How To Cut Up A Whole Chicken

Master this essential kitchen skill now

Along with knowing how to properly chop an onion and boil an egg, breaking down a chicken is one of the most essential kitchen skills to have in your repertoire. Buying a whole chicken saves you money, sets you up with the bones to make a delicious stock and gives you a chance to show off those knife skills. And while we're on the topic of knives, make sure your boning or chef's knife is nice and sharp before you get to work.

This method leaves you with two wings, two bone-in legs and thighs (which you can separate to get the drumstick and the thighs), two boneless breasts and a carcass to make stock.

Before you get started, pat that bird dry! This not only prevents accidental slips but also ensures your bird cooks up with a golden crisp skin. Here's how to get started.


Remove the wings: Flip the bird breast-side down. Locate the joint that meets the body cavity. Carefully cut around the joint, then pop the wing and cut throught. Repeat with the other wing.

Remove the legs: Flip the bird breast-side up and cut through the section between the leg and the body. Make sure not to go all the way. Using your hands, grab the leg from underneath and pull downward to pop the thigh joint from the socket; sever the leg. Repeat on the other side. Flip the leg and thigh skin-side down. You'll notice a thin layer of fat separating the drumstick from the thigh. Cut through the fat to separate the drumstick and the thigh. Repeat with the other leg.

Remove the wishbone: This step might not seem that important, but it's actually crucial when breaking down a chicken, because it allows for clean, even cuts when removing the chicken breast. Working breast-side up, pull the neck skin down from the chicken and feel around for the V-shaped wishbone. Make small incisions on both sides of the wishbone until it's easily detachable, then simply pull the whole thing out.

Using your fingers, feel for the bone that separates the two breasts. Run your knife along one side of the bone, keeping your knife as close as to the bone as possible and using long strokes pulling the breast away from the bone. Repeat on the other side.