Chicken is a versatile food, in that it can be baked, fried, or grilled. The four parts of the chicken are the wings, breast meat, drumsticks, and thighs. But what are chicken quarters and how do you prepare them?
What Are Chicken Quarters?
Chicken quarters are the cheapest cut of meat you can buy and consist of the whole chicken leg that consists of a thigh and a drumstick connected by connective tissues. It is often referred to as the ‘whole leg of a chicken’.
You can cook the whole leg quarters or use a knife to separate the leg and thigh.
Many people (myself) included love eating chicken quarters because they are juicy and flavorful when cooked properly. I’ve written a step-by-step tutorial on how to cook chicken quarters on a Pit Boss pellet grill.
This article will answer the most frequently asked questions such as:
- Are chicken quarters dark meat?
- What’s the difference between chicken quarters and chicken thighs?
- Why are chicken leg quarters so cheap?
As well as other questions you may have regarding this cut of meat.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my grilling and meat buying experience.
Are Chicken Leg Quarters White or Dark Meat?
Chicken quarters come from the thigh and drumsticks (of the bird) and have connective tissue making the cut dark meat. The cuts of a chicken are divided into white and dark meat.
White meat is found in the breast and wings. They consist of fast-twitch muscles also known as type 2 muscle fibers that allow the birds to make explosive force movements. These muscles use a lot of energy and break down carbohydrates quickly, meaning they don’t have as much myoglobin as dark meat.
It is typically much leaner than dark meat. This makes it lower in fat and calories, but also somewhat less flavorful.
White meat can be cooked for a shorter period of time without drying out because the lack of fat will cause it to dry faster than dark meat.
Dark meat consists of turkey and chicken legs, and thighs. Since chickens and turkeys spend a lot of time standing, walking, and using their legs, they have more muscles. Therefore these two cuts of meat tend to contain high amounts of myoglobin, making them redder in pigment.
When cooked to a safe internal temperature, the reddish color turns brown.
Dark meat has a lot more flavor and is less likely to dry out because of the fat content.
Difference Between Chicken Quarters and Chicken Thighs
A chicken quarter consists of the ‘whole leg’ of the chicken. Chicken thighs are a cut that comes from the upper part of the ‘whole leg’ towards the body of the chicken.
Chicken thighs are sold as bone-in and skin-on, boneless and skinless, and skinless and bone-in. Chicken quarters are sold as bone-in and skin-on and come in packages of 3-4 quarters.
Both can be cooked with the bone in or you can separate the chicken quarters. Chicken quarters are less expensive than chicken thighs.
The reason that chicken leg quarters are so cheap is that they still contain a lot of myoglobin, which makes them red in color. This makes the meat a darker color and a lot more flavorful.
Thighs, on the other hand, have been trimmed from the upper part of the ‘whole leg’ towards the body of the chicken where they don’t have as much myoglobin left. The meat is lighter in color and less flavorful.
Why Are Chicken Leg Quarters So Cheap?
When you buy chicken leg quarters, you’ll notice that they are really cheap. The reason why they are so cheap is because of how easy it is to cut them. A professional butcher needs to make just three cuts on a bandsaw, to cut a whole chicken into quarters, which takes about 30 seconds.
This is also why sometimes you’ll see a part of the back on the quartered chicken, which consists of more bone than meat.
Where to Buy Chicken Quarters?
Chicken quarters are widely available at grocery stores, supermarkets, online vendors, but you’ll find the best prices at a high-quality butcher shop. They can be purchased in pre-packaged packages (2-4 quarters or as large as five-pound family-sized packages), or at a grocery store with a fresh meat department.
With the high cost of meat, most people choose the bone-in and skin-on option, which is the cheapest option. At the time of this writing, a chicken quarter leg costs around $0.89 U.S. dollars per pound, while boneless chicken breasts average 3.29 and 5.99 for free-range chicken. (source)
Prices will vary depending on where you live, demand, and whether or not the store is running a special.
That said, when buying chicken quarters always look for the freshest meat possible. Check the packaging and make sure the quarters look pink, and the amount of skin. Whenever I shop for chicken quarters, I look for the packages that have the skin side facing up, as I prefer my quarters with crispy skin.
The trickiest part about buying chicken quarters is trying to buy based on the weight. Instead, purchase the number of pieces you believe you’ll need. Remember, these cuts of meat don’t have a lot of chicken, if you have big eaters they will likely eat 1-2 pieces apiece.
How to Cook Leg Quarters?
Chicken quarters purchased at the grocery store, supermarket, online vendors are ready to cook. You will need to prep the chicken before cooking. You can cook the chicken leg quarters whole or separate them with a sharp knife before cooking.
Bone-in and skin-on chicken quarters are excellent for grilling and smoking because it is very forgiving meat making it hard to overcook. This cut of meat can be cooked in the oven, convection oven, pellet grill, charcoal, or gas grill.
Some people boil chicken quarters in a crockpot to make stews.
Cooking Time for Chicken Quarters?
It can take 1-2.5 hours to cook chicken quarters. The length of time it takes will depend on how you’re preparing the quarters. If you’re grilling the quarters, it takes about 55 minutes. Boiling chicken quarters will take about 35-40 minutes.
Regardless of how long it takes, the chicken quarters should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165-185°F. When cooked to 180°-190° they will contain less myoglobin, meaning there won’t be blood between the meat and the bone.
Recipes with Chicken Quarters
As mentioned above, chicken quarters can be used in a wide range of dishes from stews, baked dishes, etc. If this is your first time preparing chicken quarters and you’re not sure how to cook them.
Search online, YouTube, and social media sites for recipes you can use. You won’t have a problem finding tons of recipes you can use to cook the quarters using several possible methods.
How Do You Eat Chicken Quarters?
Most people, myself included will use our hands to pull the thigh away from the drumstick before eating it. This makes it easier to separate the bones and gristle so you eat the meat portion.
Others will use a fork or knife to remove the chicken. The downside with this method is you leave a lot of the meat on the bones.
I personally clean my bones completely and I even eat the gristle. (I know some people think it’s disgusting) but I clean the bones completely.
What Do Chicken Quarters Taste Like?
When it comes to preferring the taste of dark or white meat, it boils down to personal preference.
Chicken quarters have a stronger flavor than white meat. Dark meat is fattier and juicier than white meat, which is why most people prefer it. The roasted chicken skin is full of flavor, crisp, and crunchy between your teeth.
The reason the skin tastes so good is that this is where most of the salt and other spices end up. So when you take a bit into the meat, you’re getting a taste of the juicy dark meat with a layer of flavor that amps up your taste buds.
If you prefer the taste of rich-tasting foods, dark meat will likely be your favorite.
Chicken quarters are flavorful cuts of meat that can be cooked in several different ways. Many people love them because they are extremely affordable and can feed a family of four for less than $20.
Chicken quarters are very versatile-you can eat them whole, separate the thighs from drumsticks and cook each part separately before serving or grilling. You can also use chicken quarters in stews by boiling them with vegetables to make a delicious meal!
The next time you pull out your pellet grill or gas grill, consider cooking some chicken quarters!