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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.