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Quartering a Chicken

Quartering a Chicken

Quartering a Chicken

If you plan to freeze or eat your chicken whole, then you can skip this step. In this step, we cover various ways to cut up you chicken into common pieces of meat.

Think about the ways you plan to eat your chicken before starting to cut it up. Also, think about the meat counter at your local butcher because there are multiple ways to butcher a chicken because there are many ways to cook it. Various options include:

  • Whole bird for roasting
  • Half bird for grilling
  • Quartered bird for frying
  • Breasts with bone and skin
  • Breasts without bone, but with skin
  • Boneless, skinless breasts
  • Whole chicken wings
  • Buffalo cut chicken wings
  • Etc…

In addition to the basic cuts of chicken, today’s chefs are constantly thinking of new ways to present chicken. We will cover the basics here, and feel free to start a thread on our comment board if you come up with new cuts and recipes for our readers to try out.

The basic steps in cutting up a chicken are:

  • Remove the dark meat
    • Flex the right leg to make the skin taught between the leg and the body
    • Use a sharp carving knife to cut the skin between the right leg and the body
    • Do not cut anything more than the skin
    • Insert your thumb into the opening of skin and locate the joint
    • Lift the chicken slightly off the work surface by putting pressure under the joint
    • Flex the leg under the chicken (back and forth) until hip joints separates or “pops”
    • Remove your hand, then grab hold of the chicken by the dislocated leg
    • Completely lift the chicken off the work surface holding the leg in one hand
    • Use your knife the cut the leg away from the body allowing body to fall back to work surface
    • Repeat on left side
  • Separate the leg from the thigh
    • Start with one leg and thigh piece
    • Place the meat skin side down on your work surface
    • Flex the leg and use your finger to locate the joint
    • Cut through the joint to separate the leg from the thigh
    • This cut should be easy, so if you run into bone, remove knife and relocate the joint
    • Repeat on the other leg and thigh piece
  • Remove the wings
    • Grab hold of the right wing
    • Lift up the body using the wing to make the skin taught between the wing and the body
    • Use a sharp knife to cut the skin between the wing and the body in the “arm pit” area
    • Do not cut anything more than the skin
    • Flex the wing back until the joint with the body separates or “pops”
    • Lift the body off the working surface using the dislocated wing
    • Make a circular cut all the way around the joint to release the wing from the body
    • Repeat on the left side
  • Cut the wings into buffalo wing cuts
    • Start with one wing
    • Locate first joint (between drumlette and flat piece)
    • Cut through the joint to separate the two pieces
    • Locate the second joint (between flat piece and wing tip)
    • Cut through the joint to separate the two pieces
    • Discard the wing tip
    • Repeat on other wing
  • Separate the back from the breast
    • Stand the chicken up one its neck so the breast faces toward you
    • Make a cut along the right side between the ribs and the back
    • This cut should be easy as it only goes through soft tissue
    • Make an identical cut along the left side between the ribs and back
    • The breast should now only be attached to the back near the neck
    • Bent the back away from the breast until it separates
    • Use your knife or kitchen shears to cut the back free from the breast
  • Separate the breast
    • Position the breast skin side up
    • Ensure skin is properly centered, and adjust if needed
    • Turn the breast over, skin side down
    • Turn the breast so the “pointy” side is away from you
    • Locate the cartilage covering the breast bone (it will be on end closest to you)
    • Make a cut through the center of cartilage, but not through the bone
    • Grasp the breast in both hand with thumbs on top and fingers underneath
    • Flex breast upward by pressing fingers up against the keel and rolling hands away from center
    • Flex should break the breast down the middle separating the breastbone from the meat
    • Be careful not to break the breastbone
    • Run your thumb down both sides of the breastbone to finish separating it from the meat
    • Pull out the breastbone in one piece
    • Optionally, you can save the breastbone with the back to be used for stock
    • Peak under the chicken to confirm skin remains properly centered
    • With skin side down, make a cut down the middle of the breast to separate it into two pieces

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