Whole Chicken Shenanigans Part 1: Deboning

I tell just about everyone I know to ditch buying packs of chicken breasts and start buying themselves a whole chicken. This is something I really enjoy sharing with people, and a go-to topic of mine when mingling at parties (yes, ya girl cool). I do this for many reasons. First of all, it’s way more cost effective. From one chicken you are able to get 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings and 2 legs (obviously), use the carcass for broth, and the rendered schmaltz (chicken fat) can be used for cooking and flavoring other dishes. Some whole chickens even come with some of the organs included, which you could eat if you so choose or use them to make your dog or cat very happy. Additionally, buying your chicken whole is also more environmentally friendly. Way less packaging materials and parts are wasted when compared to buying pieces separately. However, one of the biggest reasons I recommend buying the chicken whole is that it causes you to be much more in touch with the process and gives you a better understanding and appreciation of your food and where it comes from. Believe it or not, chickens aren’t made up entirely of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

One of the reasons I think people opt for buying chicken breasts over a whole chicken is because it is easier and less intimidating than deboning a whole chicken. While this may be true, it is also true that deboning a chicken really doesn’t take that much time and isn’t hard at all. As long as you have a good, sharp knife you are good to go. And then you get to reap all of the benefits! So, in order to help you feel more comfortable and confident with conquering your whole chicken here is a step-by-step tutorial of how to go about deboning it. Then, stay tuned for part two to learn how to use the chicken carcass to make delicious, nutritious broth!

So, here she is. I often buy my whole chickens from these folks because they take good care of their chickens and are located fairly close by in Sonoma County. They are free-range and raised on all organic, non-gmo feed. These are important qualities to look for in your chicken.


Step 1: Cleaning and Preparation

Remove chicken from packaging, and remove anything from the cavity of the chicken. The neck bone and gizzards are sometimes included, if so set aside for now. Give your chicken a good rinse off from the inside out. Set the chicken down on a clean cutting board or flat surface. You will also need a good sharp knife.

Step 2: Legs and Thighs

I start with the leg/thigh combo of the chicken. Working with the joints you will bend back where the thigh connects to the body of the chicken until you hear a subtle crack. Use your knife to cut through the skin and flesh in between the thigh and body. Then, cut through the joint bone. You should just have to finish the job with your knife, not saw through the bone. Once, you have you thigh/leg separated from the body you can then separate the thigh and leg. Once again, work with the joint and bend back to break. Cut the skin and meat to separate. The thigh bone usually comes out pretty easily for me. Just make a slit in the thigh meat and pull the bone out with your hand. Repeat this for the other thigh and leg.


Step 3: Wings

The wings are the easiest part. You will just bend them back to break the joint and then use your knife to separate them. Yep, that’s it for the wings. Once they are separated they are ready for cooking and smothering in hot sauce.

Step 4: Breasts and Tenderloin

You should be able to get your fingers under the breasts in between the meat and the bone. This should help you guide your knife so you can separate the meat from the bone. Once you remove the breast you should see what looks like smaller, thinner breast. This is the tenderloin. These usually separate from the bone easily. Just use your knife to and get under the meat. Make slits around the tender until it comes loose.


After that you should have all of your pieces separated! Make sure not to throw away the carcass and any other loose bones! You can use them to make chicken broth. It’s super easy and can be used in a variety of ways. Not to mention, it is super nutritious and packed with trace minerals. So, stay tuned for the next post to find out what you need to turn those chicken bones into delicious broth.


I hope these steps were easy to follow and that you feel inspired and confident to buy your chickens whole from here on out!


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