How to Cut up a Chicken

"Why cut up your own chickens? First, to save money. Whole chickens often run $1/lb less than chicken parts. Since most fryers run in the 4lb range you can save $4 for putting in less than 10 minutes work -- $24/hour is nothing to sneeze at. Second, you can cut to suit your family. As these directions show, I cut my breasts in thirds so that all the pieces are the same size (people my age and older will remember when KFC used to do that). That way you don't have small pieces drying out before the big ones are cooked through and you can serve white meat to a child who wants it without giving him/her more than he/she can manage to eat. And you get all the trimmings to use for chicken stock without having to buy backs, necks, and giblets separately -- why should the butcher get away with first charging you to cut the chickens up and then charging you more to get the parts they cut off? ;)"
How to Cut up a Chicken created by 3KillerBs
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  • You will need a pair of sharp, good-quality kitchen shears and a sharp knife at least 6 inches long.
  • Unwrap the chicken and drain any extra blood into the sink. Rinsing the chicken in cold water is optional. It can tidy up a chicken that is messy from processing and packing, but it makes the bird slippery to handle.
  • If there are pads of fat just inside the cavity pull them away (as long as the bird is cold the fat will be solid enough to handle).
  • Remove the giblets. Top brand birds will have the full set. Discount brand birds will have random giblets -- anywhere from none at all to doubles.
  • Cut off the wingtips with the kitchen shears.
  • Cut the skin connecting the thigh to the body with the shears or the knife.
  • Bend the thigh backwards to dislocate the joint. Use the shears to cut the thigh from the body.
  • Bend the leg joint backwards to dislocate it. (Dislocating the joints is optional, but makes it easier). Cut through the joint from the inner side of the bend.
  • Bend the wing back to find the joint. Dislocate it if possible (the wing joints are very sturdy and sometimes can't be dislocated until the white meat is cut to expose them). Cut through the wing joint with the shears from the inside of the bend.
  • Using the shears, cut the breast free of the back following the line of the ribs (there is usually a thin line of fat just on the breast side of that line).
  • Note -- The difficulty of cutting through the shoulder bones will depend on the age of the chicken. Fryers are easy, stew hens more difficult. If you're cutting a turkey you'll need to break the joint.
  • Use the knife to divide the breast lengthwise into thirds. Cut the meat down to but not through the bones.
  • Cut the breast bones with the shears.
  • Note -- for a large roaster, or stew hen you may wish to halve each of these pieces crosswise to yield a total of 6 pieces of white meat.
  • Alternately, if you want the breast divided in half you can use the knife to cut the skin exactly down the center then slide it down on one side of the breastbone. Complete the cut with the shears. Sometimes, depending upon the intended use, its even desirable to slide the knife along both sides of the breastbone and then use the shears to cut it out completely.
  • The chicken is now ready to use for whatever purpose you wanted chicken parts.
  • If you wish to bone the breasts, its now easy to see where you need to slide a thin, razor-sharp knife to free the meat.
  • Note -- gather the trimmings, including the fat, and save in the freezer until you have enough for chicken stock. (Recipe #219819 requires trimmings from only 2-3 chickens).
  • Tip -- It's easier to skin the chicken if you grab the slippery skin with a damp dishcloth.
  • Tip -- If there are pinfeathers I find that a grill lighter makes the best tool to singe them off.
  • Tip -- If there are broken feathers too large to singe, a pair of washed, needlenose pliers gets a better grip than tweezers. They are inexpensive so you can keep a pair in your utensil drawer just for this purpose.
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  1. internetnut
    I gave this 5 stars. How awesome! I'm so glad this was posted. This was one of the only things I did not learn from my one of several cooking classes I had attended that I so wanted to learn. I just learned how to cut up a chicken this week in a cooking class I'm attending. I love the step by step pictures here on zaar of the different steps. I had never cut up a whole chicken and I've been so wanting to try it. I like the fact this recipe uses kitchen scissors as I found it hard for me to cut through the bone with a kitchen knife. I will for sure try using scissors with these directions. The directions are so simple and great step by step. The steps are slightly different then our teacher (Chef) taught us. He taught us to cut the connecting skin first, break the leg quarters from the joint cut them off. Break the wing tips and then cut them off. Then cut off the wings. Cut the breast off (if using boneless). Cut the chicken in half. By the time your done you can get 6-8 pieces of ckicken and even more if you want smaller cuts. I know our chef said each person does a different cut as I seen on You Tube. When we did out chickens we probably used 3 pound chickens. I think it would probably be worth the work to use bigger chickens. Thanks so much for posting this and the great pictures. I think the next time I'll try using the scissors. Christine (internetnut)
  2. atlfitgirl
    I give this 5 stars for a wonderful step by step way to cut up a chicken... great pictures!!! I learned many years ago from my mother how to do this nasty chore... I agree, it saves soooo much money when you have the time to do it. I love the amount of $$$ I save by doing this myself. It also impresses my BF when he sees my in the kitchen getting down and dirty and hands on with a few chickens!!! A great post... thanks for sharing!!!
  3. barefootmommawv
    I'm so glad I found this here. It was most helpful. And I tell you it was soooooo stress relieving it wasn't funny. I wont be buying the expensive cuts nomore now that I can do it myself. I purchased two purdue chickens and there was no giblets in them. I was suprised. I dont like them myself so it was okay. Thanks again for a great post.
  4. IngridH
    This was the most helpful post EVER!! Thank you so much for these clear, concise directions for doing a nasty, yet vital task. I'll refer back to them often, until I feel confident with my skill at disecting a chicken.
  5. Panama_Girl
    Thanks for the tips, tried it last night and it was really easy (especially with latex gloves on, i HATE getting stuff under my nails!). I remember the breast tips at KFC too! Too bad they don't cut them that way any more, you could get 9 -count 'em, 9!- pieces out of a bird instead of 8 with that cut...

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