Tip: How to Break Down a Chicken

When I buy chicken, I’ll buy a few packages of breasts (on the bone with the skin on), a few packages of wings (whole wings – I break down my own “Buffalo” style), leg-thigh quarters, and the rest that I purchase are whole chickens.  It’s so much cheaper to break your own chicken down than to pay the price for a “whole cut up chicken”.  Substantially cheaper.  Cheaper like half as much per pound cheaper.

It’s very very easy to break down a chicken, and the more you do it, the easier it gets.  Here’s how:

Have a large cutting board, a cleared off area, and a sharp knife.

Lift up a wing to reveal the “under-arm” of the bird.

IMG_1186 (WinCE)

Run your knife all around the joint of the wing.

cut wing

Once you’ve cut the skin and meat from around the joint, grab the wing firmly in one hand and the bird in the other and bend the wing backward until the joint pops out.

wing joint

Cut away any remaining skin or meat and the wing is now off of the body.

separate wing

Repeat with the other wing.

Lay the chicken breast up.  Pull the leg away from the body so that the skin stretches taut.

IMG_1190 (WinCE)

Take your knife and slice through the skin (you should not be slicing meat – it should only be skin here) until you reach the leg joint.

cut leg skin

Grip the leg in one hand and the body in the other and bend the leg back until the joint pops out.

pull leg out

Place the knife between the joint and the bone and cut to remove the leg and the thigh.

cut leg flesh

Repeat with the other leg.

leg off

What’s left are the breasts and back.  Place the bird breast up.


There is a breastbone in between the two breasts.  Put your knife against that bone, as close as you can get to it.  There is breast meat on it, so the closer you get to that bone, the less meat you lose off of your breast.

cut breasts half

Cut down until your breasts separate in half.  You can see that bone on the piece my hand is touching, and you can see the meat on the other piece.  That is what we just cut – what we just separated.

breast cavity revealed

Cut around the bone to remove the breast.  (You’re cutting around the backbone – I keep the breasts on the bone if I’m going to bake or boil them.)

slice breast off

Repeat with the other breast.

breast removed

What you have left is the backbone and carcass.  Don’t discard it.  Use this to make a fantastic broth.  I’ll post that recipe soon.

carcass for broth

Here is a whole cut-up chicken in the pot waiting for its transformation into something delicious!  If I hadn’t stopped to take pictures, I would have had it done in less than 5 minutes.

chicken in pan

NOTE:  Wipe your area up with paper towels that you discard, then sprinkle the entire area – cutting board, under the cutting board, the countertop, etc. – with baking soda.  Let it sit for several minutes before you clean it with your regular cleaner.  This will disinfect the area.  Do not use the knife, cutting board, or countertop again until you have effectively disinfected it.


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