How to Break Down a Chicken
Steps to Break Down a Chicken
- Start with a sharp knife that’s easy to handle. If you have a boning knife, this is when to use it.
- Place the chicken breast side up on a cutting board.
- Remove the wings first. You need to find the “shoulder” joint where the wings meet the body. Stretch out the wing and make slashes where it meets the body until you can see the joint. Cut through the ligament holding together the “shoulder” joint.
- To cut the breast, make a slash along the entire length of the breastbone, all the way through the breast meat. Your knife should touch the ribs and breastbone as you draw through the cut.
- Simultaneously pull the breast away from the breastbone while making downward slashes close to the ribs. Think of a close shave where the ribs are the skin and the knife is your razor.
- Once you’re close to removing the breast, cut the skin and meat closest to the back and thigh of the chicken, so the breast will come off cleanly. Repeat on the other side.
- When you remove the thighs, you want to look for the joint where the thigh connects to the body (the “hip” bone). You’ll need to apply firm pressure with the knife to sever the ligaments holding together this joint.
- The same is true for where the drumstick meets the thigh—look for the joint by making controlled slashes and peeling back the meat as you go. Apply firm pressure to finish the cut.
Tips for Cutting Up a Chicken
- Work in an area you don’t mind getting messy, and have a clean-up plan in place before you start.
- Make sure to pat dry the chicken with paper towels before you start (especially if you rinse it with water first). A dry chicken will be easier and safer to handle.
- If you plan to store the chicken, try pre-labeling bags or plastic containers and lay them out before you start breaking down the chicken. This will make clean-up a snap.
Lastly, save the body to roast if for pulled chicken or use it to create a stock. Watch our video on how-to make a chicken stock to find out how.