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How to Easily Debone a Chicken (with Deadly Chicken Recipe)

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Picture of How to Easily Debone a Chicken (with Deadly Chicken Recipe)
Warning: Contain vivid images of a yucky, dead, skinned, cut up gallus domesticus, i.e., the chicken.

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.
 
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Step 1: Tools to start out.

Picture of Tools to start out.
Very simply:
Knife, I prefer a small sharp knife. (small is optional, sharp shouldn't be. Fact: most cuts in the kitchen involve a dull knife.)
Cutting Board
Bowl with plastic bag.
Paper towels
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.

Hint:
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

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Chicken has been getting a bad rap lately for causing stomach imploding diseases. Mostly it's not the chicken but people not being smart about the way they clean after handling it and not washing their hands.

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.

Did you get all that?
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!

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I bought one on sale for $.99 per pound. I've seen whole chickens for $.79
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

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Alright, we are going to start with the wings because they are the hardest to deal with. You can just cut these guys off and leave them a 3 jointed wings, but we'll cut them into the drummie, flat and tip.

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.

Picture of Now for the legs and thighs.
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The legs are a bit easier. It's not so tiny to feel for the joint.

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.

The breasts are fairly easy. You can see what you are going after. They are pretty easy to get to.
  • so many jokes here...

Okay, feel for the keel bone. That' s the bone than runs between the breasts along the length of the chicken. It looks like a keel when you get the meat off. Pretty smart, huh?

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.

Picture of Clean up and disposal.
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Make sure you wash the cutting board, knife, and your hands in warm soapy water.
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

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Not for the faint of heart, weak of heart or concerned of heart really.

You'll need:
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!
Duh! I didn't even look at this one when I was looking for an instructable on cutting up a chicken. I was thinking de-boning one could be good to learn. I must say yours is a far better version than what I posted. You might want to change the title tho. It's a little confusing when you look and think you are going to see a chicken de-boned.
Very useful instructable.
rythmicbi4 years ago
As a chef I have to say that you are not "deboning" this chicken.
Deboning is called tunnel boning and in doing so you actually remove the bones with out mutilating the flesh or meat. You are however, breaking down this chicken and quite nicely at that. Tunnel boning, "deboning", is another great method to learn. check in to it. That would be a great instructable for you to update this post.
On another note, getting the fat off of a stock or your chicken dish is easier and less messy (I assume) than a paper towel. Use a larg soup spoon or even better a ladel and skim the fat by removing only the fat a scoop at a time.

Cheers and great article!
all dog food meats need to be cooked all dog/cat food need to be bone free wear rubber gloves when you do this and wash them after they are on your hands and before you take them off. If you then need to answer the door/phone smack an unruley kid , you take them off
155 kills most water borne stuff, but 160 kills almost everything 162 kills trichenosis and other tast bugs. There are bugs that will be tolerant of much hotter climates and we don't worry about those (in general), cause they do not eat US. chicken is , in general, cooked to 172 to ensure a good solid kill through the meat and bone. If you remove bone and skin then you can maybe get away with 165. 165 is sufficiently higher then 162 , so that it does kill all the things that make us sick with one notable exception bse -bovine spongeform encepholitus(spling). Nothing kills that you eat it, if you are suseptable, you die in weeks to about 3 years. nasty nasty passing away. You loose control of your motion and bodily function as your brain melts. At school I was taught how to "glove bone a chicken, that is take all the bones out through the neck except for the wings and tips of the leg bones. We stuffed them, poached them in a brandy /chicken/truffle court bullion and then chilled it and aspic'd it in a white wine white colored aspic. mmmmmm nice instructable
Chicken innards are SO gross-looking, but they do add great flavor to soup stock! Also, you can cook them up and freeze them to give to your cat or dog as an occasional treat.
xmdp5 years ago
I agree. Applies to most, if not all, raw foods.
baxterdog5 years ago
Ach! Don't do this! Boil it down and make dog food or good stock.
The photo in step six doesn't look like breasts, it looks like another favorite part ;) Damnit, now I can't tell if I'm hungry or horny... Which reminds me of something I did with a large piece of chicken a year ago ( insert beastiality and necrophilia joke here)
sir_h_c6 years ago
Tips are not trash! tips go in the stock pot;) I figure if you have time to cut up a chicken, or even better 2 at a time, throw all the bits, pieces and trimmings in a pot instead of the garbage.
Alienor7 years ago
Here you can see how to debone a duck: here.
After you caught the principle you need just some practising, my second try with a chicken was nearly perfect and today I can do it also with squails which is really a challenge because they are so small...*g*
SpinWard (author)  Alienor7 years ago
Wow, that's pretty neat. I just wish I spoke German.
Okay, what do you need to get translated? You start with the duck on it's breast and cut along the backbone. Then you cut along the rib cage from the back of duck to the breastbone(?speech?) with a very sharp and flexible knife which allows you to follow the ribs in the curve to the front. This is the main part. You may cut the wings at the joints, the upper leg bone is separated from it's inner side after putting the duck on it's back. The lower leg bone is mostly cut completely and goes with the wings and the stomach, the heart, and the liver to cooking a stock. Then you can fill the bird with whatever you want, sew it or just close it with toothpicks and weave the thread like threading shoes around the picks and cook it. With a large turkey it will be easier and it is worth the work, also on squabs. I don't do it for an ordinary stuffing but for special occasions; it is very impressing if you can proudly tell your guests you have done it by yourself and it wasn't a "ready-for-the-oven"-dish from the deli. ;-)
SpinWard (author)  Alienor7 years ago
Ah, the legs and wings I couldn't figure out. And I couldn't figure out what the sticks in the legs were. I bet a turkey would be fun and fairly easy because it's bigger. Yeah, that wouldn't be an everyday thing to do. I'll have to try it with my next chickens. If I mangle them, I have chicken bits for stir-fry! :) Thanks for the translation and the idea/site!
I've actually done this with a 22-lb turkey. After that I didn't want to see, smell, taste or even think about eating any poultry for a week.
You're welcome! ;-)
Derin SpinWard6 years ago
Just put the address in translator.google.com.
Do you take the hip bone off with the thigh or do you leave it attached to the backbone? Also, do you leave the "oysters" on the hip bone?
Mattrox6 years ago
wow thats looks so good Cook on lol
shockr6 years ago
You're using a Cutco knife!! I have a whole set.... best knives ever!
SpinWard (author)  shockr6 years ago
OMG, I love this knife! I won't let anyone else use it. I have never held a knife that just fits so good in you hand. For a small paring knife, the handle is long and give me more control. Definitely Best. Knife. Ever! I hope to some day have a set, I have this one and a longer serrated one.
mikeasaurus7 years ago
The beginning of this instructable made me puke a little in my mouth. However by the end I was getting hungry as it looked so tasty. Then I though how strange it was to be so hungry right after throwing up. Gross, but +5!
SpinWard (author)  mikeasaurus7 years ago
Thanks for the comment. I tried not to make it look too yucky. I used a roll of paper towels to get the goo and yuck off.
mdeblasi17 years ago
Is that what is meant by deboning? I would have thought it meant removing the bones entirely. If you have a systematic way of doing that I'd sure appreciate the post. This technique above I learned at my mother's knee, she learned it from her Italian Butcher in Newark NJ in the 1940's. One time I got crazy ambitious and boned an entire chicken from w/in the cavity, leaving a perfectly stuffable tube of meat.. One final thing, those chicken wings, along w/ the neck and any other bone you choose to throw in, make wonderful chicken stock. It's like a simester of culinary school added to everything you add it to. Just cook the bones at a ridiculously low simmer for about 8 hours and the next day your stock should be perfect and clear as glass. Freeze in yoghurt cups, salt it only as you use it and be prepared to amaze.
I have to agree with mdeblasi1. Deboning a chicken, in my book, is to remove the bones while keeping a chicken whole otherwise. I remember the beautiful and delicious stuffed chicken (ham, cheese, eggs, spinach, etc) my mother makes (she gets the deboned chicken from her butcher in Argentina, here in the US I have not found anybody who knows how to do it, or is willing to...).
SpinWard (author)  carlos66ba7 years ago
I can see where that would come from. Sorry for the confusion. I'd LOVE to see how someone would completely debone it and make it stay whole. My goal was to cut a whole chicken up into separate manageable pieces. And yes I should have made stock from the bones. Very cheap and using what you've got. In this instructable, I threw them away. Sorry 'bout that. I cut up 3 chickens the other day and made some amazing stock!
Don't throw away the giblets! Haven't you ever heard of fried chicken liver and giblets? Yummy!