Hold on a minute before grabbing a package of breasts and another of thighs and legs next time you’re at the grocery store. Buying a whole chicken and butchering it yourself is easier than you think.
There are several advantages to cutting up your own chicken. First of all, you know that all the parts came from one bird. While the risk of salmonella in chicken is low, the United States Department of Agriculture found it was three or four times more likely to find salmonella in cut-up chicken parts than in a whole chicken.
You’ll also save money because whole chickens are far less expensive than ones that have been cut up and pre-packaged. And you’ll have the backbone left over for soups or stocks.
Professional butcher Bruce Atkins, owner of The Butcher Block in Franklin, TN., takes us through the paces. Atkins portioned up the chicken pieces in about five minutes. You can too.
Start with removing the wings. Put the chicken breast-side down and feel for the joint where the wing connects with the back. Feel that knobby joint? Slice to the side of it nearest the body to remove the wing. Rinse and repeat to remove the other wing. By the way, Atkins says it’s not necessary to apply much pressure when cutting up a chicken, except to split the breasts in half.
Now to the legs and thighs. Turn the chicken over so it’s now breast-side up. Slice through the skin and locate the hip socket where it connects to the breast. Again, it’s knobby and as you peel back the leg and thigh from the breast you’ll be able to feel it. Slice to the side of the hip socket closest to the breast and remove both the leg and thigh at the same time.
Once you have the leg and thigh removed, then separate them by making a cut parallel to the already cut part of the thigh. Again, feel for the joint between the leg and thigh and slice to the side of it. You can also grill the leg and thigh whole.
Now remove the back. If you hold the chicken upright by the back and look into the cavity of the breast you’ll see where the back attaches to the ribs. Slice in a straight line down both sides of the back where it connects to the ribs and remove the back. Save it for soups or stocks and if you’re not using it immediately, wrap it in heavy duty aluminum foil and freeze it with the date.
Now all that’s left is separating the two sides of the breast. This is the only point at which you’ll have to apply a little pressure. The breast bone is directly in the center. Just place your knife in the middle of the breast bone and slice down.
And you’re done! One chicken, eight pieces and ready for the grill.