Updated: Sep 7, 2021
There are many different ways to prepare chicken so here is a guide on how to break down a whole chicken and use the different cuts in dishes!
How to portion the chicken:
Trim off the excess skin around the chicken cavity and surrounding the neck of the chicken.
Remove the wishbone located in the neck of the chicken it is found between the neck of the chicken and the breast.
Slice the chicken skin between where the legs are connected to the rest of the chicken.
Turn the chicken over and push the two legs down to click them our of the joint, this way they will be easier to remove from the rest of the chicken.
Find the two “oysters” of meat on the back of the chicken and bring the knife down to the base of the legs. the oysters are located on the back of the thighs and should stay connected to the chicken leg when you remove them.
Slice the skin attached to the legs at the bottom of the chicken down and then through the joint where the leg connects to the body of chicken.
Cut through the joint in-between the drumstick and the thigh to separate them.
Turn the chicken over and cut out the spine where the ribcage attaches all the way up to the neck.
Remove the spine.
Turn the chicken over onto its front, spread the chicken skin tightly either side of the breast bone to make sure the skin is even and taut on each side. Score down the middle of the breastbone as evenly as possible.
Slice each chicken breast away from the breastbone as close as possible making sure to remove all the meat, keeping the wing attached to the chicken breast.
The rest of the bones can be saved for chicken stock.
If you want to separate the wing from the breast cut where the wing knuckle meets the breast.
To butterfly the breast slice through the middle horizontally but only cutting half way, then unfold the breast so it's flat.
To spatchcock the chicken, keep it whole and cut out the spine with either meat scissors so the chicken stays in one piece, then flip it over and push down to make it flat.
Examples of how to cook each cut:
Legs - grill, roast, stew, braise
Thighs - stew, fry, stir-fry, grill
Drumstick- fry, grill, roast
Wings - grill, fry, bake, for sauces and stocks
Breast - roast, grill, stir-fry, pan-fry, poach
Spine - stocks, sauces
Brest with wings - roast, grill
Whole chicken - roast, slow braise
Butterfly - grill, pan fry
Spatchcock - grill, roast
How to tidy up the cuts of chicken for presentation.
If you want the chicken to be super tidy and uniform for presentation reasons (for example if you have a dinner party, have family over or want to impress a friend or date), there are a few ways to do so!
The first way is by cutting the knuckles off each cut of chicken. This will make the chicken look more uniform and tidy. You will need to use the back part of the blade on a big knife ( either a chefs knife or meat cleaver). Use it to quickly in one motion hitting down as near to the knuckle as possible to cut it off.
The second way is by using a smaller knife (for example a paring knife or meat knife) to scrape any excess meat off the bone that will be showing. This will clean the bones so once they are cooked there will be no residue on them.
The final way is by using food tweezers (or clean new regular tweezers) to pull out any sinew (They are thick, white and stringy tendons connecting the meat muscle to the bone). When the chicken is cooked it can make the meat tougher and cause the meat to shrink on the bone if not removed (no one wants to chew on them), so it will improve the quality of the chicken if you remove them. If you don’t have tweezers you can use kitchen paper as a grip to remove them holding the muscle in place at the base while you pull them out.