How to cut up a whole chicken

If you want to get the most money for your chicken, you should consider buying a whole one.  It may be intimidating if you’ve never learned how to cut up a whole chicken before, so I figured I would provide a quick tutorial and video showing the process from beginning to end.

Video showing how to cut up a whole chicken in 2 minutes

10 Steps to break down a whole chicken

This may seem like a lot of steps, but watch the video on how to cut up a whole chicken, then read the steps below.  I’ve added time stamps next to each step so you can follow along on the video.  I didn’t narrate the video because my daughter was already sleeping when I shot this video.

  1. (If applicable) Remove any contents found inside the chicken cavity.  Sometimes, markets will place the edible organs into a bag and stuff it into the cavity of the chicken.
  2. Pat down your chicken with a paper towel so the outside is relatively dry.  If the chicken is wet, it will slide around the cutting board which is not ideal.
  3. Grab a leg and flip your chicken onto its back, so you are looking at the bird breast side up.  Cut away the skin between the leg and the body (video 0:03 – 0:11).  Once the skin is removed, you should be able to bend the leg back and popping the thigh bone out of its joint.  This is where you want to cut the thigh away from the body.  Keep your  knife as close to the spine as possible to get all of the thigh meat. (Video 0:12 – 0:19).
  4. Repeat step 3 on the other leg. (Video 0:19 – 0:35).
  5. (optional) Trim away the extra fat found on the drum stick side of the thigh.  I do this because I was using this chicken to make soup, but if you plan to grill or roast your chicken, then you can choose to leave it on. (Video 0:35 – 0:50).
  6. Now, grab the wing and pull it away from the body.  Use your knife and cut between the wing joint and the breast.  Be careful to not cut away too much of the breast.  Cut as close as possible to the wing.  Similar to the leg, bend the wing back to pop the bone out of the joint and cut at the joint.  Cut away the tip of the wing since there isn’t much meat there anyways. (Video 0:50 – 1:03).
  7. Repeat step 6 on the other wing. (Video 1:03 – 1:18).
  8. To remove the breast, find the center of the chest and cut a straight line from the top of the chest down to the bottom.  The chest bone is right in the middle, so once you find the center of the chest cut about 1 mm to the side closest to you, to avoid hitting the chest bone.  Follow that same cut as you peel away the breast to remove one side.  Keep your cut as close to the rib cage as possible to ensure you keep the breast meat fully intact.  (Video 1:18 – 1:32).
  9. Repeat step 8 on the other side. (Video 1:32 – 1:54)
  10. You’ve successfully cut up a whole chicken!  The remaining bones are great for making stock or soup.  If you use the bones, just make sure to trim away any extra fat (usually found around the tail and back under the skin).

how to cut up a whole chicken

Why would you want to learn how to cut up a whole chicken?

If you buy a whole chicken, it will usually cost you about half as much as it would to buy the same amount of chicken in pre-cut packaging.  Since we live near Irvine, CA, I can tell you the prices I see at my local market.  When I buy a whole organic chicken that is roughly 3 – 4 lbs, it costs me about $13.  If I buy the same chicken pre-cut, (picnic pack) I would pay around $19.  If I purchased 3-4 lbs of either just chicken breast or boneless chicken thigh, I would pay around $30 – $35.

If you only want one type of meat (breast, thigh, drum sticks, etc.), then go ahead and buy pre-cut chicken.  However, if you want to get the most chicken for your money, especially if you can find ways to use all the different pieces, then buy your chicken whole.  I buy at least one or two whole organic chickens each week which I use to make soup, chicken steaks, and chicken breast to add into my dog’s food.  Hopefully this post on how to cut up a whole chicken has been helpful.  If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below.

Derrick Chan
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Derrick Chan

Sr. Manager eCommerce Innovation at Taco Bell
Ever since I was 5 years old my mom had me helping out in the kitchen.So it didn’t come as a surprise that I ended up loving food.Whether eating, cooking, smelling, seeing, or reviewing I enjoy all aspects of food.
Derrick Chan
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About Derrick Chan 152 Articles
Ever since I was 5 years old my mom had me helping out in the kitchen. So it didn’t come as a surprise that I ended up loving food. Whether eating, cooking, smelling, seeing, or reviewing I enjoy all aspects of food.

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