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How to Cut a Whole Chicken

Last updated on 6/08/2017

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

  • 1.

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

  • 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.

  • 3.

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

  • 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.

  • 5.

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

  • 6.

    Flip the chicken over.

  • 7.

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

  • 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.

  • 9.

    Cut off the legs, or drumsticks.

  • 10.

    Cut off the wing tips. Discard.

  • 11.

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

Related Resources

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

Cooking a whole chicken can make for a juicier, more satisfying end product. In order to get the meat to cook evenly, you need to cut the chicken so it lays flat. This is a method called spatchcocking, and it's the best method for grilling or roasting a whole bird. To do this, all you need is your bird, your cutting board, a knife or kitchen shears, and these instructions, and you’ll be on your way to spatchcocking a chicken. For other ways to prepare chicken, check out our videos on how to cut and debone a chicken . Step-by-Step Instructions 1. Lay the chicken breast-side down with its legs towards you. Locate the backbone running straight down the middle. 2. Begin cutting along one side of the backbone down the entire length of the chicke

How to Debone a Chicken

While using a whole chicken may be the most economical way to prepare poultry dishes, it can be a little daunting when trying to figure out how to get the meat you need. There’s no need to be overwhelmed, though, since this tutorial will guide you through the steps of how to completely debone a chicken. So whether you’re making a stew, stir fry, or sandwich, this how-to guide will make sure you get all the delicious, tender chicken you need to prepare your signature dishes. You can also use the removed bones to make a rich, delicious chicken stock for soups or stews. For other methods of preparing chicken, check out our guides on how to spatchcock and cut a whole chicken . Step-by-Step Instructions 1. Lay the chicken breast-side down with i

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