Why waste money on buying individual cuts of meat when you get get much more for your money if you buy a whole chicken and simply cut it up yourself? In the current economic climate (and generally) why waste your money when you can save it by doing a bit of the work yourself? I gained my chicken anatomy knowledge and some of my knife skills from The Culinary Coach who I would highly recommend if you or a friend/family member wants to learn how to cook a particular dish, gain confidence in the kitchen or learn new skills in the kitchen. The sessions also make for great and unique presents for people, check out her website for more information – The Culinary Coach.
Now my chicken anatomy, still, isn’t great, give me a quiz on human anatomy any day. However the basics are cut between joints and work with the hard bones (mainly the breast bone) to help you remove the most meat from the chicken.
For the purpose of this demonstration I used a supermarket bought organic chicken which cost me £10.36. From this chicken I got all the cuts you’d expect, 2 breasts, 2 legs, 2 wings, 2 large thighs and a chicken carcass (which I will use to make fresh, homemade chicken stock). Considering how a pack of good quality chicken breasts can generally cost you up to £5 it already looks like a bargain. As you can see from the top image you do get a lot of meat for your money.
The first thing I was taught was that it is much easier to cut up a raw chicken than a cooked one and boy was that the truth. The hardest part of this operation (in both senses) was removing the skin, the rest was fairly straight forward. This will give you a step by step guide to how I got the most out of a chicken. Credit for this goes to The Culinary Coach who taught me these money saving skills and from whom I continue to learn. So, roll up your sleeve and wash your hands as it’s time to get intimate with a chicken!
The first thing to do is to remove the feet and hands (tips of the wing); these bits you don’t really want to eat but don’t throw them away as they have a lot of flavour which will be good in making the stock. Next you need to remove the skin. Cut of the small remnants of the neck and simply pull the skin away from the meat; this does take a bit of force and a good grip on the skin. Keep working your way around the chicken, cutting the skin where necessary to help ease it off, especially around the legs and thighs. I found it easier to simply remove the wings at the joint and take the skin off them separately. Eventually you will have a fully naked chicken with the left over bits, in the image below the chicken is top side down.
Next remove the legs as drumsticks and then the things so that all you are left with is the carcass and the breast meat. Again the easiest way is to find the joint and cut though it with the point of your knife or some strong scissors. Next turn to the breast meat. Between the two breasts is the breast bone, use this as your border. Cut down either side of the breast bone and you will see a clear path for the knife to follow to allow you to get the most breast mean off. You many need to work around the wish bone and what look like ribs (again chicken anatomy is not my speciality).
Once the breast meat is away the last job is to get all the straggly bits around the carcass which you missed. I’ve been told the amount of straggly bits will decrease the better you get at it. Take as much of the meat off as you can and put it to one side, keep any bony you take off to extract the meat from as these will also be used in the stock. Eventually you should be left with a dish full of chicken cuts, some straggly bits which you’ve removed from the chicken (to the left of the knife) and the left over carcass and bony bits which will be used for a stock (to the right of the knife).
Place the chicken cuts in freezer bags to use for later on. With this particular chicken I froze the breasts in two separate bags, froze the legs together, the thighs together and the wings together with the straggly bit. Feel free to freeze them as you like, you can even chop up the breast meat ready for easy cooking later on.
It sounds strange but it is actually quite calming cutting up the chicken, it is not as much hassle as carving up a cooked chicken and you end up saving a lot of money instead of buying lots of pre-cut bits of chicken. Here you can buy the chicken (knowing where it comes from) and being confident in knowing that the chicken bits are the same.
For more hints and tips on chicken cutting check out this post from The Culinary Coach Facebook Page.