Chicken Deconstructed

Landon Nordeman

Next time you're in the supermarket, rather than buy chicken in prepackaged pieces, grab a whole bird and butcher it yourself. You'll save money, and the leftover carcass will make a fantastic base for stock.

Steps 1-9: Lay the chicken on its back. Spread one leg away from the breast so that the skin becomes taut. Using a knife, slice the skin in between the leg and the breast, allowing the leg to hang free. Pull the leg down and away from the body until the joint is visible. Then, tug the leg behind the body until the joint breaks and is exposed. Repeat with the other leg. At this point the legs should hang free from the body but still be attached by the flesh.

Steps 10-15: Turn the chicken onto its breast, keeping the legs spread apart. With a knife, score a line on the skin starting from the cut at the hip, going across to the backbone and down the backbone to the tail. Then retrace that score with your knife, slicing and separating the leg from the body. Repeat with the other leg; then set the whole legs aside, skin side up.

Steps 16-20: Keeping the chicken breast side down, spread out its wings. Grasp one wing and pull it out, so that the skin between the breast and the wing becomes taut. Holding the upper bone of the wing, insert your knife where the wing meets the back and cut through the joint. Remove the wing completely and set it aside. It should come off with no resistance. Repeat the process with the other wing.

Steps 21-25: Once you have removed the legs and wings, all that will remain is the breasts and backbone. Using your knife, make a slice down one side of the backbone, from the neck to the tail. Repeat on the other side of the backbone, until the flesh is loose from the bone and the backbone is completely separate from the breast meat.

Steps 26-29: Place the chicken breast side down. Insert your knife at the center of the breastbone at the neck and forcefully cut it, down the length of the breastbone to the tail. When you've finished, separate the two breasts and put them aside so that they are lying skin side up.

Steps 30-34: Take one of the reserved legs and place it on the cutting surface in front of you. Grasp the leg in one hand and the thigh in another, pulling the whole leg taut so that you can feel the knee joint. Insert your knife into the indentation where the leg and thighbone meet. Cut straight down through the joint, completely separating the leg from the thigh. Repeat with the other leg.

You should now have eight pieces in total: two wings, two breasts, two thighs, and two legs. The backbone may be used for making chicken stock: either use it fresh or place it in a resealable bag and keep it in the freezer until you're ready to make stock.