Food tips • recipes

How To Cut Up a Whole Chicken

Written by Emily Fawcett
6 Minute Read
Published on Dec 27, 2022

Not feeling up to roasting a whole chicken but want the economic benefits of purchasing a full bird? Don’t worry — we have your back! We know cutting up a whole chicken can seem intimidating, but it’s actually much easier than you might think.

This article will show you the best (and easiest) ways to break down your chicken in just seven steps, as well as some of the economic benefits of buying a chicken whole.

How Should I Prepare My Whole Chicken?

One of the most important things to think about before you start cutting your whole bird is safety. This is how you can break down your chicken in the safest way possible:

  • Make sure your knife is sharp: Dull knives can slip and slide on your food, ending in disaster!
  • Make sure your space is clean and sanitized: It’s important to keep any raw chicken separate from other ingredients. Make sure you’re either using different cutting boards and knives or sanitizing your tools between uses.

How To Cut Your Bird: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

You might think breaking down a whole chicken is just too much work. Thankfully, we know you’ve got this in the bag with a sharp knife and these instructions! Here’s how to divide your bird into chicken pieces like the breast meat and drumsticks.

It’s time to show off your knife skills — and your most delicious recipes.

Step One: Chicken Breast Side-Up

The first important step is to make sure your bird is on its back (breast skin side-up). Move one of the wings around to see where the joint is. Then, using a sharp knife, separate the wing from the bird at the joint. Repeat with the other wing and move the wings to the side.

Step Two: Pull the Chicken Legs Away

Next, you’re going to pull one of the legs away from the body to tighten the skin. To remove the whole leg, you must first cut the skin between the thigh and the breast. Once the skin is tight, slice through.

Step Three: Cut Chicken Joints

Keep pulling and wiggling that leg to find the joint that connects the thigh bone to the back. Use a paring or boning knife to cut through that joint all the way through, then repeat steps two and three on the other side.

Step Four: Separate the Drumsticks

Resting the legs skin-side down, bend one of the legs to find the joint (where the thigh and drumstick connect). Find the thin line of fat that is on the ball joint and cut through it.

This should separate the thigh and the drumstick, but you can continue to wiggle the joint to make it easier to cut if it’s difficult. Repeat on the other side and then put the drumsticks and thighs to the side.

Step Five: Pull Out the Rib Cage

Next, we are going to remove the backbone — a skill that can benefit every home cook. Using either a sharp knife or kitchen shears, start at the head of the bird. Cut through the rib cage on one side of the backbone, then repeat on the other side to remove it.

(Make sure to keep that backbone and neck because it makes a great chicken stock!)

Step Six: Use a Chef’s Knife To Cut the Breast in Half

The next step is to cut the breast into two halves. In order to do that, you will need to cut through the breast bone and cartilage. We know that can sound a bit scary, but we also know you’ve got it covered!

We recommend using a folded-up towel on top of a big, sharp knife to protect your hand. Then, use your weight to cut through the breast.

Step Seven: Debone and Scrape the Meat

Cut the two breasts in half again, this time against the grain of the meat. Using a sharp knife (or even your hands), scrape the meat from the wishbone that resides in the thick part of the chicken breast.

And that’s it! Now you have two breasts (halved), two wings, two thighs, and two drumsticks, ready for cooking, refrigeration, or freezing. You also have that lovely backbone and neck to use for some chicken broth!

Why Is Getting a Whole Chicken Good for Your Budget?

Economically speaking, getting a whole chicken just makes sense! Purchasing a whole chicken may seem daunting, but it is extremely budget-friendly. You get all that delicious meat to cook with and the lovely bones to use in a broth for way cheaper all together than each piece separately.

Instead of buying separate pieces of chicken from a grocery store, buying a whole bird from a trusted, local company at $19.47 will save you a lot of money in the long run. Just think about it. $19.47 for all those different pieces of chicken? What a steal!

Plus, by buying a whole bird, you can use the whole bird. Anything you wouldn’t want to eat can be used for flavor in soups, stews, and sauces.

The Opportunities Are Endless

You’ve broken down your chicken (we knew you could do it!), but now what?

After breaking down the raw bone-in chicken, you can do even more. Here are some delicious examples of chicken recipes:

The opportunities are endless.

It’s also great for storing! After everything is broken down and your space is all cleaned up, pop those wings in the air fryer for lunch and store the rest in your fridge or freezer.

If you’re not feeling up for cutting up the whole chicken, you can roast the chicken whole, bake it or even cook it rotisserie style. After cooking, you can carve it up to serve, shred it, or store it for later.

Chicken isn’t the only bird you can buy and cut up whole. Why not get even more adventurous and put this new knowledge to use? These skills work for quail, duck, and of course, turkey as well.

What Now?

Now, it’s time to show off your new skills! Get that whole chicken, break it down, and cook a delicious meal that your family will never forget.


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