How to Cut Up a Chicken

Serves: 5



Many recipes in this book call for cut-up chickens. Sure, you can buy already-cut chicken, but it’s handy to know how to cut up a whole chicken. One advantage is that you can do a French cut, which isn’t available commercially. Another advantage is that you get to keep the backbone for making stock. Use good-quality knives with sharp edges for the best results.

The American Cut

My version of the American cut leaves a piece of breast meat attached to each wing. This makes for a more equitable division of the chicken.

1. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body cavities of the chicken. Remove the package of giblets and set aside for another use. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water, then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Lay the bird on a cutting board on its side. Insert the knife between the top leg and the carcass and cut off the leg. When you get to the joint connecting the thigh to the body of the bird, pop it out of the hip socket and cut through it to remove the entire leg. Cut the leg in half at the knee joint to separate the thigh from the drumstick. Repeat on the other side.

2. Place the bird, back side down so the neck end of the breast is facing you. Make a downward diagonal cut to remove the wing on each side, including a 2-inch piece of breast meat with each wing. When the knife comes to the wing joint, simply cut through it.

3. Cut the breast section off the backbone, following the yellow line of fat that runs between the wing joint and the bottom of the rib cage. Cut the breast section in half crosswise through the breastbone. You should have 8 pieces of chicken (plus the backbone), each about the same size.

The French Cut

The French cut produces a piece of chicken called a suprême, a boneless half breast with the first joint of the wing attached.

1. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body cavities of the chicken. Remove the package of giblets and set aside for another use. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water, then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Place the bird, back side down, on a cutting board so the rear end of the breast is facing you. Starting at the neck end, make a clean lengthwise cut through the meat and along the right side of the breastbone. Continue cutting, keeping your knife pressed against the breastbone and the rib cage to remove the breast meat on that side in a solid strip. When the knife reaches the wing, cut through the joint, leaving the wing attached to the meat. Repeat this procedure to remove the meat on the other side of the breast. Cut off the 2 end sections of each wing at the joint, leaving only the mini-drumstick attached.

2. Finish cutting up the bird as described in step 1 of the American Cut, but don’t separate the drumsticks and thighs you will have 4 pieces of chicken. Leave the rib cage attached to the backbone save it, along with the wing tips, for stock.

This How to Cut Up a Chicken recipe is from the The Barbecue Bible Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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