Knife Skills: Breaking Down A Whole Chicken
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If there is one thing that you’d want to master as part of encouraging yourself to cook more, it would be to bone a whole chicken – one of the most inexpensive and efficient ways of meal planning and cost-effective cooking. Butchering a chicken into thighs, wings, breasts and drumsticks needs a combination of tools and skill. Learning how to work your way around a bird allows you to pick and choose the best cuts of meat for cooking and lets you control the size of each portion, based on the kind of recipes you plan on using them for. For example, chicken thighs work well in pretty much all kinds of recipes as opposed to chicken breasts, which are great when shredded and added to soups or stews. Similarly, using the drumsticks for biryani or comforting curries allows maximum flavour from the bone-in meat.

To begin with, buying chickens that are fresh is important in order to ensure that the meat hasn’t lost its moisture. Some grocery stores also sell chickens that have been pre-salted in order to remove excess liquid which might limit the uses for it – unless your sole purpose is to roast the chicken, in which case it might work in your favour. Using a sharp, good quality knife and a pair of poultry shears or meat cleaver to cut through the thicker pieces of bone makes breaking the chicken down a lot easier.

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Unlike spatchcocking a chicken – a technique that involves cutting along the backbone of the chicken and flattening the bird – breaking down a chicken is a fairly intricate process. Start off by trimming the wing tips by cutting the joint, right at the wing tip. Extract the wishbone located at the neck opening of the bird by cutting along each arm of the wishbone and detaching it from your breast meat. Next, pull the chicken leg away from the body and use the tip of your knife to cut through the muscle attachments keeping the drumstick connected to the bird.

Image Credits: The Daily Meal

Use a pair of poultry shears or your meat cleaver to cut along the backbone of the bird by holding it vertically on top of your work surface or cutting board. Cut through the ribs in short, firm strokes to separate the breast meat from the bone. Repeat the process on the other side, to have one steak of chicken breast. Divide the chicken breast into two pieces by placing the meat skin-side down and cutting through either side of the sternum or pressing your knife hard using your spare hand, into the meat. To separate drumsticks from the thighs, locate the ball joint between the thigh and drumstick and cutting through it.

To separate wings from the breast, hold the part of the wing and wiggle it lightly to expose the connected joint and cut through it. Save the discarded bones and parts of the chicken to make chicken broth or chicken stock. Alternately, you can also steep the chicken parts in a fat of your choice to make the most delicious chicken fat flavoured oil to use as base for soups, stews and even drizzle on chicken before it is roasted, for a double dose of flavour.