Chicken Thighs vs Drumsticks: Similarities and Differences Of The Two

Chicken Thighs vs Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken Thighs vs Drumsticks: Similarities and Differences Of The Two

Meat is a staple in everyday life. Most people typically eat some type of meat with every meal. One of the more popular varieties is chicken, with a rate of eight billion chickens consumed yearly; this fact is very unsurprising. Chicken is cheaper than red meat, and it packs many more nutrients for fewer calories. It's a win-win! You may be wondering, though, about the differences in chicken cuts. More specifically, what is the difference between chicken thighs and drumsticks? 

We will discuss several things in this post, but the most important one is this: thighs and drumsticks both come from the leg of the chicken. The thigh is the top of the chicken's leg, and the drumstick is the calf or bottom part. It is possible to buy the whole chicken leg. When you do so, you will have both the thigh and the drumstick. However, buying the two cuts of meat separately from one another is more prevalent.

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Chicken Thighs vs. Drumsticks: What are the Differences?

Chicken thighs and drumsticks come from the same area on the chicken; its leg. While they are both similar types of meat, there are a few differences. 

The first difference lies in where they come from. The chicken thigh's location is between the hip bone and runs down to the femur. It is a larger piece of chicken that has plenty of fat and meat attached to it. On the contrary, the drumstick is smaller than the thigh bone, and the location is between the kneecap and cuts off right at the feet. 

Other than the location of the chicken cuts and the size, chicken thighs and drumsticks are very similar to one another. 

Texture and Taste

Chicken has a mild yet juicy taste that can satisfy our innate desire for meat. Both the drumstick and the thigh are succulent, rich, and have a pliable texture. 

Many people enjoy eating this type of chicken because it is easy to grab and hold with two hands, making for a quick and simple meal, especially for kids! 

Grilled chicken thighs with spices and lemon.
Chicken thighs are packed with flavor and juicy meat, making them a great dinner option.


Preparation Methods

One of the best ways to prepare chicken thighs and drumsticks is to sear the outer skin before cooking. In doing so, you lock in the moisture allowing the juices to marinate the meat. The marinade creates delicious and moist meat. Likewise, these two cuts of meat take well to grilling, barbecuing, roasting, and even smoking. 

The leg consists of dark meat that is delicious and tender. It is essential to pay attention to the internal temperature of your chicken. With the drumstick and thighs being dark meat, you will want the internal temperature to reach 175 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. That is because the higher temperature will break down collagen and also because poultry has the potential to contain salmonella. For this reason, you will want to cook until well done. 

Cook times will vary because of the size. For example, drumsticks are smaller than thighs. Thighs have more meat, therefore, take longer to cook. 

 Chicken Thighs vs. Drumsticks Nutritional Value

Chicken is a healthy alternative to many red types of meat. However, the dark meat of chicken is typically higher in calories and cholesterol.

In comparison, chicken thighs are higher in calories, protein, cholesterol, and more than drumsticks. The higher calorie and nutritional value is because of the higher meat content and larger quantity than the drumstick. Take a look below at the comparison chart between the two.

Chicken Thighs vs Chicken Drumsticks Nutritional Facts


What Are Chicken Thighs?

Chicken thighs come from the top part of a chicken's leg. They are connected to the hip bone and run down to the drumsticks. Chicken thighs contain dark meat. While the connective tissues can make the meat a bit tricky to cut through, the chicken thigh produces juicy, tender meat that erupts with flavor when cooked correctly. 

When you buy a chicken thigh, a few different options are available. You can buy thighs with the skin on or off and the bone in or out. While the dark nature and overabundance of meat on the thigh mean it can be challenging to overcook, cooking your chicken thigh with bone in and skin on will give you the most tender and flavorful option. 

What are Chicken Drumsticks?

The drumstick of the chicken is part of the chicken leg that runs from the kneecap down to the feet of the chicken. 

When it comes to size, the drumstick is smaller than the thigh and has less meat. 

The cook time of the drumstick will be less than the chicken thigh; it cooks the same way by roasting, grilling, etc. However, although dark meat is hard to overcook, pay attention to the specific cook time of your recipes. The internal temperature should reach at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit; however, upward of 180 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect for dark meat. 

Baked chicken drumstick on paper, close up view
Chicken drumsticks offer much of the same as the thigh regarding flavor, texture, and nutritional value. The main difference is the size and how much meat is on them! The small size makes them perfect for young children.

©Tatiana Volgutova/Shutterstock.com

Can You Substitute Chicken Thighs for Chicken Drumsticks?

Since chicken thighs and drumsticks come from the same area of the chicken, the leg, they taste the same. The similar flavor makes substituting chicken thighs for chicken drumsticks in your recipes easy. 

The main difference will be in the size and cook time that each one requires. Therefore, it is important to adjust your cook times accordingly. 

What are Substitutes for Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks?

You have a few options if you want to substitute chicken thighs and drumsticks for other meat. 

The first one would be to substitute one for another. If that is not an option, you could substitute chicken breast. Since the chicken breast is white meat, it will not carry the same kick in flavor, but it is still a healthy alternative. Chicken breast also cooks faster than thighs and drumsticks, so adjusting your cook times is important. 

In case you want to substitute meat entirely for chicken, a few healthy options include lean ground beef, ground turkey, pork, or lamb. If you want to go completely meatless, seitan, tempeh, and tofu are excellent choices. 

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Final Thoughts

Infographic comparing chicken thighs and chicken drumsticks.
Chicken drumsticks are a favorite among kids!
  • Chicken thighs are larger than chicken drumsticks, meaning that they'll provide you with a more filling meal. The smaller size of drumsticks make them easy for kids to hold.
  • A single drumstick is lower in fat and calories than a thigh, but this gap quickly shrinks with the more drumsticks you eat.
  • A chicken thigh comes from the top of the chicken leg, while the drumstick comes from the part of the leg that goes from the kneecap down to the foot.

When it comes to meat, chicken is one of the more popular ones that is consumed worldwide. The high consumption is for various reasons: chicken offers more nutrients with fewer calories. In addition, the health benefits are one reason it is the go-to meat in many healthy diets. 

Another reason chicken is so popular is because of the price. It also has a mild, flavorful taste that pairs well with many recipes. The mild flavor makes it very versatile! 

When it comes to chicken thighs and drumsticks, it is hard to beat the intense flavor and easy way to eat them by grabbing and going! Thighs tend to be large and have more meat. 

Of course, drumsticks are a worthy competitor. However, they also have a juicy and tender flavor, are smaller, and are still delicious. Both thighs and drumsticks are dark meat and are juicy and tender. In addition, they make great easy-to-go food for children! 

Chicken Thigh Recipes

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Garlic Chicken Thighs

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  • Author: Moms Who Think



8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon rosemary
8 cloves garlic, 6 crushed,2 minced


1. Place chicken between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound lightly with a mallet to flatten slightly.

2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Heat oil in a heavy non-stick pan over medium high heat.

4. Add rosemary and crushed garlic. Sauté 1-2 minutes, pressing down on rosemary and garlic to release flavor.

5. Remove rosemary and garlic from oil with a slotted spoon and discard.

6. Sauté chicken 5 minutes per side, turning frequently until browned and cooked throughout.

7. Stir in minced garlic during last 2 minutes of cooking. Serves 4.

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