Chicken - Piece it yourself

There are 14 pictures in this sequence, although not all will be posted. I took the first one at 3:29 PM, the last one at 3:33 PM and it would have taken less time if the flash didn't need to recharge. The tool picture isn't part of the 14.

We paid $0.49/lb for these whole chickens. No they aren't organic, factory born and bred, but it works just as well for the healthiest chicken in the world.

Back in 80 my girlfriend (now wife) wanted to do some meal with chicken pieces, so she started to buy a cut up one. I pointed out the difference in price and that I could show her how to cut it up herself. She has never gone back. She can't match Julia at her best, but is a lot better than the SNL one.

First the tools, the cleaver was a gift from my ex-mother-in-law, 30+ years later still in constant use. It has an edge that will cut paper. A chef's knife will also be added to the fray.

The bird, Tyson's finest. The yellow cutting board is even the correct color for poultry, so the infamous NY chicken police won't be along later. (We also have a red one and a white one and they get interchanged a lot, which ever is clean.)

First remove a wing, cutting the joint between the wing and the body.

This is where we discovered that she could cut faster than the flash could recharge. As you can see the second wing has jointed it's mate.

Then break the thigh away from the body, leg still attached.
It is fairly easy to find this joint and cut the double piece from the body.

Finding the joint between the leg and the thigh is a bit harder, although there is a landmark, but given experience this is a also a one stroke.

Same with the other leg-thigh.

Then split that double piece.

Now we have 6 pieces, more to go.

Stand the bird up, holding the back, and cut the entire breast section(s) free. I would use the cleaver myself, but she doesn't.

Then use the cleaver to free the back. The back can be frozen or refrozen for stock. So can the neck, giblets and wing tips, although we don't do it with the wing tips. (Refreezing meat simply breaks the cell structure down more, making it mushier. You are going to simmer this for 6 hours, nobody will care that the back isn't as firm as it could be).

Use the cleaver to split the breast lenghwise. This stroke is why we do it on plastic not wood, it leaves serious marks.

Use something sharp to complete the cut. I would have used the cleaver, but that thing is heavy so my wife used her Chef's knife.

At this point you have two whole pieces. Perhaps you wish to bone them, split them up and emulate Cook Eat Fret on Thursday Night Smackdown.

But since most of these will be oven fried we simply cleave them in two.

And then the other.

Four minutes.

This can save you a lot. Odds are if what you need are two chicken breast fillets, you can do it yourself, throw the rest of the chicken away and save money. But why throw it away? Everybody knows the dark meat is better.


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  • 10/13/2008 3:00 PM Chris wrote:
    Long live the home butchered chicken.. err .
    Long live the home butcher?

    Dark meat rules, but the pig remains king.
    Reply to this
  • 10/13/2008 3:34 PM claudia (cook eat FRET) wrote:
    never in this lifetime could i ever...

    i suggest not ever pissing off your wife
    Reply to this
    1. 10/13/2008 4:11 PM ntsc wrote:
      When I met her she was a traveling salesman, salesman - not saleswoman, traveled in books. First woman representng a major pubisher in New York City.

      I learned a long time ago that pissing her off was not good for my health.
      Reply to this
  • 10/14/2008 5:14 AM Attila the Mom wrote:
    You're my hero!
    Reply to this
  • 10/15/2008 7:20 PM Noble Pig wrote:
    This was a grewt tutorial, cutting a whole chicken can be daunting for the unexperienced.
    Reply to this
  • 10/16/2008 6:11 AM ntsc wrote:
    We needed four chickens, that is a couple of bucks in savings.

    Julia Child was timed doing this in under two minutes. I suspect a chef or fabricator can do it in less.
    Reply to this
  • 10/16/2008 8:44 AM Brian wrote:
    Really cool post. I recently decided to start using 1 full bird each week and to rotate methods and recipes until I can be reasonly proud of my chicken skills...the pictures here really help in understanding how to work these yard birds

    Reply to this
  • 10/16/2008 2:12 PM ntsc wrote:
    I'll try and find the description of the landmark for where to cut to seperate the leg and thigh.

    Right now the kitchen doesn't have counters, sink or running water. I hope to have the countertops down by tomorrow, but it will take a minimum of three days to finish them so we won't have running water until Monday at the earliest.
    Reply to this
  • 10/17/2008 8:59 AM evil chef mom wrote:
    what the heck? no water until monday?
    Reply to this
    1. 10/17/2008 9:45 AM ntsc wrote:
      This is Friday, yesterday morning I ripped out the sink and all of the kitchen countertops. The counter top is now sitting on the front lawn in pieces.

      This is part of the planned kitchen renovation which has been planned for this week, I wanted cooler weather, all summer. The new countertops should be in today, but will take a minimum of three days to finish.

      Since the dishwasher drains through the undersink disposal, no dishwasher either. Things are getting stacked on a table in the garage. I am documenting this, but want to put up the whole shebang at once.
      Reply to this
  • 10/17/2008 9:42 AM Wendy wrote:
    Thanks for posting this. I'm a foodie, and it's one thing I've never known how to do!
    Reply to this
    1. 10/17/2008 9:54 AM ntsc wrote:
      This blog is mostly about food, or at least related such as rebuilding the kitchen myself. Glad to see you.

      You might want to check Dinner Menu, where I post my wife's weekly menus and then plating pictures of them.

      That chicken either ended up as chicken braised with mission figs or oven fried chicken and can be seen in either the 3rd of 4th picture from the bottom of last weeks posting here.
      Reply to this
  • 10/23/2008 8:32 AM Lolly wrote:
    Wow that is fantastic! The first time I tried to cut up a whole chicken ... well lets just say none of the pieces looked like anything you've ever seen the Butcher's.
    Reply to this
    1. 10/23/2008 2:50 PM ntsc wrote:
      Practice improves all skills.
      Reply to this

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