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Kitchen Notes: Cutting Up Chicken
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Cooking For Engineers



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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:36 pm    Post subject: Kitchen Notes: Cutting Up Chicken Reply with quote


Article Digest:
With the convenience of supermarkets providing chicken parts, we don't often have to cut up a whole chicken. However, precut chicken parts are often not uniform in size and shape, contain bits of shattered bone, and usually more expensive than buying a whole chicken. If you haven't cut up a chicken carcass before, then it can be a bit challenging. This sectioning method produces an eight piece, ten piece, or twelve piece result.

First, start with a clean surface and assemble your tools. All you really need is a strong sturdy knife and a large cutting board. I also like using kitchen or poultry shears. In the picture below, you'll see that I'm using a plastic cutting board, but wood would have worked just as well (see Equipment & Gear: Cutting Boards). In my case, my largest wood cutting board does not have a blood or juice groove, so I chose to use my large plastic board.
[IMG]

Remove the giblets from the chicken and set aside (often, I'll use these and any trimmings from the bird for making stock). Rinse the chicken and as much water as possible drip out before transferring to the cutting board. Orient the carcass so the breast is facing up.

Start by removing the legs. This is done by pulling a leg away from the body and scraping with the sharp edge of the knife through the connecting skin and tissue.
[IMG]

Once the bone is reached, use the tip of your knife to find the joint where the thigh meets the main body. Pressing down on the knife between the joint, cut through the cartilage and separate the leg from the body.
[IMG]

By cutting through the joint, you won't have any shattered pieces of bone in your chicken.
[IMG]

Use your fingers to feel where the thigh bone meets the drumstick and cut through the joint with your knife. Once you've separated the drumstick from the thigh, look to see where you started your cut. On the other leg, look at the same region. You'll notice a line of fat. Cutting straight down through this line will yield clean separation of drumstick and thigh.
[IMG]

Next, separate the wing from the body.
[IMG]

For a twelve piece chicken, cut the wing through the first joint. This cut is desirable when frying the chicken wings because it exposes more of the skin of the wing providing more area for breading and a more even fry. The wing portion with the tip is called a wingette, while the portion attached to the body is called the drummette.
[IMG]

Repeat the leg and wing steps for the other side.

Rotate the carcass so it is breast-side down. Using kitchen shears, cut through the ribs down both sides of the back bone. If you don't have kitchen shears, you can stand the bird up and cut down with your knife to remove the backbone. You can save the backbone for making stock.
[IMG]

Splitting the breast can be done from the breast side, as shown below.
[IMG]

Another method is to split the breast by cutting from the inside, through the keel bone.
[IMG]

Once the breasts have been separated, you can cut them in half for a ten or twelve piece chicken. This is often recommended to produce portions of similar size - especially since many chickens are bred to have large breasts.
[IMG]

This method of cutting up a chicken can produce the "classic" eight piece, even-portioned ten piece, or perfect-fry twelve piece cuts.

Eight pieces
<ul><li>2 drumsticks</li><li>2 thighs</li><li>2 wings</li><li>2 breast halves</li></ul>
Ten pieces
<ul><li>2 drumsticks</li><li>2 thighs</li><li>2 wings</li><li>4 breast quarters</li></ul>
Twelve pieces
<ul><li>2 drumsticks</li><li>2 thighs</li><li>2 wingettes</li><li>2 drummettes</li><li>4 breast quarters</li></ul>

Tools used:
<ul><li>Kitchen shears to cut backbone off</li><li>Chef's knife to section chicken</li><li>Boning knife is a great alternative for the Chef's knife for everything except cutting through the keel bone. A sharp boning knife will remove the wings and legs from body easily and since you are cutting through the joints and not bones, the thin blade gives great speed and flexibility.</li></ul>

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Kate
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi!

I stumbled over your site, weirdly enough, looking for an answer to a question about the way graphics are displaying in my Word document.

At any rate, great site. Thought I'd point you to DC-stuff's Cookbook. It's a collection of recipes from participants in a forum for people who attend Defcon -- the yearly hacker convention in Vegas.

Great recipes there and great commentary about how to enjoy wine, food, beer, scotch, and other delights!

I post at the list every so often and couldn't resist sharing with a fellow geek/gourmet! Smile
http://www.reeza.com/c00kb00k/
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an anonymous reader
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nicely done!
I had always learned to remove the keel bone before splitting the breasts, and I think a boning knife would be handy here.
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an anonymous reader
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

now of course the real chalange is to debone the dark quarter. Any tricks up your sleave for that?
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1629
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

re: deboning

That's another article... a sharp boning knife is very handy for extracting bones from the dark meat. Deboning a breast is pretty straight forward - but knowing the technique helps a lot (like cutting up the chicken).
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an anonymous reader
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

RE: deboning

I'd love to see an article about deboning.

-snekse
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//k
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i love the site! i love the way the recipies are laid out two dimensionally by ingredient and time. this whole website reaffirms my belief that cooking is just like chem lab but with more love. Smile
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Sean
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was just watching the food network the other day & the guy on Great Eats was ranting at some chicken while discussing exactly this!

Did that influence you to post this? Big smile
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1629
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

re: Good Eats

It turns out the very first episode of Good Eats I ever saw (a couple years ago) was Fry Hard II where Alton uses a T-Rex dinosaur model to show how to cut up a whole chicken. I was hooked from that moment on.

The impetus to post this article? Maybe my subconscious remembered Fry Hard II, but I my conscious thought process was: Hmm, I've been frying a whole lot of chickens (testing fried chicken recipes) and today whole chickens went are on sale... I should do a pictoral on cutting up a chicken.

If I remember correctly, Alton's method results in boneless breasts and an intact wishbone.
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mopalia
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've never had kitchen shears - I imagine I"d think they were indispensible if I had. But I get the same effect by using a stout knife (small French Chef's knife) to remove the backbone, cutting through the ribs on either side. Then you can just fold the carcass back so that the skin side of the breasts touch, and by loosening the membrane over the keel bone, the cartilage and the keel bone just pop right out - with a little guidance from the fingers. Fold the now boneless breasts over your knife and cut them in half. Same effect, no shears.
Love this site!
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1629
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

re: no kitchen shears

Great tip, mopalia! Thanks!
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an anonymous reader
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Spatchcock!
Possibly a Britishism? Anyways it's a great way to cut a bird for grilling.
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1629
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

re: spatchcock

I think we just call it: butterflied chicken
This typically involves removing the backbone and spreading the chicken out while pressing down on the breastplate until it breaks. Some grilling methods use skewers through the bird to hold it in position.
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Fritz
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article. i would like to hear how you create your own chicken stock also.Thanks.
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1629
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2005 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

re: chicken stock

My stock recipe is at:
http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article.php?id=75

I added links to the article within this one. Thanks!
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