Learning how to break down a whole chicken is a useful skill to have. Follow this easy step by step guide so you can cut up an entire chicken into individual pieces for making stock, fried chicken and more.
Cutting up a raw chicken into individual parts can be useful for many reasons. Not only is it cheaper than buying pieces at the grocery store, but you can also use the carcass for making homemade chicken stock.
It may seem intimidating to do, but the entire process is pretty simple. Plus, it's also a great way to practice your knife skills!
You can use the pieces from cutting up the whole bird to make a variety of chicken recipes, such as chicken vesuvio, chicken parm sandwiches, buffalo chicken dip and more!
🔪 Tools Needed
- Kitchen Shears
- Chef's Knife
- Boning Knife (optional)
📖 Step by step instructions
The first step is to slice through the skin that connects the breast and thigh and pop the hip bone out.
Next, cut the flesh between the hip joint as close to the back as you can to remove the leg quarter. Repeat this process on the other side so you have two chicken leg quarters.
After the legs have been removed, bend back the wings to see the shoulder joint. Apply pressure with your knife to this joint and it should easily cut through the joint.
If you get resistance, you aren't in the right spot. Try repositioning your knife and try again. Repeat to remove the other wing.
Turn the chicken on it's side and look for the thin line of fat that runs diagonally on the bottom of the chicken breast. Using your shears cut right along the line through the rib cage to remove the breasts.
Flip the chicken breasts, skin side down and apply pressure with your knife in the middle of the breast bone to separate the breast halves from each other.
This will give you 6 pieces of chicken, however, you can break down these parts into smaller pieces.
- If your chicken doesn't already have the wing tips removed, you can slice through the joint that connects them with the other part of the wings. The tips can be used for stock along with the carcass or discarded.
- The whole wings can also be separated into wingettes and drummettes if you like. Simply apply pressure with your knife in the joint to cut right through it.
- To separate the chicken thighs from the leg, bend the leg against the joint to dislocate it. Use your chef's knife to slice through the dislocated joint.
- If you want boneless skinless chicken breasts, use a boning knife to slice right under the bones to remove them. Run your finger underneath the skin of the chicken breast to separate it from the meat and then use your hands to remove the breast skin from the whole breast.
⭐ Expert tips
- Use a paper towel to pat the chicken dry so you can grip the chicken easily.
- Make sure you have a sharp knife so you can easily cut through the joints, bones and meat.
- When cutting up raw me, I prefer to use a plastic cutting board as opposed to a wooden one. They are easier to clean and sanitize so you don't run the risk of cross contamination.
If you ever don't recognize a tool or skill that I mention, be sure to look it up in the Glossary of Cooking Terms and Definitions for more information.
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