by people under 9 years old unless you are specifically ordering from a place that specializes in chicken tenders, like Zaxby’s, Raising Cane’s or the original chicken finger restaurant, Guthrie’s.

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Some people might insist that chicken fingers are made from chicken breasts, and should, therefore, be higher on the list. But chicken fingers are made from the chicken tender, which comes from chickens who don’t have large breasts. Basically, a chicken finger is an A-cup chicken breast who does not adhere to your preconceived Eurocentric notions of barnyard beauty.

4. The drum

For the purpose of this ranking system, we have broken the chicken wing down into two separate pieces, the drum and the flat. While the drum has more meat, everyone knows that, compared to the flat, the drum part of the wing is an inferior piece of chicken.

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First of all, the head of a drum is often unable to fit into the ranch dressing dip container (If you like blue cheese, stop reading this and get the fuck away from me because you are a traitor to the chicken cause). Plus there’s that unappetizing piece of chicken rubber at the top of the drum that you must bite off to get to the goodness in the bone marrow. This is not to say that drums aren’t good, but they are not as good as a flat.

3. The egg

Yes, the egg is a piece of chicken. It ranks so high because, not only can it be eaten alone, but it is the essential ingredient in almost every black dish, including potato salad, macaroni and cheese and the most essential part of any cookout, the deviled egg. The Black Legislative American Cookout Council’s bylaws state that no cookout can be BLACC-certified unless there is at least one tray of deviled eggs.

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Also, in case you were wondering which came first, the chicken or the egg, the answer is simple:

It takes one chicken to make an egg but it takes two chickens to make another chicken. I really don’t know what that means but that’s the answer I received when I posed that philosophical quandary to my grandmother.

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Of course, she was cooking chicken liver at the time.

2. The thigh

The thigh is the most slept-on part of the chicken. First of all, a thigh has all of the flavor of a wing or a leg, but it is bigger and meatier. Chicken thighs are also a far superior piece of sandwich meat than the breast because it has a surface area that can cover an entire piece of bread and hold a lot more hot sauce.

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Many stores have begun selling boneless, skinless chicken thighs. However, the skin is the best part of the thigh. Eating a thigh without the skin is like drinking non-alcoholic beer, masturbating without an orgasm or sending money to Dr. Umar Johnson’s school—what’s the point?

*A few words about leg quarters: Because of the thigh’s superior flavor, some restaurants, a few family reunions and all Que parties may leave the thigh attached to its inferior counterpart—the leg. Although this may seem illogical, a leg does not decrease the value of a chicken thigh. Conversely, the thigh actually increases the value of the drumstick. But, because leg quarters are rarely fried and are actually composed of two pieces of chicken, it does not meet the qualifications to be ranked as the best piece of chicken.

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A leg quarter can, however, be eaten with utensils.

1. The flat

The flat is the all-time champion of chicken parts. It is small enough to fit in a dipping container, not difficult to fry and can be easily concealed in a purse or a pocket and...

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Wait. You mean to tell me you have never snuck a six-piece, all flat, lemon-pepper wings into a movie theater? (Just the wings, dummy, not the fries and the celery. That would be uncouth.) Then you, sir, are not living your life like it’s golden (fried).

The little piece of meat between the two bones in the flat is the most flavorful part of the entire chicken. Some people will pull a flat apart to get all of the meat but experienced chicken connoisseurs know how to eject that little slice of heaven using their tongues. After all of the flat meat is consumed, a real flat eater will chew on the bones for an average of 3.2 seconds.

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That’s why the Creator made the flat bones so small and brittle—so the children of earth could enjoy them. In fact, of all the animals God created during the first week, the only animal body part that was specifically mentioned in the Bible creation story is wings.

“And God saw that it was good.”

See?

It’s just science.

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About the author

Michael Harriot

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.