I almost never cook my chickens whole. There are a few reasons for this.
1) I try to only cook as much chicken as my family will eat for one meal, enough for one portion per person. Cooking too much chicken means people eat more chicken than necessary, which costs more from a financial perspective, and that means I can serve fewer meals of chicken. I try to portion out meat in my freezer into exact meal sizes so I can cook as many as we need for one meal, and no more. A whole chicken is too much for us for one meal.
2) I used to hate white meat chicken. But that's because I was always served dry, overcooked white meat. White meat has a very different cooking time than the rest of the chicken, and if I'm going to be serving chicken, I'd rather make it in a way that tastes absolutely best, and not sub par chicken. Expensive foods should be made well, and not only tolerable. Why make dry as sawdust chicken when you can make succulent, tender, chicken breasts? When chickens are cooked whole, I find that in 95% of the time, the chicken breast gets dry and overcooked because it was ready before the rest of the meat. I cut up my chicken so that I can cook the dark meat and the light meat separate, and make each type of chicken in the way that it is most enjoyable to eat.
So, I chop up my chickens, using just my hands and a sharp knife, portion out the meat into meal size portions, and freeze them. (Usually I do this with a few chickens at a time, not just one. I elaborated more on why I do that in this post here.)
People have asked me how to butcher/chop up a raw chicken. I made a little video showing how. Mike took the video.
I realized only after I made the video that you can see my pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Oh well. And as for my nails looking funny (since someone commented on them in another post)- yes, I know my nail polish is coming off and right now I don't really care. For both of those, I have to say "I am 9 days postpartum, I'm allowed."
As for the plastic- I put it down to keep the meat off my counters and to make the clean up easier. I used the bags that my groceries were delivered in, then when finished, rolled it up and tossed it in the garbage.
I couldn't find the charger for my regular camera, so the video was taken with my old in camera, so the quality is less than perfect. (I don't have a lisp in real life.)
Oh, and this chicken came from the butcher missing a wing. Just pretend it has both wings, because it really makes no difference when it comes to how to butcher it...
For those of you who can't watch the video, I will explain step by step, in writing, what I do to chop up the chicken, but it's not as clear as watching it in the video.
Firstly, I wanted to say that whenever possible, I prefer to break/dislocate bones instead of sawing through bones with my knife. It makes it much easier.
Here's how I do mine:
1) Flip the chicken so that it is breast side up. You'll see a triangular shaped area at the bottom. Cut the skin along the edges of this triangle.
2) Flip over the bird. With your knife, saw a drop about half way up the chicken's spine. Keeping the knife on the spine, pick up the chicken legs/thighs while keeping the upper half held down. This should break the spine. Use your knife to cut the skin and meat to allow you to separate the upper half of the chicken from the lower half.
3) Take the lower half of the chicken, and hold it from both sides, and stick your thumbs in the middle on the spine, then pull the sides of the chicken legs towards you, breaking the spine. Use a knife to separate the skin and meat, so you now have two pieces of thighs connected to the legs.
4) To separate the legs from the thighs, using your sharp knife, cut around the joint between the thigh and leg, cutting all the way to the bone, and then break the joint/dislocate the bone, to separate the leg from the thigh. If necessary, use your knife to cut any more meat that is holding the two parts together.
5) Cut off the wings from the breast the same way you separated the thighs from the legs- cutting around the joint, as close to the breast as you can, and then bending the wing to dislocate the bone, then freeing the wing from the breast by using a knife to cut any meat that's still holding it in place.
6) Pull off the chicken skin from the breast.
7) Separate the breast from the carcass. To do this, first cut down the middle of the chicken breast, all the way down to the breast bone. Gently cut along the bone, all the way down, one side at a time, separating the entire breast from the bones.
8) To cut the breast into cutlets, lay it flat on your cutting surface, place your hand on it, and, with your knife cutting parallel to your hands, cut off as many thin cutlets as you can. I can typically get 3 large and 1 small cutlet from each side, cut if I cut carefully I can cut as many as 5 medium sized cutlets from one side.
Voila! The end!
From that one chicken, I got at least 15 or 16 servings of meat. Cool, no?
Do you ever buy whole chickens and butcher them yourself? Do you do it how I do it, or do you do it differently? What technique and tools do you use? If you have never butchered/chopped up your own whole chickens before, was this video/tutorial helpful enough so that you now know how to do it yourself? Do you think you'll try it out now? How do the prices of whole chickens compare to the prices of other cuts of meat in your area?