Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How to Cut Up Chicken


Cutting Whole Chicken into Pieces

Most familiar and easy chicken recipes -- like baked chicken, fried chicken, or chicken cacciatore -- call for "chicken pieces." But stores charge extra for doing the knife work. You can save money by cutting up a whole chicken at home rather than buying chicken pieces pre-cut and packaged at the supermarket. The steps are quite simple.

  1. Place the chicken, breast side up, on a cutting board.

  2. Cut between the thigh and body to the hip joint.

  3. Bend the leg back slightly to free the hip joint from the socket. Cut through the hip joint and remove the leg. Repeat to remove the other leg.

    First remove the legs and thighs by cutting through the hip joint.
    First remove the legs and thighs by cutting through the hip joint.

  4. Place the leg, skin side down, on a cutting board. Locate the joint by moving the thigh back and forth with one hand while holding the drumstick with the other hand. Cut completely through the joint. Repeat with the other leg.

    Bend the leg back slightly in order to free the hip joint from the socket.
    Bend the leg back slightly in order to free the hip joint from the socket.

  5. Place the chicken on its side. Pull one wing out from the body; cut through the shoulder joint. Turn the chicken over and repeat to remove the other wing.

    Remove the wings when cutting a whole chicken into pieces.
    Remove the wings.

  6. Working from tail to neck, cut the breast from the backbone, cutting through the small rib bones and along the outside of the collarbone.

    The rib bones are easy to cut right through.
    The rib bones are easy to cut right through.

  7. Turn the chicken over onto its other side and repeat. Cut through any remaining connective tissue; pull the breast away from the backbone.

    Use your knife to help trim off the connective tissue and remove the bones.
    Use your knife to help you trim off the connective tissue and remove
    the bones. Pull the breast away from the bone.

  8. Place the breast, skin side up, on a cutting board. Split the breast into halves by cutting along one side of the breastbone.

    Once the breast has been split into halves, each portion should be between 4 and 10 ounces.
    Once the breast has been split into halves, each portion should be
    between 4 and 10 ounces.

Yet another technique is cutting up a chicken Chinese-style. Learn more about this method in the next section.

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.

More to Explore