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Cutting A Whole Chicken

Cutting A Whole Chicken

By Sofia

Using a whole chicken makes me feel like the ultimate kitchen maestro. And you can too!


I used to volunteer as an instructor for a basic community cooking class and we devoted a whole class to learning how to cut a chicken. While this culinary feat seems challenging, it's quite simple. Buying a whole chicken is less costly than buying the pieces separately (we paid $3.50 a pound for a whole pasture-raised broiler at the farmer's market  vs. $7.99/lb at Whole Foods). Using a whole chicken also presents the option of cutting the chicken, using some pieces now, and saving the rest in the freezer for later. 

Here's how (see photo on the right for knife placements):


  • Your sharpest, sturdiest knife (a small sharp kitchen knife may not suffice)
  • Cutting board*
  1. It doesn't matter where you start cutting, but you'll want to cut at the joints of the wings/thighs/legs.
  2. The photo to the right has arbitrary numberings where you'll want to make your cuts.
  3. Cut at any of these 3 places before proceeding. You should have 6 pieces total at this point.
  4. Stand the carcass up like it's an egg to see where the top and bottom are. Cut the carcass in the frontal plane (#4) to separate the breast and the backbone
  5. Cut down the middle of the breast bone to separate into 2 pieces of breast (#5). The backbone piece isn't commonly consumed but it does provide plenty of nutrients - we steamed it in a big pot of veggies and rice. You should have 8 pieces (2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 breast)


For more detailed step-by-step instructions and photos, see this link from Eating Well.

The photos on the left show how we used some of the chicken in cooking. We baked in plain water on a bed of collard greens spiced with turmeric and cayenne. 

Unfortunately I cannot post calories or macronutrients here as I usually would because the size of the pieces of meat will vary based on the size of the chicken. 

*Do not cut meat and veggies on the same cutting board unless ALL of the ingredients will be cooked thoroughly. It's always best to designate separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables to avoid any potential contamination.

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