What is ‘Airline Chicken Breast’? Everything You Need to Know About This Versatile Cut

This delectable cut of chicken is popular with chefs for good reasons. Here’s how to buy it, cook it, and butcher it yourself.

Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis
Photo by Greg DuPree / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Airline chicken breast doesn’t refer to a poultry dish served on an overnight flight, but rather a specific cut of chicken that includes both the breast and wing. Also known as Statler chicken breast or a chicken suprême, this cut is popular in restaurants. It shines in recipes like our Quick Skillet-Roasted Chicken with Spring Vegetables or lovely, light Chicken Breasts with White Wine Pan Sauce, Crème Fraîche, and Spring Herbs.

In a world where chicken is often deemed economical, safe, and borderline bland, airline chicken breast boasts crispy skin and flavorful meat (not to mention a lot of it). I was hesitant to offer chicken as one of the entrée options at my wedding for fear of serving a dish that most people eat on a regular Tuesday. But when the caterer informed us that it would be airline chicken breasts on the menu, I had a change of heart. This wasn’t just regular chicken — this was fancy chicken.

Related: 31 Chicken Breast Recipes to Make for Dinner Any Night

How airline chicken breast got its name

While you probably won’t get served airline chicken breast when flying economy, that wasn’t always the case. One story goes that this cut of chicken got its name because of its convenient cut; the drumette made it easy for in-flight passengers to hold and eat the chicken while in narrow airline seats. Others claim that this cut resembles the shape of an airplane, hence its cheeky name.

How to cut an airline chicken breast

It may be hard to find airline chicken breast pre-cut in some grocery stores, but it’s easy and even more affordable to butcher it yourself. If you want to prep this cut in your home kitchen, purchase a three- to four-pound whole chicken and place it breast-side up on a cutting board. Using a sharp chef’s knife or boning knife, begin to remove the wing by cutting through the joint where the wing meets the drumette. Twist the wing to loosen it until the bone is completely exposed. Next, remove the breast by slicing through the skin as close to the breastbone as possible. Use short, smooth cuts to maximize the meat in each breast. Slice off each breast entirely, cutting through the cartilage to remove the breast with the wing attached. You can continue to break down the rest of the chicken by removing the thighs and drumstick, and reserve the rest of the carcass for making chicken stock.

Related: The 7 Best Boning Knives, According to a Chef

How to cook airline chicken breast

The easiest way to cook airline chicken breast is in a skillet on the stove. Heat one to two tablespoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and season both sides evenly with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place the chicken in the pan, skin-side up, and cook until it's browned and the meat releases easily from the pan, about 15 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until the skin is evenly cooked and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reaches an internal temperature of 165℉. Add a tablespoon of butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon to create a quick pan sauce and deglaze the pan, releasing all of those savory, caramelized bits. 

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