You'll find the highest chicken fat content in the skin. But even once you've stripped the skin away, not all cuts of poultry are created equal. Some have roughly twice the fat content of lean breast meat.
The highest fat content in a chicken comes from the skin, followed by the wings, which just barely edge out the next-fattiest cut of chicken meat, the thigh. Next up is the drumstick, followed by breast meat, which is the leanest cut of chicken.
Highest Chicken Fat Content
Nobody disputes the fact that chicken skin has the highest fat content of the entire animal; according to the USDA, 40 percent of chicken skin is pure fat. However, that doesn't mean consuming small amounts of it is bad for you. As a pair of medical and nutrition experts point out at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, most of the fat in chicken skin is of the healthy, unsaturated variety.
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They also add that leaving the skin on helps keep your chicken moist as it cooks, which reduces the need to add salt or other ingredients. However, that doesn't mean a healthy diet can contain endless amounts of chicken skin or other sources of unsaturated fat.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a balanced and healthy diet should get 25 to 35 percent of its calories from fat, preferably healthy unsaturated fats. By comparison, the HHS recommends limiting your intake of saturated fat to less than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake.
Read more: Nutrition Information of Rotisserie Chicken
Dark and Light Meat Chicken
For the sake of consistency, it's easiest to compare the following USDA figures for fat content per 100 grams of any cut of meat from the chicken; otherwise, the results will be skewed by the clear difference in size between a breast and a wing, a drumstick and a thigh, and so on. Because your choice of cooking method can affect fat content too, all of these figures are for chicken that has been roasted, broiled or baked.
Dark meat on the chicken is typically considered to have more fat, but gram-for-gram, the next fattiest part after the skin is actually the wing, which has 8.06 grams of fat per 100-gram serving, skin off. Keep the skin on, and you're looking at a whopping 16.7 grams of fat per 100 grams of meat — roughly two large wings or three small ones.
Chicken thighs come in a very close second, weighing in at about 7.7 grams of fat per 100 grams of skinless meat. Add the skin back on, and you're looking at 14.3 grams of fat in a chicken thigh. For reference, the 100-gram measurement used is equal to roughly one large chicken thigh.
Next up is the drumstick. For a skinless 100-gram serving, you're looking at about 5.4 grams of fat. Add the skin back in, and your total fat consumption hits about 9.7 grams per 100 grams of meat. For reference, it would take two small drumsticks to make a 100-gram portion.
Finally, a roasted, boiled or baked chicken breast, with no skin, contains just 3.9 grams of fat per 100-gram serving. If you do eat the skin, you'll get 7.7 grams of fat in a chicken breast serving of 100 grams — again, per 100-gram serving, which is roughly equivalent to one-half of a small chicken breast.
Read more: Nutrition in Fried Chicken Breasts
The way you choose to cook your chicken affects its fat content too. The American Heart Association recommends several best practices that can help you reduce the fat content in any meat, including chicken: Trim off visible fat, broil instead of frying and keep poultry moist by basting with wine or fruit juice instead of leaving the skin on. Or cook with the skin on and remove it before eating.
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Ask the Expert: Healthy Fats"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 7. Nutritional Goals for Age-Sex Groups Based on Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines Recommendations"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken, Breast, Roasted, Broiled, or Baked, Skin Eaten"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken, Breast, Roasted, Broiled, or Baked, Skin Not Eaten"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken, Thigh, Roasted, Broiled, or Baked, Skin Not Eaten"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken, Thigh, Roasted, Broiled, or Baked, Skin Eaten"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken, Drumstick, Roasted, Broiled, or Baked, Skin Not Eaten"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken, Drumstick, Roasted, Broiled, or Baked, Skin Eaten"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken, Wing, Roasted, Broiled, or Baked, Skin Not Eaten"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken, Wing, Roasted, Broiled, or Baked, Skin Eaten"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Chicken Skin"
- American Heart Association: "Cooking to Lower Cholesterol"
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