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How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken

You maybe wondering why bother to cut up a whole chicken when you can buy chicken pieces.  The answer is that it’s cheaper.  I can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved since I started cutting up my own chicken.  Plus it causes me to be more creative in my meal planning to make sure to make use of everything.


Chicken pieces laid out to resemble a whole chicken





The first thing we need to cut up a whole chicken is, well, one whole chicken.  If you’re like me you may have at least three and up to eight on hand – practice makes perfect after all – so just repeat these steps.


Whole raw chicken on its back


You see how the left leg is hanging out and held to the breast by some skin?  Make a little slice in that to expose the meat.



Bend the leg backwards to pull out the joint as you see here and cut through the meat.  Note:  There is an annoying bone by the bottom of the spine that your knife may hit.  If the knife does hit it, just slide the knife under the bone.  Repeat on the other side.



It isn’t always easy to find the joint that attaches the leg to the thigh.  You can follow that fat-line as shown in the next photo, but it isn’t always reliable since it moves. To better find the joint, bend the drumstick and the thigh so they are pushed up against each other.  Then cut a little notch in the center.  This is a sure fire way to find where the bone and joint meet.  Another option is to turn the leg bottom side up and give a small slice along the fat line.  By doing this you are exposing the bone and could find where the joint is.


Knife cutting chicken leg where the drumstick meets the thigh


There is a line of fat where the drumstick meets the thigh and this is your guide.  The problem with this line is that it moves and the joint is often to the right or left of this line.  That is where our little cut comes in.  Between the cut and the line you should have little problem getting a nice smooth cut.

Set aside the legs and let’s move on to the wings.  Lift the wing and feel for the joint.  You’ll feel a little indent, the “arm pint” so to speak.  This is where you want to cut and is where you see the knife in the photo above.  Make a slice and cut the joint by going around it.  I find this prevents taking off too much breast.  Repeat this step on the other wing.


Scissors cutting away back from chicken


Turn the chicken on to it’s side and using poultry sheers cut along the fat-line to separate the back from the breast.  Then repeat on the other side to remove the backbone and leave just the breast.  Save the backbone for homemade stock.


knife slicing into the chicken breastplate


Of all my pictures the one above has to be the grossest, but it is helpful nonetheless.  Just like you see in this photo turn the breasts bottom side up and cut a notch into the breastplate to weaken it.


Knife cutting through a whole chicken breast


Now for our last step:  cut the chicken breast down the middle.  Don’t be afraid to use force to break through the weakened bone.  If you want to cut each breath in half feel free, but I like to leave them whole because they cook move evenly this way.

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