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Knife Skills: Bone a Chicken Breast

To bone a chicken breast, just follow the rib cage

by

from Fine Cooking
Issue 45

If you want to cook boneless chicken breasts with their skin -- say, for this prosciutto-stuffed chicken -- it's worth learning how to remove the bones, since breasts are rarely sold skin-on and boneless. Figuring out how to bone a piece of poultry is easy because the bones are either visible or quite easy to locate by touch, unlike the bones in a large piece of meat. If the breast halves are still attached, cut them apart at the breastbone, ideally with a pair of poultry shears, which is an amazingly powerful tool that cuts through bones like they're potato chips. No shears? No problem -- just use a chef's knife. For taking out the small bones, use a sharp, thin-bladed knife (a boning knife, if you have one, or a paring knife).

Each breast half will be a little different, depending on how the bird was initially butchered, so just feel your way as you go.

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    1. Start by sliding the blade of your knife along the remnant of the flat, blade-like breastbone, angling the cutting edge ever so slightly into the bone to avoid deep cuts into the flesh. Use short, swiping strokes as you work.
  • 2. Continue working on the ribs by sliding the blade under the set of finger-like rib bones and working toward the outer edge of the breast until the ribs and breastbone are free. With the tip of the knife, cut around the shoulder joint where the wing bone had been attached to the breast.
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    3. Feel with your fingers along the top edge of the breast meat for a short bone (half of the wishbone). With the tip of your knife, free the tip of that bone. Holding the bone tip in one hand, scrape the bone with the knife to free it from the meat, working back toward the joint where the wishbone connects with the rib structure.
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    4. Cut through the connective tissue that's holding the bone to the meat and pull off the ribs and wishbone together, cutting any remaining bits of meat that are hanging on. You may be left with a thin flap of rib meat, which you can trim off to make a neater breast that will cook evenly.
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    5. Flip the breast over, trim any straggly bits, and smooth out the skin. Save the bones for stock or just discard them. Now your chicken is ready for cooking.

Photos: Scott Phillips

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