How to Cut a Whole Chicken Just Like the Pros
Stop paying extra dough for chicken that is already cut up for you! Buy those fryers whole and learn how to cut up a whole chicken yourself! Not only will you save a ton of money, but you’ll also be able to cut portions that are tailored for your purposes.
Best of all, you can salvage ALL the leftover parts for flavorful broths and stocks! Still nervous about how to wrangle that bird? This handy F.N. Sharp guide will walk you through the best way to cut up chicken for a variety of uses, as well as which knives to use – and best of all, what to look for in a quality knife.
The F.N. Sharp Guide to Cutting Up That Chicken
Any recipe is only as good as its ingredients, but the best recipes are prepared with the best tools. At F.N. Sharp, we have a selection of quality knives that can help you tackle any kitchen task, especially when it comes to those expensive cuts of meat!
Choosing the Best Knife for Cutting Chicken
First, determine how you want to ‘fabricate’ your chicken. Do you want the wings separate from the drumsticks or the thighs? Or do you want the thighs connected to the drumsticks for a casserole, like Chicken Cacciatore? Always have your ‘mise en place’ (French for a mental plan before executing anything in the kitchen) ready so you can feel confident, like a true chef! Now onto the best knives for cutting chicken.
The Boning Knife
The ultimate knife for cutting raw chicken is definitely a boning knife. This specialty knife has the proper curve and blade thickness for cutting around joints and sinew and removing fat. A boning knife also has the heft required for precision cutting but isn’t too big or heavy to hold.
For example, the F.N. Sharp Boning Knife blade is 5.5 inches long with a max thickness of only 2 millimeters. With a full tang housed in a sturdy G10 handle, the F.N. Sharp Boning Knife gives you the stability and precision you need for cutting between the joints of chicken legs and wings.
The Chef’s Knife
The mainstay tool in any kitchen is the chef’s knife. Depending on the size of your hands and your comfort level, most professional and home-chefs alike prefer a chef’s knife for nearly all of their cutting needs. A solid chef’s knife has the right sized blade for cutting into larger chickens or even a turkey.
The F.N. Sharp Chef’s Knife, for example, is a stand-out not only for its sheer quality of design, but for its ease of use and performance – a must when breaking down a bird. Whether you’re cutting raw chicken or slicing a roasted-to-perfection bird, the F.N. Sharp Chef Knife is 13.5” inches of high-grade performance.
The Bread Knife – The Best Knife for Cutting Cooked Chicken
Did you know the bread knife isn’t just for bread? That is if your bread knife has the best edge. Often the only serrated knife in a kitchen knife set, the bread knife has saw-like notches that are designed for cutting through tough ingredients with delicate insides, like crusty loaves of bread. Depending on the size and shape of these serrations, your bread knife is also a great candidate for cutting up a whole cooked bird, as well as standing rib roasts. Other uses for a bread knife include slicing through dense fruits with tough rinds and leveling cakes.
Take the F.N. Sharp Bread Knife, for example: with a 8” scalloped blade, this is the best bread knife for cleanly carving meat into uniform slices while also retaining the flavorful juices.
Get Your Workspace Ready
Before we get into how to cut a whole chicken, let’s talk safety first.
The most important thing to remember in any kitchen, whether it’s a home or professional kitchen, is that sanitation and safety cannot be compromised.
Nothing is worse than food poisoning or knife accidents. If you’re working with raw meat, then working on a clean, sanitized work surface (or cutting board, in this case) in a well-lit space with the proper tools will set you up for success.
Make sure your chicken is well-rinsed and any internal packages of giblets or organs have been removed. Pat the bird dry and season per your recipe – or check out our meat seasoning guide. Also, always remember to lightly salt the cavity since this creates juicier meat.
When it comes to practicing kitchen knife safety, making sure your knives are sharp enough for the job is the first step. A dull knife can slip and slide over your ingredients, requiring you to apply more pressure to make a full cut. This leads to higher chances of losing control over your knife and cutting into something other than your ingredients (like your fingers) – not to mention a clean cut from a sharp knife heals much better than a rigid cut from a dull knife.
If you’re not sure you’re knife is up to the task, check out these top signs of a dull kitchen knife
Now back to the word – the bird.
How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken
Place your chicken breast-side up with the cavity facing towards you. Keep your knives close by, along with a clean, wet dish towel for wiping your blades as needed. Be sure your cutting board is securely placed on a towel on the counter so it doesn’t slip around. Cutting up a chicken will require a little muscle on your part, but you got this! Let’s get started!
With the chicken placed on your cutting board with breast side up, pull each leg away from the body to make a cut between the breast and the drumstick. This is where the boning knife comes in handy as its slender blade with pointed tip is perfect for getting in between those delicate areas. Your chef’s knife will do the trick also, especially if it feels more comfortable in your hand.
Next, turn the chicken on its side and gently bend the legs back until the thigh bone is detached from the socket. Cut through this section to fully remove the leg.
Then pull the wings away from the body (one at a time, of course!) and cut through the joint to remove the wing. Now you have the body of the chicken without the legs and wings.
Now, cut downward through the rib cage and then through the shoulder joints to separate the breast from the back. Save those bones for stock!
Now, turn the chicken over so the breast is skin side down. Split the center bone using your chef knife in a chopping motion. These bones are fairly soft, so it shouldn’t require too much pressure. Separate the breast so it is in two clean, equally sized pieces.
Here is where you can cut the breast halves into quarters by turning each skin side up and cutting diagonally through bone.
To separate the legs from the drumstick, turn the pieces skin side down and cut through the joints along the fat line. You should end up with 6 to 10 separate pieces depending on how you cut the breast halves, the legs, and wings. Easy peasy!
Now go cook up that chicken! And here are some F.N. Sharp Recipes for some inspiration...
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Shredded rotisserie chicken, veggies and spices all come together in this healthy recipe for chicken tortilla soup!
Paleo Chicken Sauce Tomat
Boneless chicken breast, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and homemade sauce tomat all come together in this deliciously healthy paleo chicken recipe.
Paprika-Spiced Velouté Vermouth Chicken
Boneless chicken thighs, vermouth, and spices all come together in this easy recipe for hot paprika-spiced vermouth chicken with homemade velouté sauce.
Instant Pot Butter Chicken
Chicken, butter, cream, onion, ginger, tomatoes, and spices all come together in this delicious butter chicken recipe, made easier in the Instant Pot!
Greek Lemon Chicken Kabobs With Talatouri Sauce
Get ready to fire up the grill and turn your backyard into a Greek island vacation with this recipe for Greek Lemon Chicken Kabobs and Talatour dipping sauce!
Grilled Chicken and Peach Saltimbocca Kabobs
Saltimbocca doesn’t have to be reserved for restaurant menus – this quick chicken kabob version adds peaches to bring fresh flavor to your dinner plate.
Instant Pot Arroz con Pollo
Spice up your weeknight meals with this deliciously healthy chicken and rice recipe known as Arroz con Pollo, made easy with F.N. Sharp and the Instant Pot!