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How to Cut a Whole Chicken." />

How to Cut a Whole Chicken

Last updated on 1/02/2019

Purchasing a whole chicken is often more cost effective than buying chicken that's already been butchered into separate parts. The most common way of breaking down a whole chicken is to separate it into 8 parts, which is also called an 8 piece cut. Cutting a whole chicken into 8 pieces will result in 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 legs, and 2 thighs.

To learn how to cut up a chicken into parts, you can watch the video above or follow the step-by-step instructions below.

How to Cut Up a Chicken into 8 Pieces Step by Step

Here is how you cut up a whole chicken in 11 simple steps:

  • Person holding kitchen shears and a whole chickenStep 1.

    Lay the chicken breast-side down with its legs towards you. Locate the backbone running straight down the middle.

  • cutting the backbone from a whole chickenStep 2.

    Begin cutting along one side of the backbone down the entire length of the chicken. Do the same on the other side to fully remove the backbone.

  • You can discard the backbone or keep it to make delicious homemade chicken stock.

  • cutting the cartilage in a whole chickenStep 3.

    Make a 1/2” slit through the cartilage in front of the keel bone.

  • opening a whole chickenStep 4.

    Crack open the keel bone by folding the chicken outward.

  • The keel bone is another name for the breastbone and is found at the front of the bird, opposite the backbone.

  • Removing the keel bone from a whole chickenStep 5.

    Remove the keel bone by breaking the delicate skin on either side with your finger and pulling it out.

  • Cutting up a whole chickenStep 6.

    Flip the chicken over.

  • Spatchcocked chicken on a yellow cutting boardStep 7.

    Cut down the middle where the keel bone used to be, cutting the bird into halves.

  • Cutting a thigh from a whole chickenStep 8.

    Separate the thighs and breasts by cutting through the joint.

  • Cutting through joints is easy to do. However, if you try to cut through bone, it will be much more difficult. Always try to position your knife so you're cutting where the bones meet.

  • Cutting a chicken thigh from the drumstickStep 9.

    Cut off the legs, or drumsticks.

  • Cutting the wing tip off raw chickenStep 10.

    Cut off the wing tips. Discard.

  • Separating a chicken wing from a chicken breastStep 11.

    Separate the wings and breasts at the “shoulder” joint.

Other Ways to Butcher a Chicken

While this is one way to cut up a whole chicken, there are other options depending on how many pieces you want. Two other popular options are cutting chicken into halves and into quarters.

How to Cut a Chicken Into Halves

Cutting chicken into halves is popular when roasting chicken, and it results in an elegant presentation. To cut a whole chicken in half, begin by spatchcocking your chicken.

Once you have removed the backbone and keel bone, you can lay your chicken flat with the skin side up. Next, cut down the center of the chicken to create two halves.

How to Cut a Chicken Into Quarters

If you want to cut up your chicken into quarters, follow all the steps above to cut into halves. Then, there should be a crease where the breast meets the thigh. Cut along this ridge until the breast and wing are separated from the thigh and leg.


Once you have the desired number of chicken pieces, you can begin cooking. Additionally, you can also continue and debone your chicken or use it as is, depending on your recipe.

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Knife Safety Tips

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