How to Cut a Whole Chicken
Eating a 100% plant based diet while being a part of our CSA program has been harder than I thought. Especially when I made the promise that I would be sharing recipes every week made with the meat from my friend's pastured chickens and hogs! But that's okay. I have been doing pretty well. I do take bites here and there to test my own cooking. So far I am learning that the hardest part of eating "vegan" is not going out to eat anymore, or even filling my cravings at home, but eating at a friend's house. Most people cook meat for a dinner party, and they definitely use dairy. And that's okay - this is not me complaining at all. It's more just an observance. That's the hardest part of having a plant based diet; your friend slaved over a delicious homemade meal for you, and you just have to eat it. At least, I do. I hate being the person to make a host feel poorly about what they cooked for everyone. They were nice enough to cook at all!
So for those of you who like to question my "purity" on not eating meat or dairy, just don't! It's that simple. Because my biggest commitment to myself and to you as a reader is that I am not pure, and I never will be. I still will try meat if I cook it because I want to make sure it tastes good. Sometimes my only option for dressing at the salad bar is with dairy, and while I could go dressing-free, I sometimes just want to eat ranch. If my friend cooks me cheesy potatoes, I guess that's my cheat day! I'm just a nice person trying to appreciate real food. I hope that makes sense! But for the most part, I eat plants, and I really like it. I've lost close to 20 pounds (my goal!) and I still have acne (boo!). I feel good!
So I am cutting up this chicken. Back in January I hosted a blog reader survey and asked if you all would like to see more plant based recipes and also if you considered yourself a "meat lover." While I think I have a lot of plant based followers on Instagram, a majority of our blog readers are meat-a-tarians. Cool! That means you'll probably like learning how to cut up a whole chicken. This blog post corresponds with our Seasonal CSA Recipe Blog where we are making Honey Soy Chicken. I felt a bit like I was channeling Julia Child while taking these photos!
How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken
As a self-proclaimed "home chef," I've cut up several chickens now. It's something that I think everyone who loves to cook should experience! You really get a feel for the parts of a chicken, where it all comes from, and how much better it is to do this over purchasing chicken pieces at the grocery store. I mean - you get the spine, which means you get bone broth. Yum! First, you want to make sure that you have a very sharp and strong knife, or else the cuts will be difficult to make.
- Locate the hip joint. You want to separate the leg from the body first by slicing through the hip joint. Slice through the skin and pull the leg away. With your fingers locate the cartilage and expose the leg bone through the skin and muscle.
- There will be a space in between the bone and the skin connected to the body; make a precise cut through that (not through the bone). It should be easy to cut through! Repeat this on the other leg.
- Once the leg is removed, you'll want to separate the drumstick from the thigh. You will see that there is a light colored line of fat on the meat side of the leg. This is like a guideline for you to cut down. You can see this is the third photo.
- Make a cut down this fat line and through the joint. This should not go through bone!
- Next, you'll want to separate the wings from the body. This is a similar to removing the legs, though the joint is a bit thicker.
- With your finger, locate the joint and find the thick part of the bone. That's where you want to make a cute!
- Hold the wing in one hand and slice through that joint, not the bone. You may have to work in a circular fashion around the joint, and dangling the chicken can help if you are struggling!
- The final step is to remove the breasts and separate them from the spine. You will notice the rib cage on one side, the spine and surrounding muscle (this is not the breast meat) somewhere in the center back.
- On the sides of the main body, separating the breasts from the rib cage, are fat lines. Use these again as guidelines for where to cut. Slice down the fat lines and through the ribcage. Pull the ribcage off with the spine, cutting and breaking the end that connected the neck, until it is free from the carcass.
- The spine is the extra part that you get to keep! Use this to make bone broth, the most amazing ingredient you will ever have for soup and stew making. You can even can it for later use!
- To separate the breasts, I find it easiest to snap the sternum first. Make a little cut at the end of the sternum, the bone that separates the breasts. Turn the chicken onto the skin side and give it a swift push until you hear the bone crack.
- You can see the large muscle in the center that is attached to the breast meat. You can simply slice the breasts off (especially if you are using Wild Farm's chickens because their breasts are extremely large!). Try to keep the skin smooth as you do this so that it does not split.
- Use the sternum and leftover muscle for bone broth as well!
That's it! You've cut up a whole chicken. Keep these pieces for your favorite marinade or the grill. If you feel like cooking our seasonal CSA recipes, check out the honey soy chicken coming tomorrow!