How to Break Down a Chicken

Oleh : Itudomino

In this post, we’ll show you how to break down a chicken into wings, leg quarters (or thighs and drumsticks), and chicken breast. We’ll also show you how to de-bone chicken breasts to create boneless skinless chicken breasts and tenderloins. 

In addition to step-by-step photos and instructions, we also have a video showing the entire process! 

Why Learn How to Break Down a Chicken? 

While a whole chicken is good for roasting, you can also cut it into various pieces for a variety of uses. Wings, thighs, and drumsticks are great for braised and stewed dishes, as well as for frying and roasting. Then, you can use the remaining chicken breasts for stir-fries, and the chicken back/carcass for stock! 

How to Break Down a Chicken

You may also be wondering why you’d go to the trouble of breaking down a whole chicken when you can get these various pieces from the grocery store. 

Often, whole chickens are cheaper per pound than individual pieces. If you like to buy organic, you know that whole organic chickens are expensive, but organic chicken parts can be even more costly. Sometimes organic chicken leg quarters, thighs, or wings aren’t even available! 

Buying a whole chicken is also more flexible for the home cook. You break down a whole chicken, use what you need, and freeze the rest. 

Freeze chicken bones and backs and chicken parts every time you buy and process a whole chicken, and you will soon have enough parts for the meal you want to cook. See the end of this post for ideas on how to use your whole chicken—whether you like it bone-in or boneless—including recipes!

It takes some planning, but this is a skill worth learning, especially if you’re an avid cook, so let’s get started!

How to Break Down a Whole Chicken: Instructions

Before you start, make sure you have a sharp chef’s knife or Chinese cleaver. 

Rinse the chicken inside and out, and clean out the cavity (there may still be some organs remaining, depending on how the chicken was processed). 

Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel so the chicken is easier to grip. Be sure to thoroughly disinfect all your kitchen surfaces afterward.

Remove the leg quarters (chicken thighs and drumsticks):

Place chicken breast-side-up on your cutting board, and first remove the leg quarters (the thighs with drumsticks attached). 

Make a slit between the drumstick and the rest of the chicken, cutting only through the skin to expose the meat underneath. 

Slicing through skin between drumstick and rest of chicken

Then pull the leg quarter away from the chicken to pop the thigh bone out of its socket. Cut with a knife just past the joint, getting as much meat as possible. 



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