Tackling the Whole Bird: You CAN Cut Up a Chicken

 By Jennifer Chandler | Butchery photos by Melissa Petersen | Recipe photo by Dominic Perri

You are probably thinking, “Why should I learn how to cut up a chicken when I can buy it that way at the store?”

I have three answers for you.

Number 1: Buying a whole chicken is much cheaper than buying individual parts.

Number 2: Not only are you saving money, but as an added bonus, you can use the carcass and bones to make a delicious chicken stock.

Number 3: Many of the local farmers at our farmers’ markets only sell their beautiful birds whole.

chicken_2

chicken_2

Prep the Chicken: Rinse off the chicken and pat it dry. Then place the chicken on a clean, flat cutting surface with the breast side up. Having a sharp chef’s knife is essential. A sturdy pair of kitchen shears makes removing the backbone a breeze. But a sharp knife will work if you don’t have shears.

chicken_7

chicken_7

Remove the Wings: Place the chicken on its side, pull the wing away from the body, and cut through the joint to remove the wing. Repeat with the other wing.

chicken_5

chicken_5

Remove the Legs: Pull the leg away from the body and slice the skin between the leg and the breast. When you reach the bone, stop cutting. Turn the chicken on its side and then bend back the leg until the thighbone pops out of its socket. Remove the leg by cutting in and around the joint. Repeat with the other leg.

chicken_6

chicken_6

Separate the Drumstick and Thigh: Place each leg skin-side down. Bend to see where the ball joint between the drumstick and thigh is located. Look for the line of fat. Cut through that line of fat to separate the thigh and drumstick, wiggling the joint as needed to separate it. Repeat with the other leg.

chicken_1

chicken_1

Remove the Backbone: Place the chicken on the cutting surface with the breast side down. Using kitchen shears, cut through the rib cage on one side of the backbone. Let the fat lines be your guide. Repeat on the other side of the backbone to remove it completely. (Reserve the backbone for chicken stock, if desired.)

chicken_4

chicken_4

Split the Breasts: Place the breasts skin-side down, exposing the underside of the breastbone. Using the tip of the knife, slice along the breastbone to weaken it. Turn the breasts over and press down along the breastbone to crack it. Now, slice through the meat and the breastbone to separate the two breasts. Cut each breast half in half again, crosswise, if desired.

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