How To Fabricate a Whole Chicken

Why Fabricate Your Own Proteins?

Home cooking often breaks down to cooking what is the easiest, and or most convenient.  I believe this to be true due to the frantic nature of the lives of many people in America.  With little time to cook, well, the convenience is uncanny, with little work to do why not just buy the chicken pieces you need.  You can get just about anything post fabricated and packaged in a ready to go container.  But why can’t we do it a little better at home?  I don’t see any major reason as to why most people cant or should not.

I personally always fabricate my chickens.  Unless I’m preparing a lot of food for a large family gathering or party. But like I said, I prefer to buy whole chickens.  The main reason for me is that I get 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 paddles, 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 tenderloins, and a chicken frame.  All of which I will find uses for.  For the price of $1.50-$1.60/lb, well I just can’t generally justify wasting money there.

To give you an example of a use for these cuts you can simply follow any one of our poultry recipes or adapt them to your own recipes. And for the pesky frames, a beautiful stock can be made.  Better yet, if I don’t need some of the parts, I can vacuum pack them and freeze them for later on when I do.

Another aspect of food that I get when I perform my own meat fabrications is a layer of respect for the food.  I hope you too get this when you take on this guide.  We as Humans are often too keen towards using comfortable and easier options in life.  When we do this with our food we just don’t get as good of a product as possible.  In my opinion, that’s not fair to the life we are taking just to consume it.  I take my chickens and do my best for each and everyone I’ve cut.  Both at work or at home.  I respect the animal for the life it was, and for the people it will feed.  I hope that by using this guide you too are able to gain this respect for the food you make!

How to use this guide

To learn to fabricate your own meats, via this guide or any one of our other guides here, you need to find a starting point.  Read over these guides in their entirety.  Get your station set up and walk through each step as you do the work.  This will ensure you do your best job possible!

The tools you need: Chefs Knife, Cutting board, Pan with ice, 2 small pans that can fit inside the large pan, trash can.

Before you begin to set up, I first suggest that you don’t be scared.  Be comfortable with your knife.  Afterall it is only a chicken.  If you mess it up, well it’s not the end of the world.  That being said, make sure to respect the chicken.  You are taking this extra step in preparing your foods.  Don’t butcher the thing to pieces, instead make small educated cuts that when put together, form a beautiful meal for yourself and the family and friends you’re sharing it with.

1

To begin your work, clear off your cutting board of the tools leaving just the chicken and your knife at the ready.  Set up your ice bin by placing two equal size containers inside but on top of the ice.  Take a mental note that one is for finished cuts.  The other is used for scraps to go into a homemade chicken stock later on.  I also made the note to have a garbage can nearby for the pieces I won’t be using.  Once you have the tools at hand, you are ready to make your first cuts.

The first cut we will make is to remove the wing tips.  Spread out the wing of the chicken and firmly grasp the wing tip.  Where the joint is, the area that the tip and paddle are connected.  Place your knife and press down firmly to separate the two pieces.  These tips can go into your pan for stock.  There are two wing tips to remove, one on both sides.

2 The next step is to remove the wings completely, however, I love the presentation of an airline chicken breast.  Therefore we will leave the wing bone connected to the breast but remove the paddle.

To do so, lift the chicken body up by the wing.  Using your knife, cut close to the breast around the bone all the way.  after doing so you will be able to slide the meat back a bit.

Then, using both of your hands, grasp the wing bone, and the paddle and force it in the opposite direction that it naturally bends.  This snaps the paddle free and you should be able to firmly pull the excess meat away from the wing bone.

If you would like to make wings one day, you should remove the bone from the breast later on.  However I won’t be, so I only remove the paddle and placed it into my pan for the stock.

3 The next step to take is to get our legs and thigh bones off the frames.  To do so Begin by Pressing firmly over the skin on the breasts and running your hands down to the space where the legs are connected to the breasts.  Using your knife, gently create two incisions on what looks to be the knee area of the chicken.

For some reason when cutting this chicken I made my holes in an appropriate spot, but one that won’t give a lot of extra skin coverage which is important.  Never the less this will work.  Your chicken should look similar to the photo below.

4 The next step involves dislocating the legs from the body of the chicken.  Grasp each leg with each hand.  Place your thumbs inside of the holes you made last.  Your thumbs should rest on the leg bones.  Using a bit of force, invert the bones.  Causing the chicken legs to pop from their sockets.

Then, flip over the chicken and using your knife make two score marks.  One following the spine of the chicken.  The other should roughly connect the point of each thigh bone.  You may also notice there is a small chunk of meat (call the oyster muscle).  Your horizontal score should be just above those muscles.

5 With your score lines made, we can now remove the legs and thighs.  Do so by using your knife and/ or fingers to gently scrape out the oyster muscles on the back of the chicken.  There are two of them, located next to the spine.  One on either side.  Then, following closely to the spine with your knife, cut towards the tale slicing through the connecting muscle tissues to remove the piece.

When done properly, the knife will slide between the joint where the thigh bone connects the body of the chicken.  Continuing with little resistance should completely separate the thigh from the chicken’s body.

You will be left with a carcass containing two breasts at this point.  The area you removed the thigh and leg from should be mostly bare of meat.

6 The next step is simple.  Place the leg and thigh skin side down, then find the vein of fat running between the two pieces.  Place your knife over the line following it, and press down firmly.  Cutting through the joint with ease and you should be able to separate the two.

Once separated, place each piece into the pan you are using for ‘usable meat’

7 If you followed the guide so far, this is what your remaining chicken body should look close to.  The usable meat remaining is going to be two chicken breasts.  Covered with skin and having the wing bone protruding from each side.

In general practice, it is common to remove the wishbone.  Depending on the quality of chickens your using, they may be broken.

To remove this bone, use the tip of your knife and place the blade towards the breast meat inside of the neck cavity.  Scrape the bones until you’ve cleared the meat away.  Then stick your fingers around this bone and completely separate it from the breast muscle.  Pinch where it connects between each breast.  Pulling firmly should cause it to come out.  Tweezers and or pliers may be required if this bone is broken or breaks from handling it.

My chicken had a broken wishbone before I got to it, but it should look like this. when fully removed.  Notice, I have left no meat on the bone, meaning I can get just a tiny bit more utilization from the breasts.  This utilization is what saves you money in cooking.

8 Now its time to remove our prized airline chicken breasts.  Using the tip of your knife, start at the keel bone (the chicken’s breast bone) and beginning at the neck run the knife along the keel bone towards the tail.  Do so twice, then following the ribcage down you should be able to pull the breast away from the chicken frame.  It, however, will be connected by the wing bone we left on earlier.

To remove this entire breast, cut between the wing bone and the body of the chicken. It should be quite easy as the joints are comprised of fairly soft cartilage.  Once removed, place the breast skin side down.  Remove the tender of the chicken breast (this should look like a flap of meat laying atop the breast with a sliver of silverskin running through it).

Repeat this for both breasts.  The remaining carcass can go into your stock pan.  I suggest saving a few bodies before you make the stock.  Roughly 5 to 6 will do great!  For directions on how to make stock, we will be publishing a guide soon, so stay tuned for that.

If you wanted to save the wings for making bbq wings at a later date, you can cut them off now, simply run the knife around the bone leaving meat on the bone.  You should be left with a fairly nice looking chicken breast still.

The last step is to clean the wing bones tip up.  To do so lay the breast onto the cutting board and using the thickest part of your chefs’ knife, cut the cap off.  This cap can be thrown away or saved for stock.

The above photo is before (left) and after (Right) of how I cleaned up the bone for a proper airline chicken breast.

9 If you want to bread and fry the tenders for a quick chicken tender you can do so.  But you will need to remove the silverskin running through it.

Lay it down and pinch the protruding skin. Using your knife, gently but continuously scrape the skin until it is removed from the tenderloin.

The silverskin ‘string’ can be thrown away.  If you don’t want to use these tenders, I generally throw them into my ice pan to be roasted for stock.

10 You should now be finished fabricating the chicken.  Repeat for each chicken you have.

One extra thing I like to do is to use my chefs’ knife and chop the remaining chicken frame into three smaller sections.  If you only cut up one or two chickens, vacuum seal what you have in your stock pan.  When you’ve massed about 6 chickens worth of scraps, then I make a 1-2 gallon batch of stock with them.

Now looking into your useable chicken pan, separate the cuts.  You should have 2 airline chicken breasts, 2 legs, 2 thighs, and potentially 2 tenders.  If I plan to cook the day of or within 2-3 days of fabricating my chickens I store these pieces in the fridge.  Otherwise, vacuum pack them and freeze them for a later date.

This process is not very hard.  You most certainly can do this at home and should, provided you have the proper tools and space.  Note, I am an experienced cook at a country club.  Who processes anywhere from 20 too 100 chickens a week.  I’ve easily done this process over a few thousand times that I have been in the culinary field.  With a little practice, you can do this in anywhere between 1 and 3 minutes and get good results.  But for your first few chickens, go slow.  Take the time needed to see that the chicken ends up properly fabricated.

For me, the entire process from start to finish is one way to add an elegant touch to your meals.  Especially home cooked meals.  You can achieve better flavor, better presentation, and more delicious meals when you choose to do the work on your own.  Plus, the time-consuming process should help you build an understanding of the anatomy of a chicken and with each one you do, you can only get better.

Remember, its ok to mess up too.  Ideally, you do not destroy the integrity of the chicken.  But as long as you can make use of all the chicken’s parts, then you have maintained the integrity of respect for the animal.  Which for me is the most important reason to fabricate my own cuts of meat at work and and home.

I normally leave this portion out of a post, but If you liked this please leave me a comment.  If something was not easy or clear to perform in your own kitchen, let me know.  I would be happy to respond and clarify, or perhaps update this guide to better help you.

For more guides check out the meat fabrication category of posts here.  Where I cover a handful of different cuts of protein you may be using at home.  Thanks for reading and happy cooking!

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