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Chop Chop! – How to butcher your own chicken

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I give you fair warning. If you have a incredibly weak stomach then you do not need to read this entry. Please scroll past it!Okay, fair warning has been given and I can only assume that you have a strong stomach and you have seen a dead chicken before.

Whole chickens are cheap. Usually $.99/lb but I have seen them as low as $$.79/lb. Whole chickens are great for a number of reasons: 1 – they can be used more than once. The edible meat, such as breasts and thighs, can be taken off the bird and the remainder can be used for chicken stock which can be used in soups and other recipes. 2 – They make an impressive yet inexpensive meal for company. Bring a whole roasted bird to the table and your guests will think you went all out for them. 3 – Whole birds are less expensive whole than they are cut into pieces.
Which brings me to today’s topic – How to cut up your bird and save yourself $$. There are a few things you need to remember while you are cutting this bird. First, make sure you have sharp cutting utensils. Dull knives are dangerous! You know that honing tool you have — use it! Second, always remember to cut away from you, you don’t want to lose a finger. You can even use just kitchen shears if you don’t have a steady hand. 3 – make sure you clean up really well, you dont want a bad case of the squirts.
OK! here we go!

Tools you will need:
2 – clean tea towels
1 – cutting board
1 – plastic cutting mat or plastic wrap
1 – pair of kitchen shears ( no, ordinary scissors won’t work)
1 – long thin bladed SHARP knife
2 – containers for chicken
1 – whole chicken

Step 1:
Slightly dampen one tea towel and lay it on counter. Place cutting board on top of towel. Either wrap cutting board in plastic wrap or place plastic cutting mat on top of cutting board. Take chicken out of wrapper and place breast down on cutting mat with the butt of the chicken facing you.

Step 2:
With your kitchen shears remove the spine by cutting down both sides from butt to the neck.

Step 3:
Open chicken up and press down hard. Locate the breast bone. You can do 1 of 2 things you can either cut through the breast bone with your kitchen shears or you can remove the breastbone. I have removed the breast bone here. To remove the breast bone, slid the tip of your knife along both sides of it in a V – shape. Then with your fingers pull the breast bone out. Know cut the chicken in half in between the breasts.

Step 4:
Separate the leg quarter from the breast and wing by cutting through the skin underneath the leg.

Step 5:
Separating the leg and thigh is a little trickier. To find where you need to cut, move the leg back and forth and locate the knee joint. Then squeeze the leg and thigh together and make a slit through the center of the joint. Your knife should go all the way through fairly easily.

Step 6:
Removing the wing from the breast works in much the same way as removing the thigh from the leg. First locate the joint and then cut through it.

Anything after this step is optional! You now have chicken pieces instead of a whole chicken. If you would like to know how to make a boneless skinless breast, then continue.

Step 7:
To debone the breast, run your knife underneath the cartilage and bone on the backside. Make sure you keep your knife parallel with the meat and use small slices instead of trying to saw away at it.

Step 8:
Removing the skin should be easy at this point. Simply pull the skin backwards off of the chicken. Make small cuts just underneath the skin as you pull it away.

Voila! You are done! Make sure you save your pieces of scrap for stock! And also make sure you wipe everything down really well with disinfectent. For me, that includes the camera too!
From start to finish this took me 20 minutes but that includes stopping to take pictures along the way. Don’t worry if your first chicken or two looks a little mutilated. As my mother has always said, “It still eats the same.”
Good Luck and happy chopping!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. What a great post! I have never bought a whole chicken due to my lack of knowledge on what the heck to do with it!…something my mother never taught me how to do because I don’t believe she had experience with that sort of thing either. I’ve always been one to buy only skinless boneless chicken breasts. Now I can over come my chicken chopping fear and save a few bucks…

  2. I'm taking this challenge on very soon! Thanks for the instructions.

    It seems like a good idea considering I would like to butcher my own chickens some day. Doesn't this seem like the logical first step?

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Jodie is a wife, mom, writer and lover of chickens and gardens. She runs her family's winery by day and cooks and writes by night.

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