Frugal tip: Cutting up a whole chicken

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Heather says:

While it is true that thighs and drumsticks often go on sale, nothing in my opinion beats a whole chicken for the price. However, it is not every day that I’m in the mood for roast chicken or its planned overs.

So, when whole chickens go on sale and I am feeling particularly industrious, I cut them up myself. All you need is a sharp knife and a willingness to get your hands dirty.

Out of respect for the squeamish and vegetarians, all raw poultry pictures will be after the jump.

How hard is it to get from this to this?

The truth is, it tok longer for me to type up this tutorial than it did to convince my husband to take pictures and cut up the chicken.

First remove the giblets, be sure to save that neck for you next batch of stock.

Firmly grasp a leg in one hand and the body of the chicken in the other. Pull the leg away from body in the direction of the wing until you feel the thigh joint dislocate. Take your knife and cut the thin skin between the bottom of the breast and the thigh.

Pull the leg away from the chicken as illustrated and cut the connective tissue in the thigh joint. The cartilage should be easy to cut through once the leg has been dislocated. This should free the leg from the carcass; set it aside. Repeat on the other side. If you would like to seperate the drumstick from the thigh, grasp the drumstick in one hand and the thigh in the other. Pull in opposite directions with a slight twisting motion to dislocate the knee joint. Cut through the cartilage to separate.

In the same manner as the thigh, grasp the chicken wing and pull away and behind the body. This should separate the shoulder joint. Cut through the connective tissue and remove from the body. Slide your knife under the rib meat to begin separation of the breast from the back, do this on both sides.

Grasp the back in one hand and the breast in the other, with a tight grip; twist to separate. You will have to cut through connective tissue at the shoulders.

To split the breast apply firm pressure to the sternum with the sharp point of your knife. Be very careful and keep your fingers out of the way, as this is when your knife is most likely to slip. A good amount of pressure will be needed to divide the cartilage.

Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? Please be sure to disinfect your work area.

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10 thoughts on “Frugal tip: Cutting up a whole chicken”

  1. THANK YOU so much for this post!! I have always wondered what the proper way to do this was. Does the same method work for the prepared rotisserie chicken at the store? I love the price on those but when I get them home I am confused and grossed out about taking them apart. Now having a clear method could solve that. Thanks!

  2. I love the fact that someone still knows how to do this! I actually enjoy cutting up chickens, and I REALLY love doing turkeys. Each Thanksgiving I make my own boned rolled turkey breast and roast it along side another whole turkey. That way we have lots of white meat leftovers 🙂

  3. My Sunday School class cooked a picnic-style meal for my church a few weeks ago, in part to raise money for my upcoming mission trip. Fried chicken was the main dish.

    I was not part of cutting the chicken up (I did help in the kitchen, just not with the chicken). But I swear, we got more comments about the fact that we had cut up the chicken in the old style — leaving the wishbone intact — than anything else.

  4. Granny,
    I would love your recipe. Do you think a boning a chicken would be a useful tutorial? I haven’t prepared one in forever, but I can dig out the info.

    I will admit that I save the backs for stock rather than messing around with them for meat. I tend to be frugal, but my patience does have its limits.

    Tracy,
    It’ll work, the cooked chicken will fall apart easily. Approaching it systematically should help you with the task.
    Good luck!

  5. Sorry I didn’t get back to see your comment earlier. Yes, I can write up what I do with the turkey…not really a recipe but a method. And yes, I think it would be helpful to do a boning tutorial!

  6. In my day, I have cut up many chickens to save money in feeding a family of 6. My children always wanted to dry out the wishbone and wish-on-it so I was careful not to severe it when cutting up the chicken.
    Recently, after leaving the hospital ER for a medical problem, I had to return two hours latter because of a chicken bone being stuck in my throat. We did not feel like cooking so we stopped at a fast-food chicken restaurant and ordered two chicken dinners to go. On the second bite, half of the wishbone that was introduced to the breast during their cutting process was accidentally swallowed and got stuck in my throat neither allowing me to swallow it or cough it up. After returning to the ER, being x-ray’d, and having a throat surgeon called it, I was put to sleep and the bone was extracted. I was also admitted overnight to insure their were no other complications.
    I shared my incident with the restaurant where the chicken was purchased and even notified their coperate office about my disatisfaction on the way they cut their chicken and received passes for a few dinners (big deal). If I had the monies to hire a lawyer, I would have pursued it legally. A person received mega-bucks because she/he spilt hot coffee on themselves and sued because McDonalds did either served hot coffee or did not have the container marked properly. I recently heard about another person sueing McDonalds for injuring their mouth while eating an apple pie.
    I feel that introducing these two small and thin bones to the breast section of the chicken is wrong. The person cutting the chicken using a meat cleaver with force to sever the breastbone, puts children, the elderly, and the public-at-large into a possibility similar to what I indured.
    Your response is appreciated. I can also be responded to at 194 Dwight Road, Springfield, MA 01108
    Respectfully,
    Gerard Couture

  7. Yes, please do a boning tutorial. With grocery prices being what they are, I’m starting to think those individually wrapped boneless skinless breasts are a luxury, and would like to try using whole chicken. I’m reasonably sure I could manage, but directions and photos would be nice!

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