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Thigh bone is NOT connected to the backbone

August 12th, 2008 · 3 Comments · Food selection

Diagram of chicken skeleton

Attention chicken cutters: The thigh bone is connected to the knee bone (sort of) and the pelvis bone, but it is not connected to the backbone. That means, if you’re selling me chicken thighs, it shouldn’t have ribs or vertebrae. Those are part of the back, OK?

This pressing issue came to my attention most recently when I decided to buy chicken thighs at the Lawrence Farmers Market. Usually, I buy whole chickens, but I thought it would be convenient and different to buy thighs because I don’t cut up raw chickens. I’m not good at it, and I prefer not to get that personal with a chicken before it’s cooked. Besides, I could get a package of pastured chicken thighs for just $3.00 a pound. Zowie! Or so I thought.

Then came cooking time. I open the now-thawed thighs, and the first thing I see when I pick one up is a spine. I repeat: Thighs don’t have backbones.

Furthermore, because I had come across such an odd thigh in the past, I knew that I don’t like to eat thighs with spines. It’s too much work. I am more than happy to labor in the kitchen before a meal, but when I sit down to eat, I want to enjoy the food not work on it. That’s one of the reasons I don’t get excited about chicken wings, artichokes and anything else that results in a pile of leavings that’s larger than the quantity consumed. (I reserve the right to adore some such things; I just can’t think of any at the moment.)

So, in this case, I snarled and separated thigh from extraneous parts before cooking, which revealed that I in fact had spent $6 a pound for pastured chicken thighs and got a bunch of extraneous stuff for free. For a moment, it almost made me long for the time when I could buy a package of industrial chicken thighs whose weight was “enhanced” merely with a vast flap of skin and chunk of chicken fat.

In the end, it all worked out, I suppose. I made my chicken-thigh dish (yum; tune in tomorrow) and threw the free stuff in a pot with water, onions, carrots, salt, pepper and herbs and made broth. And through a little online research, I’ve discovered the question to ask next time I think about buying chicken thighs: oyster cut, or with backbone? (Oyster cut? It’s a bird, for pete’s sake!)

If you want to know what to call your chicken parts, check out the hilarious (to my mind, anyway) pictures at the Rectory Foods site, one pale chicken part per white plate. They even have “chicken paws, skin and nails on.” Maybe it’s a British thing.

Diagram source: Penn State U.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Renegade risotto reappears on menu | foodperson.com

    […] hot large pepper plus chicken broth and bits from the “free” parts of my recently purchased chicken thighs. I also had on hand onion and herbs. You can get the basic recipe at the Renegade Risotto post. Or, […]

  • Charles

    Hi
    I was absolutely thrilled that you find our web site hilarious in a kind of ‘ it is better to be talked about than not talked about’ Oscar Wilde sort of way.
    Appreciate to a lay-person the pictures and the descriptions are strange and some may say ‘wierd’…. and you are correct that there is a cut of a chicken thigh that includes a big chunk of the backbone . Strangely (!)they are cheaper than the ‘oyster-cut’ thighs without back-bone…..Just wait until we post some of the pork cuts that we sell – I just hope that your medical insurance is upto date as you will split your sides laughing……..Happy eating….

  • Janet Majure

    Thrilled! Well, I never imagined this post was thrilling, but I guess you didn’t imagine your page being hilarious. I’m not surprised that the “oyster cut” thighs are more expensive, as it seems pretty clear the backbone option is to save labor. I’ll look forward to bustin’ my buttons over the pork pix.