Recipes · Tips & Tricks

Vegetarians & The Squeamish: look away now

**Attention! If you are a vegetarian, or are otherwise not OK with the sight of animal carcasses, please click away now!**

So, it has come to my attention, that a vast number of my peers have no idea how to go about accomplishing what I have come to recognize as a very, very basic kitchen task: cutting up a whole chicken. This is not in any way meant to degrade or shame those who do not know how, but rather to teach. Carving a chicken isn’t difficult, but it does require practice. A lot of it. And a sharp knife.

Not like this one. This one sucks even with the sharpener.

I forgot I hate that knife, but I wasn’t about to dirty a new one because ew dishes and no dishwasher. But seriously, guys, if you’re squeamish, please do not bitch at me about showing pictures of a whole chicken because that’s what this whole thing is about. We live in a day and age where knowing how to properly cut up a dead bird is impressive.

Another advantage is that buying whole chickens is almost always cheaper than buying the pre-cut pieces. Just something to think about.

So, first things first, you’re going to free the poor dead bird from her packaging. Almost every chicken eaten in the US is female, and we’re not gonna talk about the implications of that right now because then we’ll be here all day.

Next, you’re going to want to remove the tail and any extra neck bones sticking out further than you want. This isn’t required, but I prefer to do it because I think they look gross.

save the bits you cut off and put them in the freezer though, you’ll see why in a few blog posts

Now, chickens in the US are so fat that it’s actually SUPER easy to identify where to make your cut marks. First, you pull the leg and thigh out from the side of the bird, and cut through the skin there.

Now, I only had one available hand because I didn’t want chicken juice all over my phone, but with two hands it’s super easy to do the next step. You’re simply going to place one hand on the body, and use the other to pop the bird’s hip out of joint. Gruesome, I know.

just like that

Now, once you’ve got the hip popped out like this, you literally just cut through the thigh meat along that line, cutting between the joints.

easy peasy, lemon squeezy

Separating the thigh from the drumstick is even easier. There is a line of fat right along the joint there, and you should be able to simply cut right between them.

For the wing, you follow approximately the same procedure as with the thigh, popping it out of the socket before cutting through. Although I’ve found the wing to actually be more difficult, in some cases.

And now you have got a wing, a thigh, and a drumstick! Follow the same procedure on the other side, until all that’s left is the torso. Now comes the ickier part.

All nice and clean
Turn your bird on its side

You’re going to need to separate the breast meat from the backbone, which is not super pleasant tbh. This is part of why you’ll need a sharp, strong knife, because there’s no way to avoid cutting through bone.

I suggest going up from the base cavity, as the ribs are much easier to cut through than the clavicles.
You have successfully separated one half of the chicken from the spine.
Follow suit on the other side, which will probably be easier.

TADAAAA. You’ve got a chicken spine. If you want to pretend to be Predator, I won’t blame you at all. But just like Arnie, you’re not quite done yet.

We still need to split the breasts (heyooooo sorry mom), which is one of the most difficult tasks when it comes to carving up a chicken. You’re going to want to flip the breasts meat-side-up, and put your knife as directly in the middle as possible.

like this, but on the other side. I’m stupid and tried it this way first.

Then you honestly are just gonna muscle it down through that breastbone, starting with the thickest end first. It will feel horrible, because it will crack and possibly splinter, so be careful.

tadaaaaa! a fully cut up chicken.

But really that’s all there is to cutting up a chicken. It’s a handy skill to have, and just takes a little practice to master. I think with picture-taking and all, it took me less than 10 minutes to do this one. And voila! You have dinner for a family with normal sized appetites, and no teenagers.


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