How To Cut Up A Chicken

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Are you buying the chicken already cut just because you don’t know how to cut up a chicken? I was too even though I knew it cost more. It was about time I learned how to cut a chicken so I invited Doug from The Kitchen Professor to show me how with easy step-by-step instructions!

Don't know how to cut a whole chicken? Follow these step by step instructions and in no time, you'll be an expert in cutting chicken!

I’m excited to have Doug from The Kitchen Professor back for another great guest post!  I have to confess…I’ve never learned to cut a whole chicken.  I usually just hand that job over to my hubby and let him do all the dirty work.  However, it’s high time I learned and you can feel free to learn right along with me.

If someone asked you to cut up a whole chicken, could you do it?

It seems like a daunting task.

How do you do it?

Why would you even want to take the extra time to cut up a whole chicken?

Well, breaking down a whole chicken isn’t too hard after you do it a few times.

Here are the two main reasons why you would want to buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself:

  1. Whole chicken is cheaper. It’s cheaper by a lot! Depending on where you shop, a whole chicken can be about one third the cost of the parts. If you normally buy boneless chicken breasts, they can cost 3 times as much. The savings really adds up if your family eats a lot of chicken. Plus, it’s nice to have some variety in your meals and changing the form of your chicken meat is a great way to get that variety.
  2. You can make homemade chicken broth with the leftover cuttings. I always seem to run out of chicken broth when I need it. When you make chicken broth from scratch, then you can control the amount of salt needed. I’m shocked to see how much sodium is in each serving of store bought broth. So that’s another bonus for buying a whole chicken.

Shopping For a Chicken

I try to get free range chicken from a local farm whenever I can.  They cost more but they seem to taste better and the texture seems more pleasant.

If you don’t care if the chicken is free range, and it’s okay if you don’t, then you can get any whole chicken.

Avoid any chicken that seems to have excess liquid in the packaging. That can indicate that the bird has been frozen and thawed in a less than ideal way. The end product will probably be dry and rubbery.

Cutting Up The Chicken

This operation will result in a quartered chicken:  2 breasts and 2 leg and thigh sections.

First you’ll need a few tools and other items before you get started.

  • A whole chicken – You may need to take out the liver, gizzard, and heart from the breast cavity, if they were included.
  • A large cutting board – plastic or non-wood is preferred.
  • A large chef’s knife.
  • Kitchen shears
  • Several paper towels
  • Latex gloves (optional) – If you want to keep your hands a little cleaner and protected from the raw chicken.

Rinse the chicken in cold water, then pat it dry with the paper towels. Place the chicken on the cutting board breast side up.

Grab one of the legs, i.e. the drumsticks, and pull it outward so the skin is tight. Cut through the skin between the leg and the body.

Cut up a chicken step 1

Once you are through the skin, you’ll need to pop the leg out of the ball joint by pushing the leg downward.

Next, you can cut through the thigh so you’ll have a leg and thigh section.

Cut up a chicken step 2

Then, you’ll do the same with the other leg and thigh. You can set the dark meat sections aside.

Cut up a chicken step 3

Lay the chicken breast side down and cut along the backbone with the shears.

Cut up a chicken step 4

Then cut along the other side so that you can remove the backbone. The backbone is perfect for making chicken broth.

Cut up a chicken step 5
Cut up a chicken step 6

Now, you’ll have a two chicken breasts with wings attached. The breasts just need to be separated. With the breasts facing down, I like to cut the clear, thin membrane that is on the inside of the breast bone.

Cut up a chicken step 7

Then, you can flip the breasts over so the skin side is up. Get your chef’s knife and then you cut directly through the skin, breast meat, and the breast meat.

Cut up a chicken step 8

You will need a sharp knife and cutting through bone like this will take it’s toll on even the best blades. So don’t use your prize knife since it will dull it a bit. You should sharpen it after you finish cutting up the chicken. I recommend an electric knife sharpener as the best way to keep your knives sharp.

Cut up a chicken step 9

And that’s it! Now, you have a quartered chicken and some trimmings to make some chicken broth. It may have been a little intimidating if that was your first time, but you’ll get better with practice and you’ll be able to do it fast. It only takes a few minutes for me to breakdown a chicken now that I know my way around a bird.

Cut up a chicken step 10

Doug blogs about everything from cast iron teapots to knife sets to BBQ smokers, with some recipes thrown in just for fun. Check out more at The Kitchen Professor!

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  1. I love the step by step photos, I actually feel like I could do this. Maybe…I also agree that the whole chicken is much cheaper and I love homemade chicken soup!

    1. The photos definitely make it easier and I don’t think I could attempt it without them!

  2. Ooh, I love this post! I love using whole chickens, but I usually just roast them and deal with them after – this is so smart!

    1. I know! I’m so glad that Doug guest posted for me so I could finally learn how to do it!

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