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How to Cut a Whole Chicken Into Pieces

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The Classic Fried Chicken recipe in FC#106 is a great excuse to learn how to cut a whole chicken into pieces, a skill you’ll use over and over. The technique shown here yields 10 pieces, plus a back and wing tips that you can save for making stock. To modify the technique for 8 pieces, don’t cut the wing into a separate piece. Instead, trim off the first and second joints of the wing (these become wing tips for stock) and leave the third joint attached to the upper breast piece.

The Legs

Step 1: Extend a leg from the body and slice through the skin to expose the leg’s interior.   cutting a chicken step 1
     
Step 2: Forcefully bend the leg back from the body until the ball joint pops free from the socket.   cutting up a chicken step 2
     
Step 3: Cut the leg from the body, through the joint, as close as possible to the backbone. Try to cut the “oyster” away with the leg—you’ll find this tasty nugget of meat just above the joint, in an indentation on the backbone. (In the photo at right, it’s the round piece of meat to the right of the knife blade.) Repeat with the other leg.   cutting up a chicken step 3
     
Step 4: To separate the drumstick and thigh, look for the line of fat between them—it marks the location of the joint you need to cut through.   cutting up a chicken step 4

The Breast

Step 5: With poultry shears, cut through the ribs and collarbone on both sides to remove the back and neck in one piece (discard this or save for stock).   cutting up a chicken step 5
     
Step 6: Flip the breast skin side down and begin to split the breast from the neck end just until the knife hits the keel (breast) bone, then score down the length of the bone.   cutting up a chicken step 6
     
Step 7: With your thumbs on either side of the bone, bend the breast backward until the top of the bone pokes out. With your fingers, loosen and pull the bone free. Finish splitting the breast in half by cutting where the bone was.   cutting up a chicken step 7
     
Step 8: Trim off the first wing joint and then cut the remaining wing from the breast with some of the breast meat attached.   cutting up a chicken step 8
     
Step 9: Cut the remaining breast in half to get two breast pieces of relatively equal size. Repeat with the other side of the breast.   cutting up a chicken step 9

Photos: Scott Phillips

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