When you prepare a chicken breast or chicken tenders, you’re often faced with white stringy bits, tunneling through the meat. What is that ropy thing and is it OK to eat? More importantly, how can you easily get rid of it?
The white stringy parts in chicken breasts are tendons. The tough tendons are located along the side of chicken tenderloins. Tendons are strong connective tissue made primarily of collagen and they attach the meat to the bone. Because connective tissues have to work to pull the bones when muscles contract, they have to be incredibly tough to withstand all that motion.
Collagen is a protein that is found naturally in bones, cartilage, and other parts. When you make bone broth, the rich liquid is typically rich in collagen because of the marrow bones that are most often used.
So Wait, Is It Safe to Eat Chicken Tendons?
Tendons can be slimy and slippery in raw chicken and they don’t look incredibly appetizing. Tendons can also be chewy and rubbery when cooked. But as unappealing as that sounds, you can still eat them without any issues.
“While they can be chewy and unpleasant to eat, it is safe to consume them!” says Melanie Marcus, MA, RD is a culinary-trained registered dietitian from the greater Charlotte, North Carolina area.
How to Remove Chicken Tendons
If you’ve tackled tendons, you know how difficult it can be to remove the slithery bits. If you’re not careful, you end up missing parts of it or chopping off big chunks of usable chicken. That being said, there are plenty of methods people use to get rid of the offending parts. Here are the most popular methods we've seen:
“Removing tendons can be tricky,” says Marcus. “I suggest using a paper towel to grip them, pull taut, and then use a chef or butcher's knife to remove the other end from the muscle.”
Instead of trying to carve away the tendon, scrape your knife on top of it, under the meat, as you quickly scrape the tendon away.
A popular tendon-removal technique has made the rounds on social media, where home chefs offer a nifty trick. Place the tendon through the tines of a fork, grip the end with a paper towel, and then pull it through.
If you’re handy with a knife, try poking the tip of the knife directly under the tendon at one end and then slide the knife closely under the tendon without cutting much of the meat.
Others suggest cutting out the offending bit with kitchen shears or relying on other culinary gadgets. “To make it even simpler, use a pair of kitchen pliers to grip the tendon and pull firmly to remove,” suggests Marcus. “I think this method gives you the most control.”