Food & Drink

You're Probably Throwing Away the Best Part of the Chicken

Published On 04/26/2016 Published On 04/26/2016
Flickr/WFIU Public Radio
Brett Adams/Thrillist

Crackling bits are pure chicken flavor bombs.

Brett Adams/Thrillist
Brett Adams/Thrillist

Chicken taco with crispy cracklings recipe

Total Time:  1 hrs
Yield:  12 tacos, depending on how much you stuff 'em


  • 1 whole 3-4lb chicken, cut into 4 pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighs/legs), carcass and wings reserved, skin removed and saved.
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  • If you planned one day or even part of a day in advance, put the carcass and wings in a pot with the onion, bay leaves, garlic, and peppercorns. Cover with cold water, bring to boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 3-4 hours, or however long you have. Strain, reserve. Stock will keep 5 days in the fridge.
  • If you don’t have time to make stock, freeze the carcass and wings for another time, and don’t fret it. Your next batch of soup will thank you.
  • To make the crispy chicken skin, cut/scrape off as much fat as you can from the skins, then lay them flat on a parchment lined sheet pan. Place another piece of parchment on top of the skins and then another sheet pan on this. The top sheet pan will keep the skins from curling. Cook in a 375F oven until crispy, about 25 minutes. When done, place on paper towels and reserve.
  • Meanwhile, place the breast, thighs, and legs in a pot and cover with cold stock or water. If using water, now’s the time to add the onion, bay leaves, garlic, and peppercorns. Turn the heat to medium-high and slowly bring to a simmer. Don’t let the water boil. After 15 minutes, use a digital meat thermometer to test the temp of the thickest part of the breasts. When they reach 150F, pull them from the water and let cool on a cutting board. Continue to cook the thighs until they reach an internal temperature of 175F or until you get impatient. Remove and let cool on a cutting board.
  • Turn the heat under the pot to high and reduce the stock by at least half. Strain and reserve. Keep the pot around and don’t bother cleaning it yet.
  • When the chicken has cooled, chop it up with a knife or shred it with your hands. Add it to the pot you didn’t clean and season it with a good pinch of salt and cracked black pepper. Then add a ladleful of the reduced cooking broth. The idea here is to add just enough broth to keep things from drying out. If you add too much you’ll end up with a really great chicken soup that you can just pretend you intended this whole time to make. Right before serving, turn the heat on under the pot and warm up the chicken. Don’t boil it or else you’ll dry out the breast meat that you already did such a great job not overcooking.
  • Serve on fresh, warm tortillas, with a spoonful of your favorite salsa, chopped cilantro and white onion, and a sprinkling of crumbled crispy chicken skin. Spritz with lime and party.
Brett Adams/Thrillist