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How to cut a whole chicken step by step

Is learning to cut a whole chicken like climbing Mount Everest? I bet you think so but with fewer and fewer grocery stores carrying pre-cut whole chicken, this is a skill you need in your belt. Get the steps to do it fuss-free.

Before you begin

Working with raw chicken is no big deal and there’s no need to wear plastic gloves. That’s silly. Just run a sink of hot, soapy water to wash in as needed, and use a cutting board you can sanitize. Never use wood for raw poultry.

You’ll also need a sharp knife. I rely on my Wusthof and would never use anything else. If you’re using a Walmart Farberware nonsensical something you’ll be ready to throw that chicken and your knife out the window before you get done. A good knife will set you back $60 or more but it’s a must.

Step 1: Turn your chicken breast side up

start with a whole chicken, breast side up

Your chicken’s breast meat and legs are on the same side of your chicken. This means your breast meat is up the the legs don’t touch the cutting board. That’s the easiest way to explain it. You can also feel the chicken and notice which side is softer–that’s the breast meat.

Step 2: Cut away the thighs and legs at the joint

a chicken on a cutting board cutting the thighs away

Starting at the thigh, gently pull the leg and thigh out and cut straight down to the joint. A lot of people make the mistake of trying to cut through the bone but you’ll want to put the point of your knife in the joint itself and cut down. The thigh will come away cleanly. Repeat on the left side. You can cut the legs away from the thigh if you choose in the same manner.

Step 3: Remove the wings

a chicken on its side to cut away the wings

Pull one wing out and cut down to the joint where it joins the body. Using the tip of your knife, insert it in to the joint and cut the wing away. It will come off easily. You can leave the wings whole or cut them in to two parts.

Your chicken will look like this with the thighs and wings removed:

a whole chicken with thighs and wings removed

Step 4: Remove the back from the breast meat

a chicken turned up on its end to remove the back

Stand the breast up on its end with the cavity end up. Cut straight down through the ribs to remove the back. You’ll have to use some muscle for this part but just go for it.

You’ll be left with these two parts. Freeze the back for making homemade chicken stock later.

the separated back and breast of a whole chicken

Step 5: Separate the breast meat

an upside down chicken breast on a cutting board being cut down the center

Turn the breast meat upside down, bone side up and cut down the length to make two separate bone-in breasts.

Cut the breast meat in half, making four parts. Bone in chicken breasts are very thick and would take a long time to cook properly so cutting them into fourths helps shorten the cook time. You’re welcome to leave them whole.

two chicken breasts on a cutting board and being cut into four pieces

The finished product

a cutting board of 8 pieces of cut up chicken

You made it! Now it’s time to turn that beautiful bird into some amazing recipes.

What to cook with your cut up whole chicken

Buttermilk fried chicken

Chicken and Mushrooms with Herb Gravy

a pot of chicken and mushrooms in an oval dutch oven

Nashville Hot Fried Chicken

nashville hot fried chicken tenders on bread with pickles

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About the Author

Rachel Ballard, RN, BSN brings more than 20 years of professional nursing expertise to Feast and Farm. With a love for nutrient dense foods that support wellness, she works to distill complex health information and current trends into recipes that fuel the best version of yourself. Read more about Rachel here.