Cutting & Carving Chicken
Cutting and boning chicken is easy once you master a few simple techniques. For best results, the National Chicken Council offers three tips: be confident, work quickly, and use a sharp knife.
Chicken is delicious roasted whole. A whole chicken can be halved, quartered, or cut into parts. Bone the breasts or thighs or cut into strips and nuggets. Cut the meatier portion from the wing and store in the freezer until enough has been accumulated for party drummettes. Save leftover skin, bones, or unused parts (neck, back, etc.) to make soup or broth for seasoning.
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Cutting Up a Whole Chicken
One of the best buys at the supermarket, you can save even more on chicken when you purchase whole birds and cut them up yourself. To carve a whole chicken, follow the instructions below:
- Place chicken, breast side up, on cutting board. Cut skin between thighs and body.
- Grasping one leg in each hand, lift chicken and bend back legs until bones break at hip joints.
- Remove leg-thigh from body by cutting (from tail toward shoulder) between the joints, close to bones in back of bird. Repeat other side.
- To separate thighs and drumsticks, locate knee joint by bending thigh and leg together. With skin side down, cut through joints of each leg.
- With chicken on back, remove wings by cutting inside of wing just over joint. Pull wing away from body and cut from top down, through joint.
- Separate breast and back by placing chicken on neck-end or back and cutting (toward board) through joints along each side of rib cage.
- Breast may be left whole or, to cut into halves, place skin side down on board and cut wishbone in two at V of bone.
Quartering a Chicken
- Place chicken on back and with sharp knife, cut in half along the breastbone.
- Pull the two sections apart, breaking the ribs away from the backbone; finish cutting with knife.
- Take each half and separate the leg-thigh combination from breast-wing portion by cutting between the thigh and the breast.
Boning Half a Chicken Breast
Packages of chicken half breasts purchased at the supermarket can also be easily boned at home.
- Holding breast half in both hands, bend and break breastbone.
- Placing thumb between meat and breastbone, pull out bone and strip of cartilage.
- Using both thumbs, loosen meat from rib cage.
- Pull or scrape breast meat away from bones. (If small piece of bone remains, pull it out or cut away with knife.)
Boning a Whole Chicken Breast
Boned chicken breasts offer the creative cook opportunity for an endless variety of delicious and healthy meals. Without skin, a three-ounce serving has just 116 calories.
- Place skin side down on cutting board with widest part nearest you. With your knife point, cut through white cartilage at neck end of breastbone.
- Pick up breast and bend back, exposing breastbone.
- Loosen meat from bone by running thumbs around both sides; pull out bone and cartilage.
- Working one side of breast, insert tip of knife under long rib bone inside thin membrane and cut or pull meat from rib cage. Turn breast and repeat on other side.
- Working from ends of wishbone, scrape all flesh away and cut bone from meat. (If white tendons remain on either side of breast, loosen with knife and pull out.)
Boning a Chicken Thigh
For those who prefer dark meat, boned chicken thighs can be used in many imaginative chicken dishes.
- Place thigh on cutting board, skin side down, and cut along thin side, joint to joint.
- Cut meat from one joint; then pull or scrape meat from bone.
- Cut meat from opposite joint.
Cutting Wings Into Drummettes
Oven baked or fried, the meatier portion of the wing (drummette) is a favorite finger food when served with a variety of dipping sauces.
- With skin side down, flatten wing on cutting board with wingtip on left and thicker (drummette) portion on right.
- Cut through joint, leaving as much skin as possible on drummette.
Handling Raw Chicken
Always wash hands, knife, and cutting board thoroughly after handling raw chicken. Do not cut up raw poultry and then use the same knife or cutting board to prepare other foods until the utensils have been washed using hot, soapy water. Refrigerate or freeze chicken immediately after cutting and/or boning; do not leave standing at room temperature.