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Kitchen Notes

Boning Chicken Breast

by Michael Chu
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Many recipes call for skinless, boneless chicken breast. If you've bought whole chicken breast (with bones) or you're sectioning a whole chicken, then there's a good chance that at some point you'll find yourself desiring to debone your chicken breasts for a recipe. Here's a step by step guide.

When working with a whole chicken, follow the Cutting Up Chicken instructions until you've removed the backbone.

Instead of splitting the breast, we'll want to remove the keel bone first. To easily accomplish this, we'll first need to break the wishbone - the Y shaped bone at the head end of the breast. Position the breast such that the skin-side is down on the cutting board and the cartilage is pointing away from you. Using the heel/base of your knife (shown below) or the tip of your knife cut the wishbone so the Y is separated into two pieces.

Next place short two diagonal cuts through the cartilage holding the tip of the keel bone in place - this should form a V shape.

Turn the chicken around so the cartilage is pointing toward your body and dig your fingers into the area where you made the V shaped incision through the cartilage. Grab a hold of the keel bone and pull up and out.

In most cases, the keel bone and the cartilage behind it will pull out of the chicken breast without a break. If this does not happen and the keel bone comes out without the cartilage, simply run your fingers under the cartilage to loosen it from the meat and then pull it out.

Next, remove the rib bones. I find it easiest to do by lifting the ribs from the point furthest away from the wishbone and cutting it away from the breast with a boning knife. Using short swiping cuts while lifting the ribs away lets you remove the ribs quickly and without taking too much meat with them. When you have almost completely removed the ribs, you'll get to the wishbone. Simply trim around the wishbone until it too has been removed from the breast. After repeating this operation on the other set of ribs, your chicken brest is boneless.

Cut the breast in half (cut where the keel bone used to be).

The breast halves should each have a flap of meat called the chicken tenderloin (or chicken tenders or strips). Lifting the tenderloin should reveal a white tendon. I recommend two ways to trim off this tough tendon. The most popular method is to grab the tendon with your fingers and pull on it while scraping with your knife to release the tendon from the breast. Continue to lift and scrape until the tendon is completely removed. Alternatively, you can use a sharp boning knife and slice along both sides of the tendon (without slicing through the tendon). Then lift any part of the tendon that has been separated from the breast and use your boning knife the cut any parts where the tendon has not cleanly separated from the meat.

Repeat with the other breast. If you choose to, remove the skin at any convenient time (after removing the backbone or after boning has been completed or anytime in between).

Tools used:

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Written by Michael Chu
Published on August 05, 2005 at 04:26 PM
10 comments on Boning Chicken Breast:(Post a comment)

On August 08, 2005 at 10:36 AM, FranksPlace2 said...
Subject: Turducken
On two occasions I have made Paul Prudhomme's Turducken from scratch. This is a deboned chicken, stuffed with andouille dressing, inside of a deboned duck, stuffed with cornbread dressing, inside of a deboned turkey, stuffed with oyster dressing.

To debone the birds, you cut them down the back and chase the meat off the bone following the rib cage. You cut around the leg joints and chase the meat off the leg bones.

The result looks like a big fat turkey. When you slice through, you get each of the three birds and the three dressings.

On August 31, 2007 at 02:32 PM, Auspicious said...

Have you done a cost comparison of buying whole chickens and boning yourself vice buying boned parts?

On August 31, 2007 at 04:25 PM, Michael Chu said...
Not yet. I've thought about it in the past but never thoguht it worth the time - it might be an interesting though and if there are a bunch of readers, then it'll be worth the effort and time. I suppose I'll just buy (at non-sale prices so I get somewhat accurate relative prices for each part) whole, sectioned, and sectioned and boned chickens and then weigh each one and then section and bone the whole chicken and bone the sectioned chicken and weight the parts and calculate price per edible portion. I think the differing sizes of chickens (whole compared to breasts from a bird bred for breasts, etc.) should net out since it's representative of what you'd actually buy from the store. What do you think?

On September 05, 2007 at 07:50 PM, (guest) said...
Subject: Chicken Costs
In My Area, Syracuse, NY. the cost of on the bone chicken and boneless chicken is almost the same. My weight comparisons have almost always been that a bone in chicken breast weighs twice as much as a boneless chicken breast. Of course when I bone my own, I get much better Fillets.


On September 07, 2007 at 01:44 PM, Auspicious said...
Michael Chu wrote:
whole, sectioned, and sectioned and boned chickens and then weigh each one and then section and bone the whole chicken

It seems to me that the greatest value would be get chickens in a range of sizes (three perhaps? small, medium, and large?) and bone them. You could then report the ration of purchase weight and meat weight. Do the same for a couple of sectioned bits.

That makes the evaluation price independent and people can use the ratios (assuming we are all equally proficient at boning <grin>) to compare prices in the store. It is then up to each of us to decide what our time is worth, and the value of the bones and other leavings for making stocks and soups.

My thoughts.

On December 26, 2007 at 08:26 AM, Weekend chef (guest) said...
Subject: Chicken breast
Thanks for the photos and instructions. They are very clear and informative. My family members does not eat chicken breast. After cooking a chicken, we usually give away all the breast parts to a neighbour who like it.

On July 06, 2009 at 03:00 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Nice tutorial, but why do you wear gloves?

On July 07, 2011 at 04:44 PM, Nebet (guest) said...
Nice tutorial, but why do you wear gloves?

Because raw chicken is pretty gross, I'd wager, and wearing gloves means you don't end up with chicken bits under your fingernails (or under-fingernail bits in your chicken, for that matter.)

On July 07, 2011 at 05:03 PM, Dilbert said...
>>chicken bits under your fingernails

heehee. actually, quite the opposite. gummymint FoodSafe type regulations requires the glove to keep the people from contaminating the (dead) chicken . . . .

like the sign says: Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work

On July 08, 2011 at 11:28 AM, Jim Cooley said...
Dilbert wrote:

like the sign says: Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work

Knowing the governement, I bet that sign's required even at an undertakers...

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