Why should you buy and butcher whole chickens? For starters, it's more cost-effective than buying packages of boneless chicken breasts or thighs. Over the course of a year, breaking down whole chickens can save you a lot of money.
Even if you're rich and/or don't care about saving money, you should still buy whole chickens. Why?
Bones + water + time=stock. There's a myth that making stock is very involved and difficult. It's not. It's one of the easiest things to make. If you do it in a pressure cooker, it's even fast. Check it out.
Got a family of four? Buy 2 chickens and you'll have 4 breasts, 4 thighs, 4 legs, and 2 quarts of the best stock you've ever tasted.
With some practice, breaking down a chicken will take you less than 5 minutes. Don't have time for that? Here, try this.
Alright, let's get started.
What you'll need: a chef's knife and a chicken.
Grab hold of a wing and pull it up away from the breast and the rest of the chicken to expose the joint.
Using the tip of your knife, make a cut in the skin where the wing meats the breast. This will allow you to see where the join really is. Cut a little deeper until you have exposed the wing joint.
Here is the ball portion of the ball and socket joint. This is what you're looking for.
Work the tip of your knife into the joint, between the ball and socket, and gently work your knife through until the ball pops free.
Cut through the meat on the other side of the joint and your wing will come free from the rest of the chicken. Now flip the bird around and take off the second wing.
Next, take hold of a drumstick and gently pull the leg away from the rest of the chicken. Cut the skin between the leg and the breast, exposing the separation between the two parts.
Flip the bird over so the breast meat is resting on the cutting board. While holding the drumstick, pull the leg away from you, and back over the rest of the chicken. This will release the joint that attaches the thigh to the breast. That's the socket portion of the joint in the picture above. My index finger is is pointing to where the thigh meat begins.
Position your knife to the right of the beginning of the thigh meat, where it meets the backbone. Cut at an angle and release it from the backbone. This takes a little practice, but the trick is to keep the right side of your knife pressed against the backbone to ensure that you leave as little meat behind as possible.
Continue cutting along the backbone, while keeping the right side of your knife pressed against it. After an inch of two, you will get to the joint. Finish cutting the ball free from the socket. Then continue cutting along the backbone as you did in the last step. This will completely free the leg from the rest of the chicken.
You now have one free leg, which consists of the drumstick and thigh. Flip your chicken over and repeat.
Along a ribbon of white fat, you'll find the joint connecting the drumstick and thigh. Poke it with your finger, and you'll be able to pin point where the joint is. Make a small cut here to expose the joint.
Like so. That's the ball of the joint poking out there.
Position your blade right between the ball and the socket, and cut straight down.
Now, it's time to deal with the breasts.
Next, your going to cut the back bone off of the two breasts.
Position the fat end of the breasts on your cutting board, and cut straight down, through the ribs. Make sure you keep your knife to the right of the breast meat. You don't need to whack here. A smooth, strong cut is enough to go through these bones. You will eventually hit thicker bones at the bottom. Stop here.
Using your right hand, or your knife, pull the back bone to the right, away from the breasts.
Find the exposed ends of the thick bones (to the right of the knife blade in the photo above) and cut the breast meat away from the bones to release the back.
After cutting around the thick bones on either side of the breast, you can completely remove the back. Now let's de-bone the breasts.
With your non-knife hand, use your pointer and thumb to pull the breast skin taught and hold it that way. Gently run your knife down the center of the breasts, only cutting through the skin. This requires very little pressure from your knife, as long as it's fairly sharp.
Like, such as. Next, we'll remove the wishbone, which is the chicken's collarbone.
Flip the breasts around so the fat end is in the center of your cutting board. Use your finger to find the wishbone, which runs up the end of each breast. Make a small cut on the meat side of the bone, as shown above. Then, do the same with the wishbone end closest to you, in the second breast.
Push your finger into the cut and curl it under the bone to expose it. Then, use the tip of your knife to cut the breast meat away from it. Repeat with the second breast.
Next, we're going to remove the breast meat from the sternum and breast plate. Flip the breasts back around so the wishbone end is on the left. You can feel the ridge of the sternum running down the middle of breasts. Using the tip of your knife, cut along the side of that ridge that's closer to your body. This will expose the breast plate slightly.
Use your left hand to pull the breast meat towards you, and make a few more cuts from left to right along the breast plate. You can see the wishbone you exposed earlier on the left side of the picture above.
Keep going until the breast and tender are completely free of the bones. Then, cut through the skin to completely release it. Flip the chicken around and use the same technique to remove the second breast.
The tender (shown on the bottom of the breast in the picture above) can then be easily cut off of the breasts, if you'd like.
If you'd like to remove the skin, use your left hand to pull it up, separating it from the meat, and cut through the membrane that connects them (shown above).
Now you have 2 boneless breasts, 2 bone-in thighs, 2 bone-in drumsticks, 2 whole wings, and bones for stock.
While your cutting board's already covered in chicken, you might was well pre-salt some of those pieces for this week's meals.