How To: Butcher a Chicken

You know. You can barely even call this butchering. It’s…baby butchering. Butchering light. Diet butchering. Cutting up a chicken into all its various parts and bits is easy. Too easy for this girl, who set a New Year’s Resolution to learn how to butcher.

I said I would start small…learn how to properly break down a chicken. So that’s where I started.

Whole chicken. Didn't stay like that for long.

Remember my friend Ian? He took pictures of those Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies. Yes, well, I roped him into coming to my chicken class at Hill’s Kitchen. He hovered around me as I learned to pop bones out of joints and cut through cartilage.

The drama of the first cut!

I had to explain to the class that Ian was there just to take pics of me and my probably hackish looking bird when all was said and done. Awkward.

We used a small-ish knife throughout the whole process but mostly just our hands. A lot of popping of joints and what nots – like I said. Plenty of fingering around looking for that dip…in the…joint…where the oyster…oyster? wtf is an oyster? is.

Full monty. Chicken style.

You know it was at this stage here (above) when I got a little confused. Ian, Mr. I Spend Lots of Time On A Farm tried to interject and help. That’s when my inner 5 year old came out: SHH!! I can do it! He stuck to photos from then on mostly. (Sorry, Ian!)

This is when it got all Saw-ish for me.

Do you know how easy it is to cut through the bones of a chicken?! I mean…it’s way easy. I felt deceptively strong doing it.

Chicken gore! He had no idea what was coming!

I really enjoyed the class – especially the teacher. She was great at explaining everything, walking around to check our work and answering my sometimes stupid questions. She even kept repeating, “Let yourself make mistakes! It’s your first chicken!” Yeah! It was my first chicken…IAN!

There. I did it! All cut up!

I didn’t know how to take apart a chicken before this class…and it is a completely necessary skill I needed to master. Why? Because if you don’t know the basics of cooking you’re kinda shorting yourself out on an easier and richer cooking experience at home. Each basic skill or technique I’ve learned has made cooking that much more enjoyable! Plus, homemade chicken stock is the bomb and buying a whole chicken and cooking the entire thing in various ways is less wasteful and (possibly) cheaper in the long run. I also think there’s something to be said for being even a smidge closer to your food – cutting up your whole chicken certainly gets you closer to it. *steps off soap box* 

All the nibbly bits.

But still this whole chicken butchering thing was a little too easy for me. Nothing challenging about it! Wait, I don’t need a hack saw for any of this?! I think this might have been more interesting to me if I had to, say, take the head off and gut the chicken. Or de-feather it. That’s some real deal shit right there.

Shing! Shing! Knives and chicken parts!

This girl is ready for an upgrade. What kind of upgrade? Pig or goat or lamb, please! I even talked to Bev Eggleston of Eco Friendly Foods recently at a pig dinner at Dino about where I might be able to find some classes. I’m really excited to hear that Red Apron Butchery plans on opening proper butcher shops in DC where they’ll be doing butchering on site! Intern!? Anyone!? *points at self enthusiastically* Until then though, this is going to take some figuring out. I don’t have a car to drive out to farms or facilities outside of the city. Maybe I can find a chef who’ll help me learn? Maybe I’m closer to some butchering opportunities than I think? Who knows, but I’ll figure it out! This stuff is too fun to not keep pursuing it.

Have you guys ever cut up a whole chicken yourself? Did the smell ever get to you? Are you too grossed out by it all to butcher one on your own?

PS – A big, big thank you to Ian for coming to the class and making chicken look sexy! And for letting me use his photographs!

PPS – Because I realize you can’t learn just from looking at photos, here is a really great video from The Kitchen on how to butcher a chicken! How To Cut Up a Whole Chicken from Apartment Therapy: The Kitchn on Vimeo.

3 thoughts on “How To: Butcher a Chicken

  1. Great post! I’ve never properly butchered a chicken. Then again I grew up going to Asian Markets where they use a knife similar to a machete to hack away at the bird through the bones and all.

    Those chicken thighs are smaller than my thighs too.

  2. Pingback: Braised Chicken with Shallots | One Bite At A Time

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