Sunday, 26 July 2009

Chop up that chicken!!!

As promised, its chicken time. First things first, how to save lots of money and learn to love your chicken at the same time. Buy it whole and learn to cut it up!!! Cutting up a chicken may take you a bit of time at first, but once you get the hang of it, it truly is less than a five minute job, so practice on a few birds and get ready to enjoy...But a few things to discuss before butchering the butchery of your chicken.

Firstly, make sure you have some time to do this. This is a job that should be done before you start your other cooking for the upcoming meal. The main reason you need the time? So that you can cut up the chicken, and then clean the knife, the counter, the cutting board, etc. before you move on to salads and veggies.
Secondly, make sure you have purchased your chicken from a reputable source. I try to meet my butcher so we are on a first name basis and usually they become even more helpful. If you are simply heading to the supermarket, well then, by all means, check the use by dates. I am not here to give the full lecture on the importance of how your chicken lives and what this means to what you will be eating and tasting...simply put, you are what you eat...caged or decide!!!!
Now, lets get set up. You will need a good sharp knife. I use a "boning knife" as shown below, but any sharp, sturdy, not flexible blade will do. You should clear off a section of your counter where you can place a damp cloth or damp paper towel (this keeps your cutting board from moving around on you), a cutting board on top of this, and also have a few small and one large bowl ( the small bowls are for garbage and usable scrap, the large bowl for your cut up chicken pieces)
Last step before beginning is to make sure your sink is clear so when you are washing up the knife, cutting board, etc from this butchery you don't get it all over other clean or even dirty dishes. Better safe then sorry with raw meats!!!

Below will be a somewhat detailed/exhaustive series of photographs i took the other day as I was cutting up a chicken. I suggest you get a couple friends and a few chickens and do this task together, and then have a big ole bbq. This way you can all learn from one another and share in the tasty rewards!!!
Set your chicken ( rinse inside and out and then pat dry) on the cutting board and take a good look at it. Observe the legs, wings, breasts, etc...

Introductions are always nice, so shake hands with your chicken and at the same time check out its wing, and where the joints are.

Cut through the joint with minimal pressure, as you are finding the space between two bones, not needing to actually cut through any bone. This takes practice, but just let your knife feel around the area for the spot where it can easily cut through the wing joint.

Now that both wings tips are cut off and saved in a bowl for "good scraps" , we can cut off the fatty "butt" bit of the chicken and throw that in a garbage bowl

Now is the slightly tricky part of separating the wish bone. You need to turn your chicken around, and looking through neck cavity, pull up the skin slightly and feel around for the wish bone ( you know the shape "y") and using a small paring knife, try to trace an outline around it to loosen it ( but be careful to not cut too much into the breast meat).
Now you should be able to reach up further to the apex of the wish bone and pull it out . We pull the wish bone out in order to make cutting the breast pieces off easier at a later point in the process.

Now is the time to give a nice massaging pull to those lil chicken legs. A few gentle pulls, back and forth, and again. We pull on them to loosen them from the skin a bit and gain a better view of where we will be cutting next.

As you stretch the leg out from the body, cut through the skin, and as the flesh gives way, you will see the "seam" that you are to follow ( you can actually do this part without a knife, the object is to simply dislocate the hip bone)

Continue to cut/pull the leg away from the body. The cutting action should be very light and delicate, there is no need for force, unless you want to not use a knife and simply yank the leg away from the body.

Make sure to cut the sinew holding the leg onto the body.

Keep pulling/gently cutting along the muscle "seams" making sure not to cut into the meat, but simply follow the lines.
Voila, Nice leg!!

Cut any excess fat away, and repeat on other leg.

Observe you now have two legs, two wings, and its time to take of the breasts. First,smooth the breast skin over the breasts to make sure it stay s in place.

Stand the chicken on. its headless head..

Using a stiff/strong knife, make a cut to separate the top ( breasts) from the bottom( back) sections of the bird.

Once the cut is started, you will cut through the ribs and you will be able to open the two sections of the bird up, like crocodile jaws!!!!

Now once fully opened up, cut the back away from the breast plate.

Save the back for use in chicken stock ( remove the fat).

Again smooth the skin over the breasts so when you later trim it you have the correct amount of skin to roast nicely.

With the breasts skin side down, press your knife into the white sternam area until you push into it a couple millimeters.

Put your knife down and using the palms of your hands, push the two sides of the breasts down and away from each other and the breasts should easily separate. And then use your finger to slide the flesh away from the bone

Use your finger to slide down the middle portion of the breasts bone to separate the breasts from the bone.

Two bone in/skin on breasts!!!

Our chicken...ready for cookin!!!!!!!

Next blog post i will give some easy recipes for cookin this chicken, but before then, make sure when you are finished cutting and before you start cooking that you bleach/sanitize your knives, cutting board, work space, and anything else used during the butchery of the chicken. And remember to save the backs, and any other bones for making a nice stock that is always wonderful for a base for soups, risottos, braising chicken,etc...

1 comment:

  1. OK, so after I sliced myself with the knife, I would be running to the store to have my butcher do this for me!! This is an art...or maybe I am just lazy! The pictures are great.