The Chicken Journey: How to Break Down a Chicken

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We have been trying to utilize as much of anything we buy as possible. I once heard someone say, in reference to kitchen scraps, that anything you throw away was something you paid for. Our first step in making use of everything was making our own stock with bones from our meat. We’ve since then learned how to use even more. Read on!

We’ve got in on some great chicken prices lately. Last week we bought 4 @ $1.29/lb for whole chicken and this week 8 @ $0.99/lb for a whole chicken. While we do eat whole roast chicken too (and I’ll share a great recipe a bit later), DH broke the chicken down into more usable (for our family) pieces.

Start with a whole chicken and a boning or thin-bladed knife. Our knife is from an Italian grocery store which cost us a whopping $6.00.

Grab the wing and pull it down and away from the chicken then with your knife you simply cut between the wing and the breast. By bringing the wing down and away to do your cut you are better able to get between the joint. Then cut off the wingtip at the joint and set aside. Repeat with the other wing.

Look and see where the thigh and the leg meet the breast. That is just skin and you want to cut between that. Bend the thigh down until you hear/feel a bit of a cracking sound which means the joint is separating, then run your knife along the bottom of the thigh and make your cut freely through the joint.

Scissors make this part a little easier. What you have left is the breast attached to the back. Where the ribs meet the back there is no meat so, on either side where the meat starts, I make a cut with scissors. Then the only connection left is at the front of the breast. Fold the breast away from the back and again just separate with the boning knife away from the joints.


Then tada! We have four nice piles of chicken: Backs, thighs, wings and breasts. You also have a pile of wingtips. Bag the breasts, thighs and wings into portion sizes that work for your family. Label and freeze. The backs and tips are then roasted. You can break it down further however these cuts work really well for us. Over the next little while as our family prepares and eats up this chicken, I will share pictures and recipes. You won’t want to miss that so think about subscribing (wink, wink).

I would like to mention that I have never broken down a chicken. As a northern girl, I did a lot of hunting in my pre-baby days and have shot/cleaned many a partridge. I also had the privilege (tongue in cheek) of shooting and cleaning a duck once but never a chicken but not for any reason other than DH always does it. I just said to him that it was too bad that we didn’t have any whole ones left for me to try do myself based on this post. DH assures me that it will seem challenging the first time but practice makes perfect.

Do you have any chicken breakdown tips? Please share!


  1. You shot and cleaned partridges?? I never knew that about you!:) Did you know we used to raise chickens and then butcher them? So I know how to cut up a chicken!:) I love reading your blog in my reader every couple of days and wish I had more time to comment/write to you. Someday…:) Love you!

  2. I can't break down a chicken, it totally grosses me out. I don't know why. I ususaly get John to do it. He's a better cook and everything he does that involves food is just far superior than what I can do. And I'm ok with that!

  3. Good job! I do this too, although I wish I had a bigger freezer so I could do that many. We just have a fridge-freezer. You don't need to roast the parts before making stock. Just take the excess skin and fat off, and simmer with your mirepoix.

  4. I leave it all in – skin, fat etc. to make broth. I think it tastes better in the end. Thanks for the tutorial.

  5. Amy (a.k.a smarty pants!) – I didn't know you raised chickens actually. I would love to have a few myself alas, city living doesn't permit it (yet) 🙂

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