Why would anyone want to cut up a whole chicken? It’s a useful skill to have, I tend to buy whatever is on sale and if whole chickens are on sale that week, then I load up. By buying a whole chicken, I have not restricted myself to one form of cooking or another. Additionally some people in this house are white meat fans, while others prefer the dark and good luck finding chicken breasts at a reasonable price on their own.
If you purchase whole chickens, come home and cut them up, they can be frozen in pieces. However, do not thaw the chicken, cut it up, and refreeze. That’s a big no on the safety meter.
As some readers of Home Ec 101 are vegetarian and others read their feeds first thing in the morning, I’m putting a cut, just so no one is surprised with pictures of raw chicken. You’re welcome.
Also, give my stepdaughter a big round of applause, she was a trooper and helped me take the pictures for this tutorial. It’s not every teen who’s willing to hang out with their stepmother over a chicken carcass, you know.
Disclaimer: I always use a cutting board, but for these pictures I wanted the chicken to show up against a darker background, so I put down a piece of wax paper. Don’t worry, I sanitized my work surface both before and after working with the chicken. Use a cutting board and be sure to sanitize it and your knife after use.
Remove the packaging, rinse the bird and remove the giblets and neck from the cavity.
1. Gizzard 2. Neck 3. Heart 4. Liver
Usually I only reserve the neck and give the rest to the dog, but that’s a whatever floats your boat decision.
Hold the body of the chicken in place with one hand and grasp the leg in the other. Twist the leg up and out of the joint, dislocating the hip. This gives you a place to cut the leg and thigh away from the chicken.
Then cut through the joint.
Then repeat these steps on the other side before moving on to the wings.
Grab the body of the chicken in one hand and the upper part of the wing in the other and twist away from the body. Cut through the shoulder joint.
Grasp the back of the chicken firmly below the tail (the chicken should be upside down). Cut straight down through the ribs to mostly separate the back from the breast of the chicken. This will have to be done on both sides.
The back and breast are now separate. I save the back for stock. There is some meat on it and the the portion just under the shoulder blades are referred to as the oysters of the chicken and are a prized cut. However, they are small and one chicken only has two. Just don’t miss these when you roast a whole chicken.
Cut through the sternum to split the chicken breasts. You may need to flip the bird over and finish cutting through the skin.
It will take a little practice to feel confident in this skill, but once you have the knack it will get much faster. Your first experience will be messy and clumsy, but hang in there; a few dinners down the line and you’ll tear that chicken up in no time.
Don’t forget to use the back, wing tips, and neck in chicken stock, just use the same proportions as I do in this turkey stock.