How To Cut Up A Whole Raw Chicken Into Individual Portions- Video Tutorial

 photo chicken_zps8a47ee1f.pngYesterday, I went to the grocery store and whole chickens were sold at incredibly low prices. Whole chickens, locally, are always cheaper to buy than buying individual parts, especially if you're talking about parts like chicken breasts and thighs, which are some of the most expensive parts per pound locally. (If you want to check out what works out cheapest per pound of actual meat, check out my table where I figured out what percentage of each cut of chicken is actual meat, so that you can plug in your prices and figure out how much you're paying per pound of meat for each different cut.)

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.

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3) Chopped up chickens are easier to stretch. Firstly, because each side of the chicken breast, instead of serving one person, can be made into cutlets, so that you get between 6 and 10 cutlets/servings from each bird instead of two servings of white meat chicken. Secondly, you can chop up the white meat and stretch it with veggies in stir fries. Thirdly, you can grind the white meat chicken and stretch it with fillers in chicken meat balls, chicken loaf, burgers, etc... Fourth, because you can use the carcass to make a terrific, strongly flavored chicken soup (I usually use 1-2 carcasses and a bunch of veggies for a large pot of soup). While you can use leftover chicken bones from pre-roasted chicken in your soup, I find the flavor isn't as strong as when you use a plain, raw, chicken carcass to make the soup. Fifth, once you make the chicken carcass into a soup, you can pick the meat off the carcass and either serve it in the soup, or as the meat in an additional meal, like a chicken pot pie or stir fry. Sixth, doing it this way allows me to remove the skin from the portions I prefer to eat without the skin, so that I can use the skin to make my rendered chicken fat.

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.

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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?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. haven't watched the video yet. just wanted to comment on something else. if you want to cook a whole chicken and have moist white meat, try cooking the chicken breast side down. i do this in an oven, uncovered, rubbed with spice, 350 degrees, two hours. the fat runs from the dark meat onto the breast, keeping it moist. if you every have opportunity to cook a whole chicken, try it. it makes a huge difference.

    1. I've tried that, I've tried it breast up, i've tried smeared with mayo to seal in the moisture, i've tried covered tightly to seal in the moisture, i've tried steamed, etc... I guess I'm just very picky about my white meat. I like it just barely cooked- just until it changes colors. I bake my chicken cutlets for maybe 10 minutes max- any more and i find it dry and overcooked....

  2. Oh the chicken bones are killing me.Thanks for this

  3. Don't worry ! I didn't notice the dishes nor the nails :P

    If we have rosted chicken in the house, my man will eat half the chicken for a first meal and the other half for a second meal... It is so ridiculous that it actually makes me laugh :)
    The better the food, and the more he eats :P
    I tried to make double batches of some of our favourite recipes but he just ends up eating more if there is more XD I gave up (I guess I have to put the food in small dishes and hide the rest...)

    1. We used to have this problem so I decided to go about it differently! Right after I finish cooking, I go ahead and make our lunches for the following day for wok before I even fix dinner plates. :) Works beautifully!

  4. I didn't notice the dishes either, even after you mentioning them. You made that look easy. I suspect it probably gets easier with practice.

    1. Thanks! I did manage to clear off the counter... And there weren't *too many* dishes in the sink.
      It does get easier with time, but the first time it isnt so hard either.

  5. if you had a better knife it will take you a quarter of the amount of time and there would be no need to pull anything apart or rip the chicken to separate.

    1. lol my knife is actually pretty sharp, and its a good knife. Just my being nervous because i was being filmed made me not cut as well, etc....

  6. I've never had any issue with dry white meat. It does make me think that you're either cooking your chicken too hot or too long, and probably a bit of both. But also, the whole chickens we get here tend to be quite a bit smaller than the chickens that provide the parts--it's rare to find a whole chicken that's more than 3 lbs. Usually it's between 2-3 lbs. Also, do you give your chicken time to warm up a bit? The advice I've read says you should wait until the chicken is room temperature; personally I find that a bit too hot for comfort, but I do take it out of the fridge and do the last bits of prep work on it (stuffing, etc) about 15-20 minutes before it goes into the (preheated) oven.

    If that doesn't do it, I suppose you could always try brining ;-D

  7. thanx for sharing. film was great. my mom uses a whole chicken for soup, and when finished, she will rebake it with spices and is very good. I also dont cut up my chicken, cause I just like baking it all together, but I know plenty of pple that do.

  8. 15-16 servings? That's amazing, curious how big are the portion sizes? Thank you for the video.

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