I am going to teach you in this post how to cut a whole chicken into 8 pieces. You will be amazed at how simple and easy this is.
I also have a video that will walk you through step by step how to cut up a whole chicken. Watching a video will make it easier to understand.
Learning how to cut a whole chicken will save you money when buying chicken. It is also a great way to use all the parts of a bird.
What you are left with is a carcass that you can use to make stock…what a bonus!
Let’s dive into this step-by-step guide.
- Whole Chicken
- Cutting board
- Boning knife
- Paper towels
4 Steps for cutting up a whole chicken
Follow these simple steps for breaking down an entire chicken. If the pictures are not enough for you, check out the video, it really helps with the visual. Before you get too far along you want to make sure that your chicken has not gone bad.
You are going to get…
- 2 chicken breasts
- 2 drumsticks
- 2 chicken thighs
- 2 chicken wings
Bonus: chicken carcass for stock
Remove the chicken wings
You want to first take the bird and put it with the breast side down on the cutting board. Next, you are going to lift the wing and find what I call the armpit.
As you cut into this spot you will pull down on the wing. As you pull down the wing will pop and the bone will come out of the joint that it was in.
Take the knife and work it around the knuckle that you just exposed and cut towards the wing and not the bird. You want to come back to yourself or you’re going to end up cutting some of the chicken breasts.
I have an entire post on how to cut up a chicken wing.
Removing the wing tips
I like to remove the wing tips after I have cut off the chicken wings. I don’t typically remove the drumette from the flat of the wing.
This is simple to do, just find the intersection and hold it firmly and slice through the joint.
One thing to consider if you are using a wood cutting board is to know how to clean wooden cutting boards after you cut up raw chicken.
Remove the chicken leg
These two parts are beloved by dark meat-eaters. They carry the most flavor in the chicken as far as I am concerned.
The first thing you want to do is cut the skin to expose the leg and thigh joint.
Take both of them under your hand focusing most of your hand under the thigh. Now pull and push up with some pressure. As you do this the thigh bone will pop out of the chicken.
Put the chicken breast side down and grab one of the drums. You want to follow the outline of the meat through the skin.
As you get closer to the backbone of the chicken you are going to cut out the oyster in the chicken. You don’t want to miss this part of the chicken, it is a coveted piece of meat.
If you have a hard time finding the oyster, watch the video.
Now follow the rest of the cut down the side of the chicken until the entire thigh and drum come off the bird. Go ahead and repeat this step to the other thigh and drum.
Separate the chicken thighs from drums
Now you can keep these attached and cook them any way that you like. But you can also separate the chicken thigh from the drum very easily.
Place the leg quarter down with the thigh skin on the cutting board. You will see a line of fat and this fat line is your guide for cutting.
You want to focus your cut through this line of fat more on the drum side. This means that fat will end up on the thigh if that makes sense.
This cut should be smooth if you are in the correct location. If you are getting resistance then move your knife around until the cut is smooth.
Repeat this step for the other chicken quarter. You can also debone chicken thighs if you prefer.
Remove the chicken breasts
Now the last thing that we have left is the breast of the chicken. AKA the “white meat.”
You want to lay the carcass on one side, this is going to give it some stability when you cut through.
Like we did with the drum and thigh you are going to look for the fat layer. Follow this fat layer with your knife with nice slicing cuts pulling the meat away as you go.
Your goal is to stay as close as possible to the rib cage of the chicken. Take your time so that you get the most meat you can for your chicken breast.
After it has been removed check out how to cut up a chicken breast.
As you cut the breast off your going to expose the tenderloin. You can leave this on or remove it that’s your choice. After you remove the breast go ahead and do the other side the same way.
Nice WORK you just broke down a whole chicken!
3 Benefits of breaking down a chicken
Make stock from the carcass
This is by far one of the best parts of cutting up a whole chicken yourself. The chicken stock that you buy in the store does not even compare to making your own. Now some call it broth and not stock to learn more read my post on broth and stock differences.
Tip: If you don’t have the time to make stock when you break down the bird just put the carcass in a freezer bag and freeze it. Pull it out the next time and add it to the broth that your making.
Not buying processed chicken
When you buy a chicken that is all processed into pieces you are exposing the meat to all kinds of bacteria. Skipping that step I feel will give you a lot fresher meat.
Have you ever gotten a pack of chicken and it smells a little funny? Since I started cutting up my own birds I never get that smell anymore.
Save money with do it yourself
The savings can be huge. I buy organic chickens and buying the parts by themselves is really expensive. This process also forces you to not want to waste the carcass so you save money with that as well as creating your own chicken stock.
How To Cut Up a Whole Chicken
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 pinch salt optional
- Put the chicken breast-side down and pull on the wing downwards as you cut into the pit of the wing and chicken.
- Put the chicken breast side up and cut into the skin next to the thigh on both sides.Pop both sides out of their socket and put the chicken breast side down and cut along the meat that you can see through the skin.Don't miss the oyster the best part of the chicken.
- Take the chicken quarter and put the skin side down. Find the fat line separating the 2 pieces and cut through.
- Lay the carcass on one side and follow the fat line to cut the chicken breast off of the carcass.
- Dry the bird chicken with paper towels if it’s too slippery.
- If you’re having a hard time following then watch the video.