Cutting up Chicken Like a Pro

When I first started raising chickens I knew little on the subject.  I wasn't even very good at cooking the store bought ones let alone going from chick to finished product.  But I got good at raising them, the feeding and taking care of them was easy.  Butcher time was a story I will skip at the moment. A LONG (but interesting) subject that will possible make it's way here someday.  And then came time to do the cooking.  For quite a while I would just take the easy way out and roast my new birds like a thanksgiving turkey.  They turned out very nice, but dear husband had been waiting all summer for his favorite fried chicken.  So I bit the bullet and tried my hand at piecing up the plump beasts.  He wasn't amused when most of the pieces where quite unrecognizable.

 So I enlisted the help of my mother-in-law, the queen of fried chicken,  and the reason my husband is so darned picky when it comes to food. Nobody cooks as good as mom don't ya know! She taught me well and I am pretty good at it nowadays.  Even my husband thinks so!

Here is a little tutorial for those of you that are still chicken challenged.

A few tools that will serve you well on your journey.
  • a very sharp smaller knife- the sharper the better, I use a fillet knife
  • cutting board (glass is best for easy sanitizing)
  • larger knife for cutting through ribs and backbone if needed
  • gloves if you are leery about salmonella

I always start with the legs. Cutting off the leg and thigh is the easiest.  Start by spreading the legs out (no modesty here!) and cut the exposed stretched skin along the side.

I have done both legs.  You can see how the legs and thighs, the dark meat, will be separated from the wings and breasts, the white meat.

Fold you chicken backwards and try to break the back bone to separate the chicken's halves.  This is where a big kitchen knife could come in handy.

The back section needs to be separated from the thigh.  Work your knife along the side until you find a clear path to cut.  The back piece can be used for chicken broth. 

One of the trickiest cuts will be getting the leg off of the thigh.  Move the leg back and forth to find the joint.  You need to get your knife in between to have an easy cut. 

I head for the wings next.  These can be tricky too.  You need to find the joint again.  Try not to cut into the breast as you work your knife through.

Here is a good pic of the joint separated. Cut along the blue line... although I doubt there is a blue line in your chicken.

The ribs need to be cut away from the breast meat.  This is where you kind of need to "man handle" your chicken.  I promise it won't mind. Look for the last rib and start cutting down.  Cut and pull down until the last thing connected is the neck skin.  That will be your last cut.  Save the ribs for stock. Oh!  And if you are fortunate enough to have a chicken with the neck still on, make sure you save that to fry too.  Just try it,  you will thank me :)

Cut away the breasts from the breast bone.  I carefully fillet along the top and follow the bone down.  You can save this bone for stock as well. 

Check out the size of these breasts!  Hahaha, I should be careful what I put here, don't want google to list me as some OTHER kind of site.  This is one of the reasons that people so love home raised chickens.  The size of the chicken and the quality of the meat is far superior to anything from a store.  See those two pieces at the top?  Double breasted chickens!

So this is how I cut up for fried chicken.  If you are wanting to boil your chicken for say, soup or make a gravy for chicken and biscuits,  you wouldn't need to be so careful where you cut. 

Hope you found this helpful...Happy cutting!


  1. Debbie, I will admit that I have seen lots of tutorials on cutting chicken but they have all managed to loose me too fast. So, thank you for making it quick and easy to follow because this time I got till the end! I learned some quality stuff I didn't know before, f.ex. the way to cut the legs by breaking the backbone. I have so far done this in a slightly different manner that did not exactly produce beautifully shaped bits :)


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