Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tutorial: Cutting up a Chicken

Ok, folks...right up front I'm going to say it. This post is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart. It's actually pretty gross.
Today's post is a tutorial about how to not hack apart, but rather nicely cut up a full-sized chicken.

Can you believe it? Until yesterday, I'd never actually done the work myself - I'd left this job to my local grocer or meat market guy (Thanks, Jim!). But, I have been seriously craving chicken and dumplings and/or fried chicken (weird, right?) and thought that I should do it properly....so here goes.

And believe me, I spent almost as much time talking and apoligizing to the chicken as I did actual cutting - we got quite close him and me. My first chicken may not be perfect, but I did find that the process was rather painless (for me, anyway), a little messy, but a LOT easier than I thought thanks to America's Test Kitchen, a sharp knife, a little bravery! :)

Tutorial: Cutting up a Chicken

1 whole chicken
1 sharp knife
1 plastic cutting board (*more on why later)
1 pair of kitchen/chicken scissors
General Notes: This tutorial will show you how to cut a chicken into 12 pieces rather than the standard 8 pieces. Chicken pieces used for frying, soups, etc. should be smaller so they cook faster and more evenly.

Here is where you get to see my sad, little cutting board. I have a big, beautiful solid wood board that I adore, really I do! But, alas, these types of tasks is why I keep my college cutting board on hand. Cutting up meat, poultry, etc. should always be done on a plastic, non-porous surface so that it can get a really good, deep-down clean when you're finished. A great-big plastic board is ideal, but as you can see, even a little one can work!

1. With a sharp chef's knife, cut through the skin around the leg where it attaches to the breast.

2. Using both hands, pop the leg joint out of its socket.

3. Use a chef's knife to cut through the flesh and skin to detach the leg from the body.

4. A line of fat separates the thigh and drumstick. Cut through the joint at this point. Repeat steps 1-4 with the other leg.

5. Bend the wing out from the breast and use your knife to cut through the joint. Repeat with the other wing. Cut through the cartilage around the wingtip to remove it. Discard the tip. Cut through the joint to split it. Repeat with the other wing.

6. Using poultry shears, cut along the ribs to completely separate the back from the breast. Discard the backbone.

Still with me? We're in the home stretch!

7. Place the knife on the breastbone, then apply pressure to cut through and separate the breast into halves.

8. Cut each breast in half crosswise into two pieces.

Now remember to respect the chicken and make it into something worthwile and delicious!


  1. Very nice tutorial! I love to cut up chicken :) I often buy them on sale & butcher them myself :) I'm strange like that I guess! Excellent tips and great job!!

  2. Very nice! Thanks for the instructions & pics.