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Butchering a Whole Chicken

Generally speaking - when I purchase chicken, I buy whole chicken for 4 reasons -

1.  Whole chickens are less expensive per pound than processed pieces and parts

2.  I like both the light and dark pieces of chicken

3.  After learning the techniques and with practice, its a quick and easy process

4.  The pet cemetery - Freezing parts and bones for stock

      a. If I'm cutting a chicken for pieces, I save the backbone, neck, heart, gizzards, sometimes the wings and extra skin and freeze it for stock 

      b. If I'm roasting a whole chicken, I save the raw neck, heart, gizzards and extra skin for stock. Then, I serve the wings, legs, and thigh on the bone, but I cut the breast meat away from the carcass and freeze the bones for stock

 I save this in an area of my freezer (The Pet Cemetery), and when I have sufficient, I make stock.  The first time told my husband that I needed to clean out the pet cemetery, his head almost swiveled off his neck.  He's used to it now, and helps on occasion....

Okay Sweet-pea - take a moment and think.  If you look like -

 

Time to leave this post - it's about to hit the fan -

 Word of warning - Make sure you take care doing these procedures.  You need a good sharp chef's knife - and for the newbies - a good kitchen shears.  You'll be cutting through skin and bones - make sure its the chicken's....

 First thing I do is clean my sink area thoroughly and put my hand wash dispenser (In case I have to wash my hands during butchering - This makes sure I wash the dispenser afterwards) and a sieve into the bottom of the sink....  More on this later....

 I start taking the "extras" out of the carcass - The heart, kidney, and gizzard.  I rinse these off and put them into the sieve.  I discard the liver.

Chicken with parts

Chicken With Extras - Liver to be Discarded

Next, I take off the wings.  This is easy to do - lift one of the wing tips so that you are slightly picking the chicken up off of the surface.  Put your knife at the under arm point then move it slightly lower in position towards the body - saw gently through.  By using this motion, your knife will find the joint that you need to cut through.  

Cutting Chicken Wing Area !

Area Just Below Arm Pit - Toward Body

Cut Chicken Wing Through Joint

Okay - You Caught Me - I Used 2 Chickens For This Shoot - This is the Cut Through the Joint

 

Wing cut off of Carcass

Wing Off of Carcass

Then - I cut the backbone out.  I use a chef's knife for this usually, but I'm using a kitchen shears to show you that it can easily be done with those as well.  Start on one side and then cut down the other.

 

Using a kitchen shears - taking the back bone out of the chicken

Cutting the Chicken Backbone Out of the Chicken

 I never think about these thing usually, but I'm beginning to feel like Freddy Krueger!

Chicken Back Cut Out of Chicken

Chicken Back Removed

I wash the nasty bits parts from the backbone.  Like the chicken livers, that nastiness will also cloudy the stock. 

Cleaned chicken bones in sieve

Chicken Backbone Washed

Next its time to cut through the breast bone - I use my chef's knife for this.  

Chef's knife cutting through chicken breast bone

Using a Chef's Knife - Cut Through the Breastbone

Next we need to separate the breast from the thigh and drumstick. This is one of those double cuts - you start at the back and cut the layers away (there are tiny breast bones towards the thigh area - They go with the breast section. 

First Cut

Trim From Where the Breast Bones End

Once you trim through this thin layer, you can see the separation between the dark and light meats.

Separating Dark Meat from White

From the front you cut the skin in a way there is enough to covers each piece thoroughly once its cut. 

Second Cut Dark Meat from White

Cut The Skin so That Each Piece is Fully Covered with Skin

Finally - its time to separate the thigh from the drumstick.  There is a line from the backside of the pair that you cut through. 

Separate Chicken Leg from Thigh

Line Where to Cut the Thigh From the Drumstick

Cut Drum Stick from Thigh

The Joint is Right Below the Line

Trim any extra fat off of the - for a lack of better description - nether region portion of the thigh.  This can go with the the rest of the stock items.

Once everything is cut - you have items to freeze for stock and 8 pieces of chicken to cook.  

Make sure to mark your bags so you know when the chicken was purchased.

 Freezer Label for Cut Chicken Pieces

Prepping Chicken for Freezer

2 bags for the Freezer - 4 Pieces to Cook Tonight

Above - you see a plate with 4 pieces of chicken - I cut a breast into 2 pieces, and I've chosen the drumstick and thigh for dinner and leftovers.  The wing is heading to the pet cemetery and I have half a chicken cut and ready to freeze, defrost, and cook some other time.

Finally - A word about cross contamination.  There are chefs and cooks who say that you shouldn't wash your chicken (or other meats come to think of it) because you could leave meat matter around, and it could cause sickness.  I don't like other's making my decisions for me. - I wash my chicken pieces as I cut.  I use a slow stream of water to make sure it doesn't splatter.

As I said - I thoroughly wash my sink and the surrounding area prior to butchering.  After I've finished the last of my cutting, I put all the utensils and cutting board into the sink.  I package the chicken, and then I start cleaning up.

I use an all purpose disinfectant spray - I spray the counter (even if chicken didn't touch it), the utensils, cutting board, sink and the soap dispenser, the faucet, the sprayer and the faucet handles.  Then I heat the water.  I fill a dishpan with hot soapy water and wash cutting board and utensils and put them directly into the drying area after rinsing.

I put some dish washing liquid into a wet wash cloth, and I start to go over all of the areas (including the bottom of the dishpan) with the cloth.  I thoroughly rinse the cloth, and I continue this process with hot water until there are no more bubbles from the soap.

So what has happened - the entire area has been hit with anti-bacterial spray - it sat there - then everything got hit with hot soapy water and then was wiped down several times with a hot wash cloth until it is no longer soapy.

This may seem like over kill, but I take the health of people who eat my food seriously, and I feel this is the best way for me to go through and make sure that the area is free of chicken juices.

Don't be afraid of butchering chickens.  With practice, you'll be an expert.  Truth be told - they won't feel a thing. 

Enjoy -