Knife Skills: How to Break Down a Chicken

Knife Skills: How to Break Down a Chicken

Buying chicken breast from the store can save you a lot of time, but it cuts into your pockets in the long run. Any chef will tell you that breaking down an entire chicken saves money and gives you more bang for your buck.

You get the same two chicken breasts plus size, drums, a back, feet, and maybe some internal organs for the same price as those two packaged breasts. Plus, breaking down a chicken is not as hard as it seems.

Read along with us as we discuss how to break down a chicken using proper knife skills. We will tell you the tools you need and how to cut the bird down into eight delicious pieces. Let’s Begin.


To begin this process, you will need a chef knife or a poultry boning knife. This knife has the sharpness needed to cut into the cartilage and separate the arms and legs from its body.

Of course, you can always use the cleaver in situations like this, but any form of boning knife will do just fine.

Procedure for Four Pieces

  1. Cut down the wings of the bird until you reach the wishbone.
  2. Remove the wishbone by taking the tip of your knife and cutting it into the breasts. 
  3. Dig your fingers into the cut and retrieve the wishbone
  4. Separate the legs from the body by grabbing the drum and pulling it taut
  5. Make a shallow cut into the skin and twist the leg until the ball joint pops off.
  6. Cut the cartilage with your chef's knife and separate the leg. Repeat with the other leg
  7. To remove the back, place your chicken butt side up on your cutting board and cut between the breasts down to the second rib.
  8. Using your best boning knife, complete separation of the ribs until the chicken’s backbone has detached.
  9. Now you must split the breast by placing your bird skin-side down on the cutting surface, firmly driving the knife through the sternum, and dividing the breasts in two.

You can stop here if you only want to cut your chicken into four pieces. If you want more than that, then read on for the eight-piece cutting tutorial.

Procedure for Eight Pieces 

With your chicken in four quarters, you can continue to eight pieces with these steps:

  1. Separate the drums from the thighs by finding the ball joint between the two parts and cutting into it. A telltale white line of fat typically runs alongside the ball joint.
  2. Next, separate the wings from the breast by finding the ball joint within that system and cutting through it. 
  3. Using your strong hand and an excellent knife to accomplish these cuts is best because they can be tricky sometimes.
  4.  Repeat this process with the other half of the chicken, and you have successfully broken down an entire bird.

Remember to save all the non-edible parts for future stocks and stews and freeze any piece of the chicken you do not intend to eat immediately. Now that wasn't so hard, was it? You are a regular chicken-cutting savant.

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