Chicken drumsticks are a popular part of the chicken that is often served as part of a meal. They are the lower part of the chicken leg, attached to the thigh. Drumsticks contain both dark and white meat and are juicy and flavorful.
There are a few main reasons why people choose to cut chicken drumsticks before cooking or eating them:
To make them easier to eat
Whole chicken drumsticks can be tricky for some people to eat. The drumstick contains multiple bones, including the leg bone and the thin bones within the meat. Trying to eat around these bones can be frustrating and messy.
Cutting the drumstick into smaller pieces makes it much easier to eat. The cuts separate the meat from the bones, so you can enjoy just the chicken without worrying about the bones getting in the way. Popular ways to cut drumsticks include:
- Cutting across the bone into shorter sections
- Separating the meat from the bones entirely
- Cutting the meat off the bones in strips or chunks
This makes it easier, especially for children, to enjoy the chicken drumstick meat without the hassle of maneuvering around bones.
To cook them faster
Whole chicken drumsticks can take some time to cook, especially larger drumsticks. This is because heat takes longer to penetrate to the center of a thicker cut of meat.
Cutting drumsticks into smaller pieces speeds up the cooking time. The heat is able to penetrate the thinner cuts of meat much faster. This means the chicken can cook quicker,ideal if you are short on time.
Some popular ways of cutting drumsticks to reduce cooking time include:
- Cutting in half through the bone
- Removing meat from the bone and slicing thinly
- Cutting into strips or cubes for stir-fries or skewers
To marinate them more effectively
Marinades add lots of flavor and tenderness to drumsticks. However, marinades penetrate meat slower than heat does. A whole chicken drumstick requires longer marinating times for the flavor to reach the middle.
Cutting the drumstick into smaller pieces allows the marinade to penetrate the meat much faster. This amplifies the flavor and juiciness of the chicken. The thinner cuts mean less marinating time is required.
Cutting techniques like butterflying, pounding, and slicing help break down the chicken’s fibers. This lets the marinade seep in for tastier, juicier meat.
To cook them evenly
The different parts of a whole chicken drumstick cook at different rates. The thinner bony end tends to cook faster than the fatter meaty end.
Cutting the drumstick into smaller, evenly sized pieces allows it to cook more evenly. The cuts of meat will all reach the proper internal temperature at a similar pace.
Uniformly cooked chicken has a better texture and moisture. Separating the meat from the bone also prevents the bone from overcooking the meat around it.
To add them to recipes
Whole chicken drumsticks don’t work for many recipes. However, cut up drumstick meat can be a tasty addition to a variety of dishes:
- Soups – Bite sized chunks add flavor and protein
- Curries – Small pieces mix nicely with sauce
- Salads – Strips or cubed chicken provide a topping
- Skewers – Cut drumsticks easily alternating with veggies
- Sandwiches – Shredded or chopped meat makes tasty filling
Pre-cutting the drumsticks makes it easy to add them to recipes without having to worry about dealing with bones during cooking or eating.
To portion them
Cutting up drumsticks makes it easy to divide them into portions. This is useful for meal planning and portion control.
Ways to portion drumsticks include:
- Cutting in half – Each half is one serving
- Cutting into strips – Divide strips evenly for portions
- Cubing – Count out cubes for measured portions
Pre-portioning saves time when preparing or serving meals. No need to divide up a whole drumstick later.
To pound them for faster cooking
Pounding chicken drumsticks helps break down the muscle fibers in the meat. This allows seasonings and sauces to penetrate better. It also speeds up cooking so the chicken cooks faster and more evenly.
There are two main ways to pound drumsticks:
- Butterflying – Cutting through the meat parallel to the bone without severing it. Then opening it up like a book to flatten.
- Using a meat mallet – Flattening the drumstick using a kitchen mallet.
Pounding leads to juicier, more flavorful chicken that cooks quickly while retaining moisture.
To use breading or batter
Chicken drumsticks are commonly breaded or battered before frying or baking. This creates a crispy coating around the juicy meat.
Breading and battering adheres best to flatter, thinner pieces of chicken. Trying to coat a whole plump drumstick evenly is tricky.
Cutting the drumstick meat into strips or chunks allows the coating to stick to all surfaces evenly. This creates the ideal crunchy texture in every bite.
Cuts like drumstick lollipops make it easy to bread or batter the meat section thoroughly before frying.
To make them more presentable
Whole chicken drumsticks are not the most elegant looking cuts of meat. The irregular shape and bones make them appear less refined.
Cutting drumsticks into smaller uniform pieces or removing the bone altogether results in a more presentable dish. This makes them better suited for things like appetizers, parties, or plated meals.
Some examples of more presentable drumstick cuts include:
- Strips for skewers or satays
- Cubes for fried bites or stir fries
- Diced meat for salad topping or sandwiches
With the bones hidden from view, the meat looks neater and more visually appealing.
To fit them in a dish or pan
Whole drumsticks take up a fair bit of space on a plate or in a pan. Fitting many into a single dish can be tricky.
Cutting the drumsticks into smaller pieces allows more to fit into a confined cooking vessel or serving dish. Pieces can be packed more densely together.
Ways to cut drumsticks to maximize space include:
- Cutting in half or into strips to fit more in a pan
- Removing meat from the bones to fit more in a casserole
- Cubing to fit more onto skewers or into a stir fry
With the drumsticks taking up less space, its easier to cook or serve them in larger batches.
To reduce choking hazard
Chicken drumsticks present a choking risk, especially for children. The small bones can become accidentally swallowed.
Cutting drumsticks into bone-free pieces makes them safer for kids to enjoy. Proper cuts remove the bones before serving the meat.
Some child-friendly drumstick cuts include:
- Tender strips
- Shredded meat
- Bite-size chunks
- Diced or minced meat
Going bone-free reduces the choking and injury risk allowing kids to safely enjoy delicious drumstick meat.
To infuse more flavor
Cutting drumsticks exposes more surface area on the meat for absorbing flavors and seasoning. Infusing drumstick meat leads to more flavor in every bite.
Ways of cutting that help drive in more flavor include:
- Slicing meat into strips
- Mincing or dicing
The increased exposed surface lets the meat better absorb marinades, rubs, sauces, and seasonings for a flavor boost.
To braise or stew them
Whole chicken drumsticks don’t work well for braising, stewing, or pressure cooking. Cutting them allows the meat to cook properly using these moist heat methods.
Ideally, drumsticks should be cut into 2 inch or smaller pieces for braising. This allows the liquid to penetrate fully and the meat to become fall-off-the-bone tender.
Common cuts for braising and stewing include:
- Bite size chunks
- Meat separated from the bones
- Meat cut into cubes
The smaller cuts cook evenly and absorb all the delicious flavors of the braising liquid.
To mix with other ingredients
Whole drumsticks don’t mix well into dishes like stir fries, pasta, or rice. Cutting them into small pieces lets them combine seamlessly with other ingredients.
Ideal cuts for mixing include:
- Thin strips
- Shredded or chopped meat
These small pieces blend in with vegetables, grains, noodles and sauces. This allows the chicken to become part of a cohesive, well-incorporated dish.
To cook them faster on the grill
Whole chicken drumsticks can take a while to cook through on the grill. Cutting them thinner speeds up the grilling time.
Some grilling friendly cuts include:
- Cutting in half
- Meat cut into strips or cubes
The thinner cuts make it easier to quickly grill the chicken through without burning the outside. Less time on the grill means juicier, more tender results.
To use as substitutions for wings or flats/thighs
The taste, texture and thickness of drumsticks makes an ideal substitute for other parts of the chicken like wings and flats.
Cut in specific ways, drumsticks can stand in for other chicken pieces in recipes:
- Cut into strips to sub for chicken fingers
- Cut into lollipops or drumettes to sub for wings or flats
- Butterflying or pounding to sub for boneless thighs
With the right cuts, drumsticks can pinch hit for any part of the chicken in a recipe.
There are many benefits to cutting chicken drumsticks before cooking or serving them. While delicious on their own, drumsticks become even more versatile once cut.
Chopping drumsticks makes them easier to cook and eat. Cutting also allows more ways to add flavor and seasoning. Portioning, mixing into recipes, fitting into cookware and making them safer to eat also become easier.
So next time you are cooking up some chicken drumsticks, consider the many possibilities that pre-cutting them can provide. With a few simple cuts, you can unlock the full potential of this flavorful and meaty chicken part.