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How to Cut up a Whole Fryer Chicken (for the cutlery impaired like me)

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Picture of How to Cut up a Whole Fryer Chicken (for the cutlery impaired like me)
There are several reasons I never learned to cut up a whole fryer, least of those being it is really a nasty kind of job.  Spending more than a few years living as vegetarian or vegan certainly didn't help me to learn any sort of butchering skills, or even have the desire to learn such things.  I did cook "meat" dishes when cooking for friends and family, and that led to me at least learning some cooking skills and recipes for meat and meat products.  However, that didn't mean I learned to cut up meats, after all with modern full service markets a person would probably have more luck finding an already cut up chicken than a whole "un-disected" fryer. 
Then the day came when I was  looking down at the multitude of packages in the poultry section looking for some chicken that I realized it was much better to learn to cut up my own chicken and pay just 0.49 ₵ per pound for the whole fryer and forget about paying $4.99 per pound for some fatty pieces of skin on chicken breast. 
Buying it with such a noble idea as saving money had me happily paying for my chicken, and heading home rather smugly thinking what a great job I was doing in helping my own personal economic crisis.
  But then I had to cut open the bag and take this strange, cold ,wet and somewhat slimy creature out to get ready to cook dinner.  I had some second thoughts about what I had done.  What ever made me think I could cut this thing up??? I knew many had done it before me, many continue to do it every day, but this was me who was standing in front of the kitchen sink looking at a (excuse my honesty) a dead bird that had given it's life to be someone's dinner.  A bird who deserved some respect for the atrocities it had suffered to come to this place, bare and featherless, sitting in a sink.
So doing what the modern generation seems to do best when faced with such a dilemma (and no I don't mean run away), I went to my iPad and started to search.  Not for an app and not even for the number to a restaurant with good carry out, but for directions on cutting up a chicken to cook.
I googled "how to cut up a chicken/fryer" and started looking over the hundreds of hits that had come up.  Some had no photos, some weren't even in English . There were some videos on youtube, but that would mean stopping and starting the video with chicken goop covered hands as I went from step to step.  I did find one that had some good instructions, but no photos.  I decided that maybe this would be a good place to add an instructable  for "cutting up a chicken".  ((By the way, I did search here, and though there may  very well be an instructable for this, I didn't find it. ))
**by the way I cut up this chicken so I could try the "Soy Braised Ginger Chicken" submitted by weekofmenus, you can find it here instructables.com/id/Soy-Braised-Ginger-Chicken/
 
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Step 1: Step 1 - Get ready, get set.....

Picture of Step 1 - Get ready, get set.....
Remove the chicken from the package and take the offals out from the cavity (if included).  Set them aside to use for stock, other recipes or like i did, cook them for your dogs to have since they always know there is chicken cooking and they do not want to be left out. 
Get a sharp knife
Cutting board.  I keep a separate cutting board for chicken, beef, seafood and vegetables.  Even though i wash them well after each use, I don't want to risk  cross contamination. 
Paper towels of a dish rag to clean up any runs of "chicken juice" from the board. 

Step 2: Step 1...Now we're cutting

Picture of Step 1...Now we're cutting
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Using a sharp knife cut the skin between the thighs and the body

Fold the leg back from the body so it dislocates the joint

Carefully cut between the joint so that the leg and thigh portion are now separated from the body

If you cut from the tail toward the shoulder it is easier to cut out the "oyster", this is the one part of the chicken that contains both light and dark meat, and it supposed to be the tastiest.  It is, however, not very large so cut as much of it as you can with the leg.

Step 3: Keep the thigh and leg as one BIG piece, or cut them into two

Picture of Keep the thigh and leg as one BIG piece, or cut them into two
If you want to make the most pieces possible out of the chicken, make that big leg and thigh into two pieces.

Fold the leg and thigh so that the "chicken knee" is visible.  This is where you want to cut through to avoid cutting bone.  Cutting it with the leg and thigh on the cutting board helps reduce the risk of a knife injury, remember you cut just as easy as the chicken cuts, and it an  be slippery cutting. 
 
Turn the bird onto the other side and repeat this for the second leg. 

Step 4: Make sure that chicken doesn't fly the coop - take his wings!

Picture of Make sure that chicken doesn't fly the coop - take his wings!
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Place the chicken on it's back and remove the wings by lifting up the wing and 'breaking it' backwards to expose the joint.  Carefully cut through the joint to remove the wing.

Cut off the cartilage end of the wing, as this is inedible.

These can be separated like the legs into 2 sections for make buffalo wings and drumlets.

Step 5: Time for the back and breast....

Picture of Time for the back and breast....
Separate the breast and back by placing the bird either on its neck or back and cut through the joints along each side of the rib cage. 

Always cut away from yourself to avoid injury. 

I chose to place the chicken on it's neck end and cut down towards the board.  Do this for both sides. 

Step 6:

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You can use this as a whole breast, or separate it (which is what i did). 

To cut the breast so you have boneless breast pieces, cut the wishbone (up by the neck) in two at the V of the bone.  You cut through the back to make two bone-in pieces or you can easily "pull" the meat away from the rib cage after cutting lose the meat at the keel bone(the backbone).  Run your finger around both sides of the bone and cut the white tendons loose at the bottom of the rib cage. Remove the breast in one or two pieces.  
Pulling the meat away takes off more meat than trying to cut it away from the rib cage. 

Step 7: Almost done!!!

Picture of Almost done!!!
The back has very little meat, and is often used for making stock instead of for cooking and serving.  You can split the back by "breaking it in the middle, and carefully cutting it into two pieces. 

Step 8: Clean up the chicken, and clean up the mess and put that chicken into a good recipe!

Picture of Clean up the chicken, and clean up the mess and put that chicken into a good recipe!
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You can now remove the skin if desired and trim any fat away.  I have noticed that store bought chickens, whether whole or cut, have become fattier over the past several years.  This excess fat does very little to help with flavor or tenderness.

I try to use as much of the chicken as possible, so I often freeze any skin removed and use it later it stock making. 

Make sure after you are finished to clean your knife, cutting board, counter tops, hands and anything else that has come in contact with the raw chicken.  Antibacterial cleaners are available in dish soap and cleaners for the counter top.  Antibacterial soaps are a;sp available for your hands.  

t is a good idea to keep a good antibacterial soap beside the kitchen sink to use before and after cooking. 

**I am not a proponent of many antibacterial soaps and cleaner because of the increased risk of "super" virus's. I do however make my own soaps and all of them contain naturally antiseptic and/or antibacterial ingredients such as tea tree oil.  

I hope that this helped you in some way, and I think that repetition will eventually make me better at cutting chicken up and might help you also.  
Please leave any comments below.  I can learn more by reading your comments and perhaps others will learn as well. 

If you enjoyed this instructable and found it helpful, or even if you didn't, please leave me a rating!  Thanks! 
I honestly clicked this just because I wanted to eat that chicken. Got a recipe for it?
Hope you are still in the mood for chicken, since I took so long to reply. It's a soy and vermouth braised chicken. I saw "weekofmenus" won the one pot meal challenge with a very similar one except with saki and ginger added. You might take a peek at hers here http://www.instructables.com/id/Soy-Braised-Ginger-Chicken/
moveres3 years ago
This tip is very usefull, I can't cook at all
barefootbohemian (author)  moveres3 years ago
Thank you. And never say never (as my granny would say). Everyone can cook, so maybe some are better than others but all that is, is practice :).
Very nice walkthrough! Lots of good tips. :)
barefootbohemian (author)  jessyratfink3 years ago
Thanks :). Figured I couldn't be the only one with Some sort of phobia to cutting a chicken up.