Cutting Whole Chicken into Halves & Quarters

Chicken Recipes

Chicken halves and quarters are popular cuts for many roasted chicken recipes and they make an elegant presentation on the plate.

While you can find the chicken halves and quarters in the grocery store, you have more freedom with a recipe if you cut a whole chicken into halves and quarters yourself.
  1. Place the chicken, breast side down, on a cutting board with the neck end pointing away from you.

  2. To make the first cut to the chicken, insert the knife into the front of the chicken. Work the knife from the neck to the tail of the chicken, and cut along one side of the backbone. It is important to cut as close to the bone as possible.

    First cut from neck to tail along one side of the backbone.
    Cut from neck to tail along
    one side of the backbone.

  3. Cut down the other side of the backbone and remove it.

    Remove both the breastbone and the cartilage when cutting a whole chicken.
    Remove both the breastbone
    and the cartilage.

  4. With the breast of the chicken still meaty side down, cut a small slit through the membrane and cartilage at the "V" of the neck end.

  5. Grasp the breast with both hands and gently bend both sides backward to snap the breastbone. With fingers, work along both sides of the breastbone to loosen the triangular keel bone; pull out the bone.

  6. With the tip of a sharp knife, cut along both sides of the cartilage at the end of the breastbone; remove cartilage.

  7. Turn the chicken, skin side up. Cut lengthwise down the center of the chicken to split it into halves.

    Split the chicken lengthwise down the center to make halves.
    Split the chicken lengthwise down
    the center to make halves.

  8. To cut into quarters, cut through the skin separating the thighs from the breast.

    Separate the chicken into leg-thigh and breast-wing sections for quarters.
    Separate the chicken into leg-thigh and
    breast-wing sections for quarters.

A slightly different technique is used to cut a whole chicken into what is usually called "chicken pieces." Learn how on the next page.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Chicken Recipes: Chicken is a very versatile food that can take on a variety of different flavors and be used in all kinds of dishes. Find some suggestions on our Chicken Recipes page. 
  • Chicken Safety: Since raw chicken can harbor harmful bacteria, it's important to know how to properly handle chicken in the kitchen. Learn chicken safety tips in this article. 
  • Preparing Chicken: Learn some basic chicken preparation techniques in this article, including how to stuff a chicken, how to marinate chicken, and more.
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.