Dark meat has long been enjoyed as an indulgent alternative to white meat. The richer flavour and higher moisture content of dark meat makes it the perfect choice for many recipes, including such decadent classics as fried chicken or coq au vin. You may worry that these perks come at the cost of greater calories, but fret not! The difference between white and dark meat is not as big as you might think. A 100 g portion of skinless chicken thigh has only 29 more calories than the same size portion of skinless chicken breast. And while the fat content of dark meat is higher than white meat, fats aren’t the culinary villains they once were, and in moderate quantities are part of a healthy diet. In fact, dark meat has many health benefits and offers some nutrients in quantities that white meat can’t match. Let’s take a closer look.
First off, let’s examine what makes dark meat dark. Why should it be different than the white meat portion of the chicken? The difference stems from the amount of myoglobin present in different parts of the chicken. Myoglobin is an oxygen-carrying protein that gives dark meat its trademark reddish colour. The more myoglobin present, the darker the meat and the richer the nutrients. Myoglobin provides muscles with the oxygen required for exercise and movement, and since chickens are flightless birds, they use their legs and thighs to get around, making those parts darker than the breast or wings.
So what benefits does dark meat offer? Chicken legs and thighs are an excellent source of many essential nutrients. Iron and zinc, which are important for a healthy immune system, are present in much higher quantities in dark meat than in white meat. Dark meat also has higher quantities of B vitamins, like thiamine, niacin, and B12, all of which help regulate the body’s metabolism. For more information on what nutrients are found in your favourite cuts of chicken, check out this Nutrition Cheat Sheet.
And those are just the health benefits! Dark meat is also a treat to cook with. Its higher fat content keeps the meat juicy and tender during cooking and adds a richness in flavour that can’t be beat.
Now that you’re convinced, why not try some of these choice recipes that just wouldn’t be the same without delicious dark meat.