What Is Airline Chicken and How Do You Use It?

Last Updated on June 13, 2024 | 0 Comments
Airline chicken

Ever stumbled upon an unfamiliar cut of poultry at your local butcher, seen its name and wondered, "What in the world is airline chicken?" This intriguing culinary term might conjure up visions of in-flight meals, but the reality is far more delectable. Airline chicken, also known as a Statler chicken breast, is a showstopper on the plate that promises juicier, more satisfying meat than your everyday chicken breast. Curious to learn more about this intriguing chicken cut? Let's get into the delicious details.

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What Is Airline Chicken Breast?

Airline chicken, also known as "chicken suprême," is a boneless chicken breast with a drumette attached. It's a popular choice for restaurant menus due to its elegant presentation and the combination of white meat with a small portion of dark meat from the drumette, which is usually Frenched (the meat is scraped down the bone) for a more refined appearance.

This unique presentation not only looks striking but also serves a practical purpose. The bone helps regulate heat distribution, ensuring the thicker portions cook evenly while retaining their coveted moisture. Who knew a simple chicken cut could be so ingenious? When cooked, airline chicken is often pan-seared and finished in the oven, resulting in a juicy and heavenly dish. It's commonly served with a variety of sauces and accompaniments, making it a versatile and visually appealing option for a wide range of culinary creations.

Airline chicken breast with two other chicken breasts on a bed of salad
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Why Is It Called Airline Chicken?

The name "airline chicken" originated from the way the chicken breast is prepared to resemble an airplane wing. The unique cut of the chicken breast, with the drumette attached, resembles the shape of an airplane wing. This particular cut is said to have been popularized by the airline industry, as it was a common dish served to first-class passengers. The elegant presentation and combination of white and dark meat made it a fitting choice for serving in-flight meals to discerning passengers. Over time, the name "airline chicken" has stuck and become widely recognized in culinary circles.

Airline Chicken breast with a lemon wedge in front of other chicken cuts
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How To Cook Airline Chicken Breast

Now that you're familiar with airline chicken, we can talk about how to transform it into a mouthwatering masterpiece. Whether you prefer the crispiness of roasted airline chicken or the smoky allure of grilling it, a few simple techniques will ensure a succulent, spice-packed result:

  • First, pat those chicken breasts dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture. This step is crucial for achieving that irresistible, crispy skin we all crave.
  • Next, let the meat come to room temperature. This gentle warming process will help the chicken cook evenly from the inside out, preventing that dreaded dry, chalky texture.

For roasting, follow these simple steps for a tasty result:

  • Preheat your oven to a toasty 375°F (190°C).
  • Sear the airline chicken skin-side down in a blazing hot cast-iron skillet or oven-safe pan until the skin is deeply golden and crispy.
  • Then, transfer the pan to the preheated oven and continue roasting until the internal temperature reaches a safe 165°F (74°C), about 15-20 minutes.

If grilling is more your style, prepare for a smoky, caramelized treat with the following steps:

  • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat and oil the grates well.
  • Place the airline chicken skin-side down and grill for 5-7 minutes until the skin is beautifully charred.
  • Flip and continue grilling until the airline chicken cut is cooked through, basting with your favorite barbecue sauce or herb butter for an added punch.

If you want a little something extra, chicken thighs are a good addition to your cooking repertoire. They’re succulent, soft and go well with many recipes. Chicken thighs are a little more tricky to prepare than chicken breasts, but following a few steps to get the perfect chicken thigh internal temperature, it can grow on you and become one of your favorite meats to cook.

No matter which cooking method you choose, remember to let that glorious airline chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. This crucial step will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring every bite is as juicy as the last.

Airline chicken breast being grilled over a fire
via Canva

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How To Cut an Airline Chicken Breast

While you can certainly purchase pre-cut airline chicken from specialty butchers or upscale grocers, there's something incredibly satisfying about tackling this task yourself. With a sharp boning knife and a little elbow grease, you can transform a whole chicken into a platter of impressive airline breasts — and score some bonus wings and carcasses for future recipes you might create.

  • Start by stretching out the wing to expose the skin around the drumette. Place your knife near the center of the drumette and slice through the meat, skin and tendons until you hit the bone. Rotate the chicken, keeping your knife in the same position, until you've cut around the bone.
  • Next, grab the wing tip and bend it backward firmly; it should pop right off, leaving a clean bone protruding from the breast. Repeat this process on the other side and you'll have two gorgeous airline chickens ready for cooking.
  • To remove the breasts from the carcass, place the chicken on its back and insert your knife into the breast meat, hugging the breastbone closely. Use short, shallow strokes to separate the meat from the bone, letting gravity do most of the work. Once the breast is free, twist the wing joint until you can locate and sever any remaining connective tissue, fully detaching the breast.

While it may seem daunting, breaking down a whole chicken into airline chicken cuts is a rewarding culinary skill. Not only will you impress your dinner guests, but you'll also save money and minimize waste — a win-win for any home chef.

If you'd prefer to leave the butchery to the professionals, consider signing up for cooking classes near you where you'll learn valuable lessons and have fun in the process. Better yet, experience the fun right in the comfort of your kitchen by joining online cooking classes to learn from the experts.

Full chicken in a bowl of cooked vegetables being cut
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Airline Chicken Recipes To Try

Instant Pot Chicken Tacos

Craving tasty, fuss-free, healthy chicken breast recipes? Look no further than these instant pot chicken tacos. Succulent chicken breasts are cooked to perfection in a zesty blend of spices, shredded and piled high on warm tortillas. Top with your favorite fixings like shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and a dollop of cool sour cream for a satisfying handheld feast. This dish is both quick and easy to make, thanks to the magic of the Instant Pot. You can have a delicious and healthy meal on the table in no time, making it perfect for busy weeknights.

Three chicken tacos next to a bowl of sauce and a lime wedge
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Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breast

Make a tastier version of your usual mozzarella stuffed chicken breast with this delectable variation using airline chicken. Butterfly the airline breasts and stuff them with a heavenly combination of melty mozzarella, fragrant herbs and garlic before baking or pan-searing to golden perfection. Serve alongside a crisp green salad or roasted vegetables for a complete meal that will impress anyone. This dish is perfect for dinner parties or special occasions when you want to impress your guests with something a little fancier. 

Three chicken breasts in a pan covered with sauce
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Crispy Fried Chicken

Sometimes, you just need to grub on some good old-fashioned comfort food, and this crispy fried chicken fits the bill. Dredge your airline chicken in a seasoned flour mixture, then fry until it's golden brown and delightfully crunchy on the outside while remaining juicy and tender inside. Pair with creamy mashed potatoes, buttery biscuits or a tangy coleslaw for a downright delicious spread. The crispy coating adds a wonderful texture to the juicy chicken, making it a hit with both kids and adults alike. 

Crispy chicken pieces on a plate with garnish and lemon slices
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Lemon-Herb Airline Chicken

For a lighter option, try lemon-herb airline chicken. Marinate the chicken in a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs, such as thyme and rosemary. Then, bake or grill until the chicken is cooked through and fragrant. Serve with a side of steamed vegetables or a light salad for a refreshing and healthy meal. The lemon adds a bright, zesty flavor that pairs perfectly with the aromatic herbs, creating an airline chicken dish that is both simple and delicious.

Lemon-herb airline chicken on a plate with lemon wedges and a small container of sauce
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Barbeque Airline Chicken

If you're a fan of barbeque, you'll love this masterpiece of a recipe. Coat the airline chicken in your favorite barbeque sauce and bake or grill until it's tender and slightly caramelized. Serve with classic barbeque sides like baked beans, cornbread or coleslaw for a meal that's perfect for summer cookouts or any time you're craving that smoky barbecue flavor. The sauce adds a rich, tangy taste to the chicken, making it a crowd-pleaser for all ages.


Two barbecue airline chicken cuts being grilled on a fire
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No matter which recipe you choose, airline chicken is sure to elevate your culinary game and have your guests raving. With its tender, juicy meat and versatile nature, this cut of chicken is perfect for a variety of dishes. Whether you're cooking for a family dinner, a special occasion or just a quick weeknight meal, these recipes are sure to satisfy you. 

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Where To Buy Airline Chicken Breast 

When it comes to sourcing airline chicken, the discerning home chef may initially find this specialty cut to be a bit elusive at the average grocery store. However, with a bit of effort and the right approach, this coveted delight is well within reach. 

Three pieces of chicken on a wooden chopping board with a basting brush
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Butcher Shops and Upscale Markets

Visiting a well-stocked butcher shop or upscale market is a recommended starting point for those in search of airline chicken. These establishments often offer a wider selection of cuts and are more likely to accommodate special requests. Here, one can inquire about the availability of airline chicken or even request that it be specially prepared. Furthermore, the knowledgeable staff at these places can provide valuable cooking tips and advice, enhancing the overall culinary experience.

It's important to note that airline chicken typically comes with a premium price tag, often ranging from $8 to $12 per pound. However, this premium poultry cut's exceptional flavor and impressive presentation make purchasing airline chicken a worthwhile splurge. 

Fresh chicken at the butcher's shop.
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DIY Approach

For the ambitious and thrifty home chef, an alternative approach could involve purchasing a whole chicken and breaking it down into airline breasts. Not only does this provide an opportunity to save a few bucks, it also allows for the honing of butchery skills and yields bonus wings, legs and carcasses for future culinary adventures. The process of breaking down a whole chicken can be a rewarding experience, allowing for the utilization of every part of the bird, including the creation of homemade chicken stock for soups and sauces.

Whole chicken on a cutting board in between a knife and fork
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Online Shopping

For those who prefer the convenience of online shopping, several specialty meat suppliers such as D’Artagnan, Allen Brothers and Crowd Cow offer airline chicken for delivery. These companies provide high-quality, gourmet poultry cuts, including airline breasts, often sourced from reputable farms, while also offering a variety of organic and free-range options. While there may be an additional cost for shipping, the quality and convenience provided by these suppliers make them a worthwhile option.

Variety of uncooked cuts of chicken on chopping boards with garnish all around them
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Local Farmers Markets

Another avenue to explore is local farmers markets, where one may find airline chicken or have the opportunity to place special orders. Purchasing from local farmers not only ensures the freshness and high quality of the meat but also contributes to sustaining local agriculture, aligning with the farm-to-table ethos cherished by many culinary enthusiasts.

Two pieces of airline chicken on a plate with a side salad
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Local Restaurants and Cooking Schools

Reaching out to local restaurants or cooking schools can yield valuable insights. These establishments may provide tips on where to purchase specific cuts of meat or even offer the option to purchase directly from them. Building relationships with local chefs and food professionals can open doors to unique culinary opportunities and insider knowledge, enriching the overall culinary journey.

Chef moving a piece of chicken from a pan to a dish with more chicken and greens
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While the search for airline chicken may require a bit more effort than obtaining standard chicken breasts from the grocery store, the rewards are undoubtedly worth it. Whether through a visit to a butcher, the DIY approach of breaking down a whole chicken yourself or the convenience of ordering online, the exceptional taste and presentation that airline chicken brings to meals makes the pursuit truly worthwhile. 

All that said, wherever you decide to source your airline chicken, one thing is certain: this unique cut is a true culinary specialty that's sure to take your next dinner party or weeknight meal to a new level. So, why settle for boring, bland chicken breasts when you can have the juicy, seasoned deliciousness of airline chicken? You (and your dinner guests) will be thankful for it.

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