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How To Cut up A Whole Chicken

Cutting up a whole chicken may seem intimidating, but with our guide of 4 Easy Steps, we’ll walk you through this process on how to cut up a while chicken into 8 pieces, explaining each stage carefully.

8 chicken pieces cut on a plate

Watch How To Cut Up A Whole Chicken

4 Easy Steps to cut up a whole chicken

Chicken pieces on a cutting board after cutting up a whole chicken.

Let’s dive in and get your culinary skills soaring to new heights.

You are going to get…

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 drumsticks
  • 2 chicken thighs
  • 2 chicken wings

Bonus: You will be left with the chicken carcass which is great for making homemade stock.

Step 1. Remove the chicken wings

Cutting the chicken wing off from a whole chicken.
  1. Place the chicken breast side down on a cutting board. Lift one wing and locate the joint where the wing meets the body. This is what I call the “armpit.”
  2. Using a sharp knife, cut through the skin and muscle at the “armpit” joint. As you cut, pull down on the wing to help separate it from the body. The bone should pop out of the joint.
  3. Once the wing is free, use the knife to work around the knuckle of the wing. Cut towards the wing and not the body of the chicken. Also be careful not to cut into the chicken breast.

Repeat these steps on the other wing. Once both wings are removed, you can move on to cutting the legs.

I have an entire post that specifically goes over the steps of how to cut up a chicken wing that you might also find helpful.

Removing the wing tips

After you have cut off the chicken wings, you can remove the wing tips. This is a simple process that can be done with a sharp knife.

  1. Locate the intersection of the wing tip and the wing. This is the joint where the two bones meet.
  2. Hold the wing tip firmly with one hand.
  3. Use a sharp knife to slice through the joint.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the other wing tip.

Once you have removed the wing tips, you can discard them add them to your carcass and make homemade stock.

  • Use a sharp knife to make the process easier and to prevent the wing tips from falling apart.
  • Be careful not to cut yourself.
  • If you are not comfortable removing the wing tips yourself, you can ask a butcher to do it for you.

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.

Step 2. Remove the chicken leg

Showing the oyster of the chicken thigh.

The chicken thighs and legs are the dark meat of a chicken. They carry the most flavor in the chicken as far as I am concerned.

Showing the spot to cut the skin  of the chicken leg.
  1. Cut the skin where is it loose between the legs and the breast to expose the leg and thigh joints.
  2. Position your hands under the chicken focusing most of your hand under the thigh.
  3. With your figures under the thighs push up with slight pressure until you feel the bone pop out of the socket.
  4. Put the chicken breast side down and grab one of the drums. You want to follow the outline of the thigh meat through the skin.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Step 3. Separate the chicken thighs from the drums

Showing how to cut the thigh from the drum on cutting board.

Now you can keep the leg and thigh attached and cook them any way that you would like. But you can also separate the chicken thigh from the drum very easily.

  1. 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 can also feel for where the two join together.
  2. You want to focus your cut through this line of fat more on the leg 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.

Step 4. Remove the chicken breasts

Chicken breast on a cutting board with a carcass next to it.

Now the last thing that we have left is the breast of the chicken. AKA the “white meat.”

  1. You want to lay the carcass on one side, this is going to give it some stability when you cut through.
  2. As 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

After it has been removed check out how to cut up a chicken breast.

Close cutting of chicken breast coming off of the carcass.

Nice WORK you just cut up a whole chicken!

Cut of ChickenInstructions
Chicken Wings1. Place chicken breast side down. 2. Lift one wing to locate joint. 3. Cut at joint, pulling wing down. 4. Work around knuckle. 5. Repeat for the other wing.
Wing Tips1. Locate the joint between wing tip and wing. 2. Hold wing tip firmly. 3. Slice through joint. 4. Repeat for other wing tip.
Chicken Legs1. Cut skin between legs and breast. 2. Position hands under chicken, focusing on thigh. 3. Push up until bone pops out of socket. 4. Cut around thigh and drum.
Thigh and Drum1. Place leg quarter down. 2. Look for line of fat. 3. Cut through fat line more on leg side. 4. Repeat for other leg quarter.
Chicken Breasts1. Lay carcass on one side. 2. Look for fat layer near rib cage. 3. Follow fat layer with knife, pulling meat away. 4. Repeat for other breast.

Top Benefits of Cutting Up A Whole 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 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 much 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.

Find out more on how to tell if chicken is bad so that you can be certain the next time that your chicken is fresh.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Cut Up A Whole Chicken

The best knife to use when cutting a whole chicken is a boning knife. This knife is flexible and easy to move around what you are cutting around the joints and bones of the chicken.

No, you can not use kitchen scissors to cut a chicken. It is too difficult to cut the chicken breast and chicken thighs with just scissors you are going to need a boning knife.

Tools needed

  1. Sharp boning knife
  2. Cutting board
  3. Container for the cut chicken pieces
  4. Paper towels if the chicken is too wet
  5. Kitchen shears to cut out the backbone
  6. Chef Knife
  7. Rubber gloves “optional”

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