How to Break Down a Whole Chicken

by autumn on July 3, 2012

By far, the area of my culinary repertoire that I am least confident in is meat. I don’t have a ton of experience cooking it and when I buy it I tend to cook it in ways that give me little to no opportunity to screw it up. This means when I buy chicken, it’s often a whole chicken and I put it in the oven that way.  Last weekend, at the Queens County Market, I sat in on a chicken butchery demo and came away feeling like just a few simple tips upped my comfort level exponentially. The most helpful takeaways for me were:

  • You don’t need a special knife. I had the misconception that the one knife I own, a pretty basic chef’s knife, wouldn’t be up to the job. Not so. A chef’s knife is great, as long as it’s sharp.
  • Look for the joints: A big part of breaking down a chicken is just using your knife to help you cut through the skin and flesh and expose the joints. Once you find the joints, you’re just popping them apart. Another misconception that I had was that breaking down a chicken involved a lot of cutting through bone. Also not true.
  • It shouldn’t be hard: The anatomy of the chicken should be your guide and you shouldn’t meet a lot of resistance at any point. If you do, take a deep breath, sharpen your knife, and study your chicken anatomy.

With the concerns that I had going in, these were the tips that stuck with me most. There’s a great bon appetit slideshow and a video from Serious Eats on breaking down a chicken. It’s totally helpful to watch someone else do it a few times. I typically choose to buy whole chickens because they’re an economical option, but having a better idea of how to break them down makes them even more economical–and versatile!

(I received free entry into the event in exchange for taking photos, but my opinions remain my own.)

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Christina July 4, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Sooo helpful! Thank you Autumn!!!


2 autumn July 4, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Thanks for encouraging me that it’d be a good idea to post 🙂


3 Kate @ Snowflake Kitchen July 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I wish we had a class on this in my neck of the woods… I think I’d feel more comfortable breaking down a whole bird with an expert pointing out the chicken anatomy.


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