How to cut a whole chicken

Posted · 18 Comments

Come on everyone, let’s get our fingers dirty and learn how to cut up a chicken!!  With all the chicken that I’ve had this past week, I thought it would be appropriate to end with this great technique that anyone can master once you get over the ughh factor! You’ll save $, have bones for broth, and feel like a real chef!!  (Oh did I mention meat ALWAYS taste so much better and retains moisture with the bones on, thanks for that tip Rachael Ray!)  Earlier this month I found my way over at Heather from girlichef blog!  If you haven’t had a chance to visit this woman, you really need to!  She’s an amazing chef and has a super fun writing style!  She says it like it is and and takes amazing step by step pictures for each recipe! At her site, I was so excited to see a post on breaking down a chicken and turning it into a one pot wonder.  She did an amazing job illustrating through photos how to cut a chicken.  I’d been wanting to post on this, but why reinvent the wheel when Heather already did her magic!  I quickly asked her if she would guest post and she said YES!!!  So, here on my very own blog, is the AWESOME Heather from Girlichef!

Hi, it’s girlichef and I’m so excited to be Diana’s guest!  Today we’re going to talk a bit about chicken.  Everybody knows how versatile chicken is and how many “forms” it can take for any specific cooking method.  Many times we’re asked to use chicken pieces…you know, chicken quarters.  Maybe even a chicken broken down into eighths or tenths.  My question is…when you are using chicken pieces in a recipe, do you buy them pre-cut or do you buy a whole chicken and cut it into pieces yourself?  While I know many people do break down their own chicken, I bet there are just as many people who just buy it pre-cut…it’s convenient, it’s less messy, it’s no-fuss, and it’s…MORE EXPENSIVE!  It really is. 

So, how ’bout I give you a painless tutorial on how to break down your own chicken?  Go ahead and buy the whole bird…and then use it to your whim!  Don’t buy pieces (that are often not even pieces of the same bird)…roll up your sleeves, pull out your cutting board and get to know that bird…all personal like. 

Breaking down a Chicken

Let me preface this by saying that my favorite, and probably the easiest way to break down the bird is with an incredibly sharp chef’s knife.  BUT, if you’re not comfortable with your knife…or it’s dull…or you don’t have one…DON’T fret!  You can use your regular old kitchen shears with just as much luck.  If you have poultry shears…even easier (because they’re a bit sturdier)…but if you have poultry shears, then I’m guessing this is probably just a review for you, anyway!  I’m going to use regular kitchen shears…just to show you it can be done.

Begin by placing your whole chicken on a cutting board and flipping it over so the back side is facing up. Find that backbone with your fingers. Using your shears or sharp chef‘s knife, cut down one side of the backbone, then follow with the other. See…easy so far, right? You can save that backbone for making chicken stock.

#1- breaking down a chicken

Flip that baby over and locate the breast bone. This part is definitely easier with a nice, sharp knife…but I told you I was going to use the shears, so…simply start at the bottom and carefully cut your way up through the center of the breast bone. Now you have two halves. Did you know that meat has natural “seams”. It actually shows you where to make your cuts. Find the seam between the breast and the thigh and snip/cut right through. Now you have quarters. Find the seam between the thigh and the leg…cut through. Yup, there’s a bone, but you’re basically cutting through joints…simple! Do the same thing at the seam between the breast and the wing.

#2- breaking down a chicken

Now you have eighths. This is a basic broken down chicken…eight pieces. If you have a recipe that calls for tenths, simple cut the breast in half (the short way). Voila…tenths! Don’t forget to snip those wing tips off (usually I do this earlier, but I forgot)…they serve no purpose any more…except to throw in the stock pot. You are now ready to cook your chicken pieces.

#3- breaking down a chicken

If you hadn’t broken down your own chicken before…for whatever reason…I hope that next time you’ll give it a try.  It may not be perfect your first time…heck, it may not be perfect your second time…but, you’ll get there!  And it’s good to know your food…appreciate it.  Getting in there and working with your hands is a good way to do that.  Thanks so much to Diana for having me and to you guys for sticking with me (even though I’m not Diana)!

– Today is the last day to enter to win the Spanish Earthenware Cazuela Giveaway!

18 Responses to "How to cut a whole chicken"
  1. Claudia Medeiros says:

    Wow ! Thanks for sharing this useful information , Diana ! Sometimes we have doubts about how to do it in the right way :)

    Have a beautiful Friday !!!

  2. Fresh Local and Best says:

    I like breaking whole chickens for the great extras of bones, gizzards and livers to be reserved for stock making. Kitchen shears does make this task easier.

  3. lululu says:

    haha, i used to get my husband to do the cutting!
    but then i was so stupid that i discard every bone!
    now i know what to do with them!

  4. Erica says:

    I saw this post before in her blog! I love her recipes.

  5. Elin says:

    Diana, thanks for sharing the tips on how to cut the chicken the proper way and using just a pair of shears.


    I am clueless in knives…but this one is truly helpful!!! thanks so much for sharing…

  7. Chow and Chatter says:

    great idea for a post ladies

  8. girlichef says:

    Thanks for having me, Diana!! It's an honor to be sharing some space with you over here :)

  9. The Klutzy Cook says:

    I've never ventured to break down a whole bird – found it a bit daunting and I can be a disaster with sharp knives. Particularly when it's something I haven't done before. I'll definitely give it a try now. Thanks.

  10. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite says:

    I sent Neil to knife skills at culinary school so he always cuts the chickens for me!!!

    I can't wait to meet you @Foodbuzz!!!

  11. Simply Life says:

    I've never done that before but thanks, now I'll feel a bit more competent if I have to!

  12. Cookin' Canuck says:

    Great post! Breaking down a chicken can be so intimidating, but Girlichef makes it look so easy.

  13. penny aka jeroxie says:

    I use shears as well and it is much easier. The problem I have is when I want to chop it to even smaller pieces or to debone… but this a such a good post and makes it look easy too :)

  14. Cinnamon-Girl Reeni♥ says:

    You make it look so easy! I'm not afraid anymore!

  15. Cinnamon-Girl Reeni♥ says:

    You make it look so easy! I'm not afraid anymore!

  16. Cinnamon-Girl Reeni♥ says:

    You make it look so easy! I'm not afraid anymore!

  17. My Little Space says:

    A great & perfect post for the ladies!

  18. Tasty Eats At Home says:

    Great tips! I often break down a whole chicken, and then save the wing tips and back, freeze it, and when I get enough, I make stock or chicken soup!

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