There are many ways of doing this. After reading this, you'll start with a whole chicken and end up with about ten pieces, 2 scraps and lots of bones for stock. There is no sawing through bones! That sets my teeth on edge!
Why in the world would I have to cut up a chicken. I can buy it already cut up?
Simple answer, it's usually cheaper to buy it whole.
But, you have to evaluate what you are willing to pay for. There are times I'm too busy and just don't feel like dealing with the mess, I'll gladly pay $3-4 dollars a pound for cut up chicken. I'm cheap so I'm willing to pay less and have the time at home, listening to music, and cutting chicken.
Warning: Using a sharp knife will make this a lot easier to cut the chicken and your own digits. Please be careful with the knife!
More warnings on Step 2.
Step 1: Tools to start out.
Knife, I prefer a small sharp knife. (small is optional, sharp shouldn't be. Fact: most cuts in the kitchen involve a dull knife.)
Bowl with plastic bag.
Optional, Kitchen shears, or chicken scissors .
Sharp knife. We aren't going to be sawing through bones. As I mentioned before, that puts my teeth on edge! If you think about the way some people react to fingernails on a chalkboard, you've gotten the right image.
No, we are going to be cutting chicken the easy way: using only a paring knife. You can use a bigger knife but I find I have more control with a small sharp knife.
Cutting board can be optional. We aren't going to be slicing onto a surface. I don't want my counters messed up so I use one.
Bowl with plastic bag. This is a Rachel Ray idea. (I'm neither a fan or not of hers. I like the idea of a 30 minute meal but some of her recipes are a bit out there for my tastes. Ginger Flank Steak with Wasabi Smashed Potatoes with Fried Goat Cheese Salad. No thanks.) Her idea is to get a medium bowl, line it with a plastic grocery bag to toss your scraps in. It keeps you from making trips to the garbage. It will also come in handy later!
Paper towels. Your going to need to wipe the yuckies off your hands and it will help to pull the skin off. Your hands will be slippery and the paper towel will get a good grip. It's also good at the beginning to soak up the chicken juices so they aren't flowing onto the counter. Yuck!
Kitchen shears. My mom called them her chicken scissors. Hers were metal, dishwasher safe and totally used for chicken and nothing else. I'll point out when you could use them.
In the picture, the chicken is breast side up. Sometimes it's easier to flip it over to get to other parts.
Step 2: Safe Handling Instructions
Here are some good resources and good information.
Foodborne Organisms Associated with Chicken
As on any perishable meat, fish or poultry, bacteria can be found on raw or undercooked chicken. They multiply rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F (out of refrigeration and before thorough cooking occurs). Freezing doesn't kill bacteria but they are destroyed by thorough cooking of any food to 160 °F.
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service has a zero tolerance for bacteria in cooked and ready-to-eat products such as chicken franks or lunch meat that can be eaten without further cooking.i
-Most foodborne illness outbreaks are a result of contamination from food handlers. Sanitary food handling and proper cooking and refrigeration should prevent food borne illnesses.
Bacteria must be consumed on food to cause illness. They cannot enter the body through a skin cut. However, raw poultry must be handled carefully to prevent cross-contamination. This can occur if raw poultry or its juices contact cooked food or foods that will be eaten raw such as salad. An example of this is chopping tomatoes on an unwashed cutting board just after cuttng raw chicken on it.
Following are some bacteria associated with chicken:
- Salmonella Enteritidis may be found in the intestinal tracts of livestock, poultry, dogs, cats and other warm-blooded animals. This strain is only one of about 2,000 kinds of Salmonella bacteria; it is often associated with poultry and shell eggs.
- Staphylococcus aureus can be carried on human hands, in nasal passages, or in throats. The bacteria are found in foods made by hand and improperly refrigerated, such as chicken salad.
- Campylobacter jejuni is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in humans. Preventing cross- contamination and using proper cooking methods reduces infection by this bacterium.
- Listeria monocytogenes was recognized as causing human foodborne illness in 1981. It is destroyed by cooking, but a cooked product can be contaminated by poor personal hygiene. Observe "keep refrigerated" and "use-by" dates on labels.
Keep the chicken cool at 40 degrees or less.
Wash you hands!
Don't mix cook food with raw chicken!'
Here's another good article at foodreference.com
Step 3: The chicken!
It's hard to find white meat or wings that cheap.
Put it in the sink to keep all the juices from flowing all over your work space. I personally wash it out to get all the goo off and check for any feathers that may have been overlooked, especially in the crevices and wings.
While you are at it, pull the package of giblets out of the cavity. It may but not always contain the neck, gizzard, liver and chicken heart (dun-dun, dun-dun, old Bill Cosby routine) This time, mine had 2 gizzards and the neck with lots of fat. I won't be using them so I'll toss them in the bucket. You could add them yo your stock or freeze them for later.
You could go ahead and skin the whole thing, but I don't think that's necessary. You are trying to feel for the joints. They aren't going to be showing with the skin off. Besides, if you are going to fry chicken, there is no tastier part than the skin!
What am I going to do with only 2 breasts or 2 sets of wings?
I have a FoodSaver that I love to use. You can buy several chickens and cut them up or put the pieces you aren't going to use right away into the freezer. When you have several wings saved up or if there is a sale, add these to it.
Step 4: Let's start with the wings
Flip it over so the back is up and the breast side is down. It's easier to get the wings off this way.
Feel and you can get your finger of the joint of the wing. That's the whole idea of doing it this way. Let the chicken show you where to cut. Feel the joint cut between the two bones and you'll be cutting through the soft cartilage or if your lucky, you miss it all, cut tendon and ligaments for a clean separation. When you are through the joint, just slice through the muscle and skin and it's off!
You can leave it like this but I'll show you how to cut it more.
Cutting the tip off is the hardest part. This is where those chicken scissors will come in handy. The bones are soft enough to just cut right through the joint. Again, feel for the joint and try to cut there.
Cutting the drummie and flat part is easier. Fold it up and you can feel the joint on top. Slice through it a bit, then put your knife in the place under where it bends and cut up. Your knife will usually go through the joint, less resistance.
Now you have 2 tips (trash), 2 flats, and 2 drummies.
When you accumulate enough, here is my Favorite Wing Recipe! No frying but they are crispy and very tasty! I used the Tequila Lime Marinade on mine!
Step 5: Now for the legs and thighs.
Flip the chicken over so the breast side is up.
Pull the leg away from the rest of the chicken. Gently slice through the skin so we can see what we are working with.
At the store, you can buy thighs with the back bone still attached so the bones make T shape. We just want the meat. You can see the natural line between the thigh meat and the back bone. You'll cut down that line. In the middle is the thigh bone. We'll get to that in a second. Cut down on either side.
Bend back and pull up and you'll hear that joint separate. Cut into the joint that is now exposed and it's off.
You can leave the leg and thigh together for leg quarters but we'll separate them. Cut them like you did with the wing. Fold it up, feel for the joint, cut down into the joint then up through the joint and it's done.
To make it easier to skin, take a paper towel and grab onto the skin, especially the leg. Your hands are going to be very slippery.
Step 6: Now for the...um....white meat.
- so many jokes here...
At the end is the wishbone. The part below the wishbone is part of the neck.
Your going to cut along the meat on the side of the breast. Now cut along the keel bone. Cut down until you feel bone. You'll hit the wishbone towards the to. Cut a slit along the wishbone to free the meat from it.
Now, make sure your knife is flat against the rib bones and separate the meat from the ribs. you can tug a bit and it will come off easily.
Flip the breast over and you can see the tenderloin. Pull on the top part, (it has a whitish tab tendon piece) and will come easy.
There you go. All 12 skinned and mostly boned pieces. With taking pictures, it took only 30 minutes to reduce this bird to the pieces shown!
Step 7: Clean up and disposal.
See Step 2 for warnings.
The bowl that you put all the scraps in will be handy now. You've put all the bits of fat, skin, and bones in the bag. If you want, put it all in a pot, follow the stock recipe in Step 1 for great homemade chicken stock. Great for adding flavor to cooked noodles, veggies or adding in place of water.
I didn't want to do that this time. I wrapped up the plastic grocery bag on another grocery bag, ties it up good and put it in my freezer. The day the trash gets picked up, I'll toss it in without it rotting and sticking up my kitchen and garage.
Step 8: Death Chicken Recipe
Bacon, about a half pound
One 2-3pound chicken you expertly cut up!
One onion sliced and separated into rings. I used a Vidalia onion but any onion will do
A can of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup.
1/2 to 1 Tablespoon Garlic powder, if you like garlic or really like garlic.
1 Tablespoon Oregano
1 Tablespoon Parsley
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Get a 9x13 glass dish and line the bottom with the BACON! Put the chicken on top of the bacon. Throw the onions on top of the chicken. In a 4 cup measuring cup, mix dump the can of cream of mushroom/chicken, fill the can with water to clean it out a bit and pour that into the soup. Add Garlic powder, Oregano, and Parsley. x it good with a whisk until relitively smooth and pour over onions and chicken.
Cover with heavy foil and bake at 375F for 1 hour. You'll smell the bacony-chickeny-onion smell in about 30 minutes! Serve with rice or mashed potatoes and rolls.
The bacon grease will collect on the top. If that sounds good to you, go for it. It's too much for me. What I do and I do this with chicken stock too, is tear a paper towel into strips and lay it over the grease. It will pick up the grease without the good gravy beneath. Keep doing this until most of the grease is off. Easy, cheap and you don't have to dump the gravy out of the dish.
It's very quick to throw together and get some stuff done (don't leave the oven on and unattended).
Thanks for reading and Good Luck!