How To Cut Up A Whole Chicken

by Meghan H

Published July 4, 2022

Many of us enjoy raising our own meat chickens to fill our freezers and feed our families. After you’ve mastered the job of raising your chickens successfully, then either processed them yourself or arranged for them to be processed elsewhere, the next big task is learning how to cut up a whole chicken to serve as a meal. After all, a plate of home-grown, homemade fried chicken is the end goal picture most of us probably have in our minds at some point.

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Meyer Hatchery Cutting Up A Whole Chicken Meyer Hatchery

Have A Sharp Knife

My preferred blade for parting out a whole chicken is a knife with a thinner blade that is about 7 to 8 inches in length. A good fillet knife is perfect, and my favorite is from Rada Cutlery.

Always be mindful of where your non-dominant hand is in relation to the knife blade. 

Whole Chicken cutting it up Meyer Hatchery

Step 1: Remove The Wings

With the breast side down, hold the wing up as you use your knife to make a cut at the back side of the shoulder area to remove the wing. Slice through the shoulder joint. To cut the wings up into the classic finger food segments, cut sharply through each joint to create the drummette, the flat, and the tip. There is no meat on the tip so you can put that into your bag to make stock later. I personally add the entire wing to my chicken stock bag with any skin, bones, and backs to make homemade chicken stock at a later date. 

Step 2: Separate Leg Quarters From Body

Grasp the end of the drumstick and hold it away from the body. Cut the skin between the leg and body, slicing down towards the groin area of the bird. Once the skin covering the inner thigh is cut, bend back the thigh/leg quarter until the hip joint pops out of its socket and use the knife to make a clean cut through the joint, separating the thigh/leg quarter from the body. Repeat for the other leg.

Step 3: Fillet Out the Breast Pieces

With the “head” of the carcass facing me and breast-side up, locate the keel bone located between the breast muscles. Use the knife blade to carve down just to one side of the keel bone and fillet out the breast meat, following the curve of the keel bone with the blade. The smaller “tender” is just under the larger muscle. Repeat on the other side of the keel bone. With a little practice, you’ll be able to create nice boneless breast meat pieces that consist of both muscles that comprise the breast. 

Step 4: Separate The Leg And Thigh

I find it easier to find where this cut needs to be made if the outer surface of the leg/thigh quarter is facing up. Make the cut straight down through the knee joint to sparate the leg from the thigh.

Step 5: Optional, Remove the Skin

The easiest way to remove the skin from your chicken pieces is to grab the edge of the skin with a clean kitchen towel and pull the skin away from the meat. Reserve your back, skin, and wing tips in a large ziplock bag to make chicken stock.

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