3 Easy Ways to Cut a Chicken
“No, no, no, I say. You’re doing it all wrong!” Ever feel like Foghorn Leghorn is peering over your shoulder, critiquing your chicken cuttin’ skills?
Partygoers (and hosts) love the wings, kids (and the grill) love the drumsticks, and the health-conscious (and time-strapped) love boneless skinless breasts. But taking on the bird, the whole bird and nothing but the bird, can make one feel a little nervous…a bit, you know, chicken.
We’re about to help you conquer that fear! It’s really quite easy, and starting with a whole chicken can:
- Save you money (it usually costs more to buy “a la carte”)
- Let you hone your culinary skills (spatchcocking, anyone?)
- Give you eco points (whole chickens = less processing and packaging).
SPATCHCOCKING: ON WITH THE TRENDY
We’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t start with a cool, trendy and time-saving method with an equally cool name: Spatchcocking. This technique flattens the bird, allowing for faster, more even cooking. It also exposes all of the skin on top, making it nice and crispy while keeping the meat underneath moist and tender. You may feel apprehensive about going rogue with your MO, but this might be the only instance where having no backbone is a good thing.
- Start with the chicken breast side down. Use a CHICAGO CUTLERY® CENTURION™ SCISSORS to split the bird in half by cutting along both sides of the backbone. Remove and discard the bone.
- Turn the chicken over, spreading it out from underneath. Use a sharp CHICAGO CUTLERY® PAIRING KNIFE to cut down the center of the bird, just deep enough to split the connective tissue covering the breastbone. Press down in the center of the breast to flatten it. The legs should splay out to the sides; tuck the wings under to prevent too much browning.
- Season with a rub (salt, pepper and paprika are simple and delicious) or marinade. Let sit in the fridge overnight.
- Roast or grill as desired, then cut into quarters to serve. Typical roasting time for a 4 pound spatchcocked chicken: 45 minutes at 400°F. Young chickens (also known as Cornish game hens) cook even faster in a conventional oven. No matter what size you choose, cook or grill until a meat thermometer reaches at least 165°F when inserted into the breast. How easy is that!
PIECING: FROM RAW TO READY-TO-COOK
From trendy to every day, there isn’t a more useful way to master cutting a whole chicken than to piece it out. Here’s how to cut your raw bird into eight pieces for baking, frying or grilling. It’s your call.
- Place chicken on its back on a nonslip work surface, like the dishwasher-safe CHICAGO CUTLERY® POLYWORKS™ CARVING BOARD. To keep the cutting board from slipping, place a damp paper towel underneath.
- Use a CHICAGO CUTLERY® CHEF'S KNIFE to remove the wings by cutting through the joints where they connect to the breast.
- Pull a leg away from body, then cut through the skin between breast and drumstick. Repeat with the other leg.
- Set the chicken on its side and bend a leg back until you hear the thighbone pop. Cut through joint and skin to remove. Repeat with the other leg.
- Turn each leg skin side down and cut through joints to separate thigh from drumstick.
Separate breast from back by starting at the head end and cutting through the rib cage on each side of the backbone.
- With breast skin side down, split the center bone with a firm chop, then slice through to separate into two pieces.
TIP: Try this piecing method with our recipe for PEPPERY BUTTERMILK OVEN-FRIED CHICKEN.
CARVING: FROM ROASTED TO READY-TO-EAT
You’ve pulled your perfectly seasoned and browned bird from the oven. Resist temptation to go caveman on your masterpiece. This is how to carve it into manageable pieces and remain civilized. TIP:Before you start, be sure to let the chicken rest for 10 minutes to retain the juices.
- Place the chicken, breast down, on a large cutting board.
- Use a CHICAGO CUTLERY® CHEF'S KNIFE to cut into the skin where the leg is attached to the body, then pull and twist the leg away from the body to pop the hip joint. Cut down through the remaining skin and cartilage and separate the leg from the body. Repeat on the other side.
- Separate thigh from drumstick, if desired, by cutting through at connective joint. (Too much resistance means you’ve hit bone; slightly adjust your knife and try again.)
- Remove wings by slicing into the skin where they attach to the body, then pulling and twisting (gently) to pop out the joint. Cut through to separate.
- To split the breast, insert a carving fork near the breastbone to hold the chicken steady. Cut along one side of the breast, then repeat with the second breast half on the other side of the breastbone.
- You can also separate the breast meat from the ribcage first by making a horizontal cut along the bones.
- DEM BONES: Save and make stock. Simmer the carcass in water (add veggies and seasonings as desired) and freeze for future soups and other recipes.
- COLOR CUES: We all have our preference, be it white or dark meat. Although the white meat is slightly lower in fat, dark has higher levels of several B vitamins as well as more iron and zinc.
And thanks to its richer flavor, dark is also a good choice for soups, stews and curries.
- MAKE THE CUTLETS: Don’t buy, DIY! Simply cut breasts horizontally into thin pieces and use for recipes like Chicken Parm or better-for-them chicken tenders. A smaller knife, like a utility or boning knife, will give you better control.
- COMFORT MATTERS: Although we specify using a chef’s knife, some prefer a slicer/carving knife, which is essentially a thinner, longer chef’s knife. Those with smaller hands may feel more confident using a shorter, more slender knife like a utility knife or multipurpose Santoku knife when cutting a chicken down to size. (Safety and proper technique matter most when making the cuts!)
There you have it! Easy as can be. And once you do it yourself, we bet you’ll be thrilled to pieces.