Chicken Breast Vs Tenderloin — Do You Know The Difference?

We’ve all heard of beef tenderloin and pork tenderloin.

But did you know that there’s also chicken tenderloin? 

You may have come across the term several times before. Maybe you’ve heard it in an advertisement on TV, or you might have read it somewhere.

Sure, we all know that the loin of pigs and cattle refers to the muscle that’s just above their hip bone. But is it the same for chickens?

Fret not! We’ll answer all of the possible questions you may have about chicken tenderloins and more.

Chicken Tenderloin vs breast(3)(1)

What Exactly Is Chicken Tenderloin?

Tenderloins from chicken are is different from beef or pork tenderloins.

That’s because chicken tenderloins don’t come from the hip or lower backbone of the chicken.

Instead, this meat comes from the lowest part of the chicken breast bone. It is a small thing muscle that you’ll see run alongside the chicken breast.

So, why is this particular cut referred to as ‘tender’? Well, that’s because it’s located beneath the other muscles. This means that this piece of meat is not used very much. Since it’s not lean meat, it’s rather soft and tender.

You may have seen ‘chicken tenders’ written on packages in supermarkets, or menus as restaurants. However, these are not referring to tenderloins. A chicken tender is a whole different type of meat. 

Chicken tenderloins are not part of the chicken breast at all. On the other hand, a chicken tender refers to white meat that originates from the chicken breast. (Essentially, ‘tenders’ are meat that’s directly been cut from the chicken breast.) Butchers chop up a chicken breast for tenders to sell. 

So, What Is Chicken Breast?

The chicken breast is the largest muscle attached to the ribs. It’s also a popular option for people who dislike dealing with pesky bones. This is because once removed from the ribs, it is essentially boneless.

What Is The Difference Between Chicken Breast and Chicken Tenderloin?

Tenderloins are the way to go if you want softer, more tender meat.

Breast meat, on the other hand, can be much drier. That’s one reason why chicken breast is always a bit cheaper than tenderloins at your local supermarket or butcher shop. 

Hence, checking the prices is another way to ensure that you’re buying chicken tenderloins, and not chicken ‘tenders’.

Guide to Telling The Two Apart — Chicken Tenderloin Vs Chicken Breast

If you’re experiencing some trouble differentiating the two apart, don’t worry. We’ll share some helpful tips that’ll help you do just that. 

A whole chicken breast is quite large and takes on an oblong shape. This looks very different from a tenderloin. Tenderloins look like strips of meat. That is why people often have difficulting differentiating chicken breast ‘tenders’ from tenderloins.

Considering that ‘tenders’ are chicken breasts that have been cut into strips, they take on a rectangular shape. If you compare it to an actual tenderloin, you’ll notice that they’re physically different.

Not only will the tenderloin meat look a shade darker, but the shape is also different. Tenderloins don’t form a rectangular shape. Instead, they look a little bit like a really thin and long isosceles triangle, as its shape tapers off at the very end.

The pointed end is also usually connected to a white tendon, which you won’t find on breast tenders.

However, the thing that they have in common is that they’re both great for making crispy chicken strips!

Guide to Separating The Tenderloin From The Breast

While you can buy both pieces of meat separately, sometimes it’s more value for money to purchase a whole chicken. However, the question is, how do you separate the tenderloin from the breast meat? 

Well, it’s not as complicated as you’d think it to be. We’ll walk you through the process. 

Place the breast meat chicken cutlets on a cutting board first. Make sure the round sides are facing up and the flat parts are flush with the cutting surface. Next, simply take your knife and slice it along the breastbone.

After that, you should have better access to the tendon that connects the two parts. Simply cut it in half to separate the two pieces of meat.

Can You Substitute One For The Other? 

Yes, chicken tenders can be used in place of tenderloins. You can also use chicken tenderloins instead of tenders. Of course, they still won’t have the same nutritional level. Chicken breast meat will always have more vitamins and minerals.

Their cooking times will differ as well. This is because tenderloins have softer meat and require less time to marinate and cook. Tenderloins will lose all their structural integrity if over-marinated.

Depending on the marinade used, it can also end up tasting overly salty or sweet.

On the other hand, the breast takes more time to cook and marinade. Plus, it doesn’t have much of a flavor profile on its own. This is because its meat is known to be quite tough, and it can taste bland if you don’t tenderize or marinate it long enough.

What if you’re trying to use breast meat for tenderloins? Then you can make the cuts of chicken more tender and similar to tenderloins by tenderizing it with a meat tenderizer.

Just cover it with a sheet of baking paper, parchment paper, or wax paper, and pound away! This makes the meat tender and more similar to tenderloins.

What Is The Best Way to Prepare Chicken Tenderloin?

There is no set way to prepare chicken tenderloin, however, here is what we recommend:

Our favorite marinade for chicken tenderloins is super simple. It calls for black pepper, lemon juice, olive oil, and kosher salt. We suggest that you marinate the meat for no more than 30-45 minutes.

This is because lemon juice and other acidic ingredients will kickstart the cooking process. And it might over tenderize the meat. Just make sure you cook it to an internal temperature of 165°F

If you’d like some extra flavor, you can also score the meat with a knife before you place it in the marinade. This allows the flavors to further penetrate the chicken tenderloins.

Some ways to cook chicken tenderloins would be to bake, grill, poach or steam them.

Here are some chicken tenderloin recipes we recommend that you try today:

What Is The Best Way to Prepare Chicken Breast?

As we’ve mentioned before, breast meat is thicker and tougher. That is why we always suggest that you leave it to marinate for two to four hours to let the flavors soak into that meat.

If you’re confused about which marinade to use, the one that we suggest above for tenderloins also works for skinless chicken breast.

There is also a multitude of different ways you can cook breast meat:

  • pan fry
  • bake
  • roast
  • grill
  • shallow fry
  • deep fry
  • stir fry
  • steam
  • poach
  • sear
  • broil

We can’t recommend chicken enough. But here is a list of other cooking methods and recipes you can try:

We hope that you’ve learned a thing or two about both chicken breast and tenderloin.

If you wanted to substitute them for one another, you totally can.

Their taste and texture aren’t that different if you’ve prepared and cooked them using the correct method. Just remember you don’t need to marinate tenderloin as long as breast!

Smoke On!


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I have been meat-smoking and grilling for the past 15 years. I have an array of different smokers, thermometers, and have a love for finding the right wood and charcoal combo My favourite recipes are my EXTRA CRISPY smoked pork belly, juicy pulled pork, smoked brisket, duck poppers, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill).

I loves sharing his tips with beginners, helping them navigate the world of smoking. I find it’s not just about cooking; it’s a quest for that perfect smoky flavor.

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling recipes with you!

You can read more about me on our About Us page.

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