How to Cut Apart a Full Chicken

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 38,424
    Chef Tom Papoutsis demonstrates how to cut apart a full chicken.

    Tom Papoutsis: Hi, I am Tom Papoutsis. Today we are doing chicken basics. First thing we are going to do is we are going to talk about how to cut the chicken up. What we want to do first is we are going to actually take it out of the package and we want to wash it. But before we do that, you have to remember whenever you buy especially one of these roasting chickens, they have typically the gizzards and necks and what not inside the body cavity. We got to pull those out and wash the chicken completely. There are certain areas that I pay particular attention to, but get your fingers in there and kind of work it around, get all the excess blood and what not out of there. But just clean it out real good, rinse it off and then take that and we are going to go to the cutting board.

    Once we are on the cutting board, the first thing we are going to do -- a lot of these guys come with a pop up timer. We are going to pull this pop up timer out and I am going to just set it aside here because we are just going to throw it away. Actually, you know what, we will just throw it away, it's gone.

    I am going to take my knife, very sharp knife, make sure you have a good, sharp knife to do this. Now you can see I have already when I opened the package I scoured the breast here. This is the breast section up here. You have the leg, the thigh and then of course, the wings. That's about it. That's as far as what we got on the chicken.

    So the first thing I am going to do is there is a piece of cartilage right here. I am going to start with that cartilage. I am going to split that cartilage right down in the middle. You can actually see the white of the cartilage. That's going to split back to the breastbone. I am going to take my knife. It's nice and sharp and I am going to roll down the breastbone. What that's going to do is that's going to open that up. Now the center of the breastbone is right here. I am not going to be able to split that down the middle. So I go one side or the other and I am going to take my knife and basically, without cutting myself, I am going to run the knife down right through that bone and it will -- if you have to, use the heel of your hand, just strike it and cut it and now we have split that in half.

    Once we get to this point, there is a little bit of left there of the stuff in here. I am going to cut that out. Work to this point, we have opened the chicken up. Now we have exposed the ribs right here and the actual backbone. What I want to do, this little tail, I am going to take and cut a V back into there and take that off. So you got to use a little bit of force, but you just cut into it.

    Now, very sharp knife. Again, a lot of times if you have a meat cleaver, you can actually use a meat cleaver to do this. What I do is start where I cut this tail off. I start back here and I lay my knife right down across the top of the spine. Lay it there, take the heel of your hand, strike it, cut down and we are going to do same thing here. Move the knife back a little bit, strike it, cut down and we are just going to saw it right down in half.

    Now we have got two halves of the chicken right there. Now once we are to this point, you can take this chicken. Now a lot of times at the Firehouse we have, I serve a half a chicken. What I will do is I will spice this up and we will actually grill it or bake it and we will have each guy will get a half a chicken and now we are going to start cutting this into pieces.

    The first thing we are going to do, I am going to take and I am going to remove the wing. So pull the wing back and there is a joint right in here. We will actually going to cut down into the joint and as I cut, you will see the white of the joint, the cartilage in there. I am just going to go around that joint, there you can see right here is where our joint is. You can stick your knife in there and we are just going to pop that out. So just cut around it, just like that, release it, there is your wing, right there.

    So you want buffalo wings, you got to cut a lot of those out, but these is our actual wing came out, we will set that aside. Now we are going to take and we are going the thigh and the leg out. I am going to start by cutting up in here where this -- you will see there is when you lift this up the skin is here. I will show you from this angle. The skin is here. We are going to actually cut the skin back and we are going to leave the skin on. If you want the skin, leave it on, but I am going to very gently cut down and what I am looking at here is down inside here is the joint.

    What I want to do is cut that out of there and we are going to cut that leg joint out. So I am going to come back around here. I am going to follow, now the breast, remember the breast meat is here. I don't want to cut into the breast meat too much. So I am going to cut this down in, take my knife, round in, remember you got to have a good, sharp knife and we are going to work that out of there. This one takes a little bit of work, but once we get it, it will come out fairly easily for us and I am going to go ahead and cut this excess skin out of here and get trimmed that up. There we go. I stick my knife in, cut it down that way and we are going to cut right across here. That's it. Now leg and thigh and as you can see, we left the skin on, a little bit of excess skin here, but we can trim that off. So there is our leg and thigh.

    Now I am going to set the leg and thigh. That's actually what's called the leg quarter. We are going to set the leg quarter aside. This is the back and the ribs. I am going to cut those out. I am actually, this is going to end up a boneless, skinless chicken breast and I am just going to go ahead and you can just take this. You don't have to cut it, you can just take and pull it off. Take this, pull it off, pull it out of the way. I am going to cut the back, this is the actual back and we are going to cut that out of there. There is the joint from the wing. I am going to remove that. Watch your fingers, remember, safety in the kitchen. We are going to cut that out, we will leave that one in there. So there is our back, that's the actual chicken back.

    Now what we have got here, this is what you will find in the store known as a split chicken breast. It has still got the ribs on it and it has still got the breastbone. So we are going to make it boneless, skinless. I am going to come down, follow the cartilage in the bone of the breastbone and just very carefully, nice, sharp knife. we are going to cut that in, cut right on down in there and now I am going to take my knife and let it follow down along the ribs. As you see, the ribs right here, we are going to take the blade of the knife, I am going to bring the point of the knife right out like this and we are just going to follow that as best we can right there. We got a little bit excess meat right there. We will just get rid of that. Now right here, you are going to run into the breastbone. As you can see, also I am going to do is cut that off, there it is. You have got a boneless, skinless chicken breast just like you buy in a store at a fraction of the cost.

    So that being said, we are going to lay that aside. I am going to take -- we are going to leave the wing the way it is. We are going to set this all aside here. If you want, you can take and you can trim this meat out, it's up to you. I mean, you can keep this stuff and freeze it. You can use it for whatever you want to use it for. I mean, you use it to make soup, anything like that, but if you want to trim that up, you can trim that up.

    What we are going to do now is I am going to separate the leg and the thigh. A lot of times what I like to do, leg quarters really good, really, really good to grill. I am going to trim off some of this excess skin. We are going to get rid of that and what I am going to do is I am going to feel, you can actually see the joint. As I move this, the joint is right here and you can move that around. You can feel where that joint is. Right there is the joint, I am going to come in, take my knife, go right on down through that joint and there it is. You have got your drumstick and you have got your thigh and that's the thigh.

    At this point, this is how we cut up the chicken. As you can see, we have a boneless, skinless breast, we have a drumstick, a wing and now we have our thigh with the bone in. If you wanted to, you could actually bone that out, but at this point what we are going to do is we are going to work on chicken marinades and rubs and how we can prepare the chicken and spice it up and get it ready to cook.