How to Cut a Whole Chicken
Purchasing a whole chicken is often more cost-effective than getting chicken that’s already been separated. However, if you don’t want to cook the bird whole, you need to cut it up. The most common way of doing this is an 8-piece cut. As its name suggests, you'll end up with 8 pieces in total at the end: 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 legs, and 2 thighs. Whether you decide to bake, roast, or fry these pieces, this tutorial will make sure you end up with smaller, more manageable portions that are sure to be a hit. For other methods for preparing chicken, check out our pages on how to spatchcock and debone a chicken.
Step-by-Step Instructions to Cut a Whole Chicken
Lay the chicken breast-side down with its legs towards you. Locate the backbone running straight down the middle.
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.
Make a 1/2” slit through the cartilage in front of the keel bone.
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.
Remove the keel bone by breaking the delicate skin on either side with your finger and pulling it out.
Flip the chicken over.
Cut down the middle where the keel bone used to be, cutting the bird into halves.
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.
Cut off the legs, or drumsticks.
Cut off the wing tips. Discard.
Separate the wings and breasts at the “shoulder” joint.