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This post specifically goes out to my sister, who recently moved into her first apartment, and has yet to break down a whole chicken. I understand why, it’s a daunting procedure and you have to do it a few times before the raw meat, blood, and bones become more than a gross, squishy mess that is anything but appealing.

However, I recommend all meat-eaters out there try this, if only for the cost-saving budget reasons alone. A small roasting chicken (3-4 lbs) is less than $10, usually around $5-$6, and you get two breasts, two drumsticks, two thighs, two wings, rib meat, and extra bones for chicken stock. That’s nine pieces of meat! For two people, it’s three to four meals. Instead of roasting the entire bird and having to eat chicken for a week–you can freeze back parts you don’t want to use for another night.

Here’s my step-by-step process to get you started, but definitely check out my awesome video on YouTube. I’m totally the next Rachael Ray :-p

  1. Be Clean. Remember raw chicken can make you sick, so clean your station beforehand, wash your hands, and make sure that everything that touches the raw meat needs to be washed afterwards to prevent contamination (hands, knives, cutting board, counter-top).
  2. Have a sharp knife. The only tools you need to break down a chicken is a sharp knife and a cutting board (maybe some Ziploc or aluminum foil to store the cuts later). While most of the cutting is through skin or meat, there are one or two cuts you will need to make that cut through joints and bones. If your knife isn’t sharp, those can get pretty hard to carry out, and increase your risk of hurting yourself by exerting more effort than needed.
  3. Remove the innards, wash out the carcass.
  4. Pulling a drumstick away from the body cavity, find the area where just the skin attached and make a cut. Working your knife, cut the skin away without cutting into the meat. Pull the drumstick and thigh bones out and back, so the thigh bone goes out of its socket. Cut into the thigh at that joint, removing both parts away from the body as one piece.
  5. Repeat on the other side, and for the wings–the key is finding where that last bone connects to the body cavity, and cutting into the joints, and the slicing the parts away from the body.
  6. Cut the breast bone away from the ribs–I use one cut, starting by the neck, and making a hard cut at the base of the ribs.
  7. For the breasts, slice down the center between them, and then move your knife on a lower diagonal, along the breast bone line to remove the meat from the bone.

Additional tips:

  • The wings, back, and discarded breast bone are all good sources of meat, even though you can’t really use them in a recipe. I like to roast them with salt/pepper/a splash of oil and use the meat for tacos, casseroles, or salads. You can also freeze them, and use them later for stock.