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How-To: Part Out a Whole Chicken

Typically, I share a favorite recipe in this section of our newsletter; however, I decided to switch things up a bit and include a "how-to" instead.  With spring here and summer to follow, that means grilling season will soon be underway and who doesn't love BBQ chicken hot off of the grill?!  For those who tune in to our newsletter regularly, you know that working with a whole chicken is one of my favorite things--it is economical, virtually waste-free, and can stretch to feed a crowd, depending on what you do with it.  While it is certainly more convenient to buy already parted-out pieces of chicken, there is the added cost that comes with that, so I want to encourage you to channel your inner Little Engine (I think I can, I think I can, ...) and try it yourself.  Sure, the first time or two, it may be a little scary and the pieces not so pretty, but with practice, it will come!  Below are the steps that I follow; if you give it a shot, let me know what you think.

Items you will need:

  • Whole chicken, thawed
  • Cutting board
  • Chef’s knife
  • Kitchen shears (optional)

Steps for Eight Pieces (2 drums, 2 thighs, 2 wings, and 2 breasts):

  1. Position the chicken breast-side up and so that the legs are closest to you.
  2. Using your knife, cut a slit where the thigh meets the body. Use your hands to pop the joint, then run your knife to finish the cut. This will separate the thigh-drumstick from the rest of the body.
  3. To separate the thigh and drumstick into two pieces, feel where the joint connecting the two is, then run your knife along the fat line and through the joint.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the other side.
  5. Next, use your thumb to feel where the wing meets the body. Run your knife through the joint to make the cut. You can cut off the tip, if desired, and save this for making stock.You could also separate the wing into two pieces (the wingette and drummette). Repeat for the other side.
  6. Using your knife or kitchen shears, cut the back off of the chicken, following the fat lines of the chicken up through the neck; again, save this for making stock.

Lastly, use your knife to cut a slit in the cartilage between the two breasts halves; use your hands to expose and then remove the breast bone.  Flip the breast over to smooth the skin and then turn it back over to cut the breast into two pieces.  If desired, you could cut each breast into two pieces (one-third of the thicker part and two-thirds of the tapered part) to ensure more even cooking.


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