A leg quarter is a cut of chicken consisting of the thigh and drumstick portions still connected together. Leg quarters come from whole chickens and contain both dark and white meat.
What part of the chicken is a leg quarter?
A leg quarter contains two distinct parts of a chicken:
- The drumstick – This is the lower portion of the leg. It contains mostly dark meat and ends in the chicken’s knee joint.
- The thigh – Located above the drumstick, the thigh contains more dark meat. It is thicker than the drumstick and ends in the hip joint where it connects to the body.
Together, the thigh and drumstick form one intact leg quarter. When separated from the body, a leg quarter will look like an entire chicken leg with both the drumstick and thigh still attached.
Why are they called quarters?
Leg quarters get their name because they represent approximately one quarter or one fourth of a whole chicken. A typical supermarket chicken contains two breast halves and two leg quarters. So each leg quarter represents about one quarter of the total meat.
The term “quarter” can also refer to the fact that the leg contains the upper and lower segments – the thigh and drumstick. So in a sense it is like two “quarters” joined together.
What kind of meat is in a leg quarter?
Leg quarters contain a mix of dark and white meat:
- Dark meat – This comes mostly from the thigh which contains more myoglobin, giving it a darker color. The drumstick also contains some dark meat.
- White meat – The upper part of the thigh near the hip joint contains more white meat, which has less myoglobin and appears lighter in color.
So when you eat a leg quarter, you get the rich, juicy taste of dark meat balanced with some of the milder, more tender white meat. The dark meat tends to have more fat, flavor, and moisture.
Below is a nutritional comparison of 100g cooked servings of chicken breast (white meat) and chicken thigh (dark meat):
This shows that dark meat contains significantly more fat and calories compared to white meat. But white meat contains more protein.
Since leg quarters contain both types, they offer a balance of fat, protein, and calories. The exact amounts will depend on the size and specific cut.
Are leg quarters white or dark meat?
Leg quarters contain a mixture of dark and white meat. But they are considered more of a dark meat cut for a few reasons:
- They contain two dark meat pieces – the drumstick and thigh.
- The thigh has a higher ratio of dark to white meat.
- The dark meat contributes most of the flavor.
So while leg quarters aren’t completely dark meat, they are usually categorized this way because dark meat makes up the majority.
What is the difference between a leg and a leg quarter?
A whole leg and a leg quarter refer to slightly different cuts:
- Leg – This is the entire leg including the thigh, drumstick, and a portion of the back. It is one intact piece.
- Leg quarter – This is just the thigh and drumstick detached from the back but still connected to each other.
In other words, a leg quarter is very similar to a leg, except it doesn’t include as much of the back. It’s common to see leg quarters sold individually, while whole legs are usually reserved for roasting or making stock.
Are leg quarters good for grilling?
Yes, leg quarters are an excellent choice for grilling. Here’s why:
- They contain juicy dark meat that doesn’t dry out easily on the grill.
- The fat drippings help prevent sticking and add flavor.
- The skin gets nice and crispy over the hot grill.
- They take relatively little time compared to larger cuts.
- Quarter legs have lots of nooks and edges that brown well.
For best results, coat them lightly in oil and spice rub. Grill over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, turning occasionally. Target an internal temperature of 165°F.
What’s the best way to cook leg quarters?
Leg quarters are extremely versatile and do well with almost any cooking method, including:
- Grilling – Gets great charring and browning on the skin.
- Roasting – Cooks the meat evenly while retaining moisture.
- Braising – Slow cooking makes the meat incredibly tender.
- Stewing – Similar to braising but with more liquid.
- Frying – Crispy fried chicken is hard to beat.
Favor lower heat and longer cook times to keep the meat juicy and prevent drying. Aim for an internal temperature of 165-175°F. Leg quarters pair well with bold seasonings and sauces.
Are leg quarters better than chicken breasts?
Leg quarters have some advantages over chicken breasts:
- More fat and flavorful dark meat.
- Harder to overcook and dry out.
- Contains both white and dark meat.
- Skin gets crispy when cooked.
- Usually cheaper per pound.
However, breasts have benefits too like being lower in fat and calories while having more protein. Ultimately it comes down to personal cooking needs and preferences.
What’s the best way to season and marinate leg quarters?
Leg quarters pair well with all kinds of seasoning due to their rich flavor. Try rubbing with:
- Barbecue spices like paprika, chili powder, garlic and onion powder
- Herbs like rosemary, thyme, oregano
- Spicy seasonings such as cayenne, red pepper flakes, curry powder
- Salt, pepper, lemon juice
For marinades, go for brighter acidic ingredients to tenderize and add flavor:
- Citrus juice
- Teriyaki or soy sauce
Let leg quarters marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to overnight in the fridge. Pat dry before cooking.
What’s a good recipe using leg quarters?
Here is an excellent baked leg quarter recipe:
Baked Barbecue Leg Quarters
- 1⁄4 cup olive oil
- 1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1⁄2 tsp salt
- 1⁄4 tsp pepper
- 4-8 chicken leg quarters
- Whisk together oil, vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, chili powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Place leg quarters in a zip top bag and pour in marinade. Seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, best overnight.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil.
- Remove quarters from marinade and place on prepared baking sheet. Discard excess marinade.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes until cooked through and crispy. Enjoy!
Are leg quarters expensive?
No, leg quarters are typically one of the most budget-friendly cuts of chicken. There are a few reasons for this:
- They contain dark meat, which is often cheaper than white breast meat.
- Leg quarters are seen as less desirable than breasts or wings.
- Butchering leg quarters is easy since they are already separated.
- They often come from larger, less expensive chickens.
On average, you can expect to pay $1-3 per pound for leg quarters. That’s significantly less than boneless, skinless breasts which can cost $4-6 per pound.
Should leg quarters be washed before cooking?
Washing raw poultry before cooking is no longer recommended. Here’s why:
- Washing can spread bacteria onto kitchen surfaces, hands, and utensils.
- Leg quarters will reach a safe internal temperature during cooking, killing any bacteria.
- Any dirt or grime will also be rendered harmless when cooked to proper temperature.
- The small risk of surface contamination is resolved during thorough cooking.
For food safety, it’s best to skip washing leg quarters and other raw poultry. Just cook properly to an internal temperature of 165°F as measured by a food thermometer.
Should you remove the skin from leg quarters?
This depends on your preferences:
- Keeping the skin on gives added crispiness and flavor from the fat and skin browning.
- Removing the skin reduces the overall fat and calories if you are trying to eat healthier.
- Cooking with skin helps keep the meat moist and tender.
- Browning and charring on the skin adds lots of flavor.
In most cases, cooking leg quarters with the skin on produces the best taste and texture. But removing skin before eating will lower fat intake if that is a concern.
What’s the best way to store and freeze leg quarters?
For short term storage:
- Keep leg quarters refrigerated at or below 40°F.
- Store in original packaging or wrap in plastic wrap to prevent drying out.
- Use within 2 days for best quality.
For longer term freezer storage:
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then foil, or place in freezer bag.
- Remove as much air as possible before sealing.
- Label package with contents and date.
- Freeze for up to 9 months at 0°F.
Let frozen leg quarters thaw in the refrigerator before cooking. Do not thaw at room temperature as this allows bacterial growth.
How can you tell if leg quarters are bad?
Check for these signs that indicate leg quarters have spoiled and should be discarded:
- Slimy texture or sticky film on surface
- Graying or dull, faded color
- Off odors that smell sour or ammonia-like
- Mold growing anywhere
- Rotten spots or pitting on skin
- Discoloration of bones at joints
When in doubt, remember the old adage “When in doubt, throw it out” applies here. Don’t risk getting sick from spoiled poultry.
Leg quarters offer an affordable, flavorful, and versatile chicken cut to add to your dinner rotation. Containing both white and dark meat, they provide a balance of qualities from both. Grill, roast, braise, or fry leg quarters for delicious results. Store properly in the fridge or freezer and discard if any signs of spoilage appear.