Last year’s chicken sandwich madness was educational for many reasons—just how far will people go to get a damned chicken sandwich?—but one important thing it brought to our attention was a condition called “woody breast,” which occurs when chickens get overbred for larger breasts and the meat becomes tough and gummy. This is why fast food chains are competing fiercely for smaller chicken breasts and the cause of the disastrous Popeyes shortage last summer.
But, as noted meat expert (and mayo hater) Drew Magary points out in a new essay for Eater, all these chicken-mad fast food chains are ignoring something very, very important: Chicken thighs actually make for a superior chicken sandwich.
There’s a gigantic hole in the chicken sandwich market and BIG FAST FOOD is either too blind or too lazy to take advantage of it. They will lash their poor employees with a cat-o-nine-tails to keep them churning out white meat sandwiches. But ask them to make a dark meat sandwich and they’ll probably point you to reams of focus group paperwork and actuary tables suggesting such a feat would be impractical and ever-so-slightly less profitable for them.
This is something Japanese cooks already know: see our previous coverage of karaage, Japanese fried chicken (with recipe!). In his essay, Magary recommends backhendl, the Austrian version, although he claims that “finding that dish was harder than finding a preserved negative of Jerry Lewis’ Holocaust clown movie.”
Why this obsession with breast meat? It’s less fatty than dark meat, it’s true, but dark meat is richer in vitamins and minerals, and also flavor. And there’s nothing low-fat about anything that’s been deep-fried, so who do they think they’re kidding?