How to cut up a whole raw chicken

chicken legs, wings and breasts on a wooden table

I’m going to teach you just how easy it is to cut up a whole raw chicken & how to use the rest of the chicken parts.

I have always bought pre-cut chicken or cooked a whole chicken. I never bought a whole chicken and cut it up.

We recently raised 49 Cornish cross chickens for meat and when we were finished processing them, I had to quickly learn how to cut up a whole chicken or I was going to have to cook 49 whole chickens. That didn’t sound like fun.

Cornish cross chickens on grass

So whether you are raising your own meat birds or you are buying a whole chicken at the store to save some money, you’ll be able to make your cuts quick and easy.

How do I cut up a whole raw chicken?

Thighs and drumsticks

The first cut will give us the drumsticks and thighs. Lay your chicken breast side up and find the crease between the legs on each side. You can pull the legs out to find the cutting line a little easier.

With a sharp knife, cut diagonally along the inner thigh, into the joint of the leg. Repeat with the opposite leg.

cutting a whole chicken's leg

Once you’ve cut on the front side, flip the chicken over and place your thumbs on the hip joints and pull the legs backward. You should hear the bone pop out of the socket. These sounds are not for the faint of heart.

whole raw chicken

Once the leg is out of the joint, finish cutting around the joint. From here you should have a thigh and leg still joined. You can go ahead and cut at the joint where the drumstick and thigh meet or you can leave them together. I chose to leave them together for more meat when we fry them up.

Chicken Wings

Cutting the chicken wings is probably the easiest part. Pick the whole chicken up by the tip of one wing. Cut into the “armpit” of the wing and cut all the way around the joint. You should be able to cut under the joint to completely remove the wing and repeat on the other side.

Chicken Breast

Take the remainder of the chicken and turn it on its side. Find the thin white line or fat line that runs between the chicken breast and the back side of the chicken. Cut along this line until you reach the breast bone. Repeat this on the other side.

Once both breast have been cut, hold them both in one hand and let the rest of the carcass hang while you cut close to the breast bone to remove the breasts.

Now you have all of your major cuts as well as some meat left on the back side of your chicken carcass.

What to do with all of your chicken cuts:

Depending on how you plan on cooking your chicken cuts will determine how you store them.

For me, I wanted to fry my chicken wings, thighs and legs at the same time. My family eats about 2lbs of meat in one meal so I ended up putting the legs, thighs and wings of 3 birds in one freezer bag. I used Hefty bags and squeezed as much air out as possible. I labeled the bag with a marker and stored them in the freezer for future meals.

The chicken breasts are not typically my favorite because they lack the juicy fat. I had a friend show me how to can chicken and this was the best option for us. We were able to can 39 chicken breasts into 9 quart jars. This method allows me to pop open a jar and just heat it up or add it to a recipe quickly. We recently had shredded chicken tacos on my favorite sourdough tortillas! It was a great, easy & quick meal.

The rest of the chicken carcass I have been storing in freezer bags as well. I am using them to make chicken stock for chicken soup and other recipes. It also still has quite a bit of meat left on it so I will add that to soups as well.

Other chicken parts

Now that you know how to cut up a whole raw chicken, here’s what to do with the rest of the chicken.

Because we butchered our own chickens, we had the choice to keep the entire chicken including, organs, feet and heads.

The organs made great raw meals for our dog and cat. They see it as a delicacy. We saved the livers for ourselves and I plan on attempting liver pate with them.

The feet have made AMAZING bone broth. The collagen content is out of this world and we can add it to just about any food to enjoy the benefits. If you want to know more about bone broth, it’s benefits and how to make it, watch this video.

As for the heads, we plan on making broth out of them as well. I’m not sure how that will turn out but I hope to update here as soon as we try it out.

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