How to break down a whole chicken

There are countless ways you can break down a chicken but this is my usual operation which results in 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 breasts and a carcass.

I tend to buy a whole chicken rather than separate parts as it is much more cost effective. From one whole chicken I can get all the chicken parts and also use the carcass to make a great stock to make sopa de fideos or any other recipe calling for chicken stock. Once broken down, I then freeze the separate pieces for later use.


1 Lay the chicken on a cutting board and trim off the excess skin around the cavity and the parson’s nose, if you wish. You can skip this step but I prefer to do it this way.


2 Cut the skin connecting the drumsticks and breast so you have clear access. You can also skip this step.


3 Hold the thigh bones and break away from the breast; the bone should pop out of the socket. Cut between the joint and remove both hindquarters.


4 Turn the chicken over and grab the wing, pull taught from the body and make an incision; this should expose the joint so you know where to cut. Cut between the joint and remove both wings.


5 Turn chicken over and pull off the skin from the breasts.


6 Run your finger down the centre of the breast and locate the breast bone. Cut either side of the bone to expose the breast and cut away. Keep your knife close to the bone and make swiping movements to detach it from the bones and around the outside of the wishbone.


To prepare the chicken parts

Hindquarters: You can leave the hindquarters intact if you prefer or remove the drumsticks from the things. To do this lay the drumstick as show and score the meat where the joint is; cut between the joint and remove both thighs; alternatively you can pop the bone out of the socket so you know exactly where the joint is.


Wings: You can leave the wings intact or separate each part. Personally, I like my wings whole including the tip.

Breasts: You can leave the breast whole or fillet. To fillet: lay the breast upside down. Pull away the tender (it looks like a small flap) and cut off. Cut the breast in half as shown.  Repeat the process.


Carcass: You can leave intact, which is perfect to make stock or break it down further into individual pieces. To break down place the carcass flat and cut horizontally through the chicken ribs. When you get to the end fold and break away from the carcass; you can easily break away with your hands without the use of a knife. Now you cut the carcass into how ever many pieces you require. The easiest way is crack the pieces and bend backwards and then use you knife to cut through.

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To freeze: You can wrap each piece separately in Clingfilm or into groups. I tend to freeze the pieces separately because then I can pick and choose which pieces I want in my next meal instead of having to defrost the whole thing.


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