Save Money and Eat Better: How to Break Down a Whole Chicken?

Sep 23, 2023 By Susan Kelly

You're in the mood for chicken but don't want to pay premium prices for pre-cut parts. Buying a whole chicken and breaking it down yourself is the perfect solution. Not only will you save money, but you'll end up with more usable meat. When you do it yourself, you have control over which cuts you get and how they're prepared.

With a sharp knife, cutting board, and a little patience, you'll be enjoying homemade chicken stock, roast chicken, or your favorite chicken recipes in no time. Breaking down a chicken may seem intimidating, but with a few simple steps, you'll gain useful skills and reap delicious rewards. Why pay more when you can do it better yourself? Follow these instructions, and you'll break down chickens with knife skills like a pro in no time.

The Benefits of Breaking Down Your Own Chicken

Breaking down a whole chicken yourself has significant benefits for both your budget and your health. By avoiding pre-cut chicken parts, you'll save money and gain more control over the quality of your meat. You'll also end up with parts like backs, necks, and feet that make rich broths and stocks.

Breaking down your chicken isn't just a culinary feat – it's a wallet-friendly, versatile skill that enhances your kitchen prowess. Discover the array of benefits that await you:

Economical Edge

Going for a whole chicken over pre-cut parts yields financial dividends. A whole chicken often costs less per pound and, when skillfully disassembled, can save you up to 50% compared to pre-cut breasts.

Part Plenitude

Level up your culinary creativity by unlocking more parts from a whole chicken. Revel in the bounty of two breasts, break down a chicken wing, thighs, drumsticks, and even the valuable back, neck, giblets, and bones. These versatile components play a role in various dishes, from roasting to frying, braising, or grilling. The surplus also proven invaluable in crafting stock, gravy, and other delectable.

Palatable and Exquisite Taste

The joy of customizing your culinary creations is in your hands. Adjust the sizes and shapes of your chicken pieces, decide whether to leave skin and bones intact, and experiment with seasonings and marinades that resonate with your palate. The ability to freeze portions for future delights adds another layer of convenience.

Tools You'll Need: Sharp Knife, Cutting Board, and Optional Cleaver or Shears

You'll want a sharp knife, like a chef's knife, and a sturdy cutting board to break down a chicken with knife skills. Optional tools include poultry shears or a cleaver to cut through bones.

The Power of Precision: A sharp knife reigns supreme when breaking down a chicken, effortlessly slicing through skin, flesh, and joints. In contrast, a dull blade risks slips and mishaps.

The versatility of Chef's Knife: The trusty chef's knife is a go-to, offering a robust, elongated blade ideal for slicing and chopping. Its prowess extends to handling poultry with finesse.

Tailored Alternatives: Embrace options like Western-style boning knives or Japanese honesuki for bone and joint manipulation. Their design caters to maneuvering around bones expertly.

Stable Platform: The cutting board emerges as a crucial ally, furnishing stability and hygiene for working with raw meat. Opt for a spacious, substantial board that stays firmly in place, maintaining safety.

Prevent Cross-Contamination: Safeguard against cross-contamination by reserving separate boards for meat and veggies. Choosing wood, plastic, or bamboo depends on personal preference and budget.

Bonus Tools for the Bold: Poultry shears or a cleaver, though optional, offer prowess. They ease through thick bones like backbones or thigh bones, demanding caution and skill.

Poultry Shears Unveiled: Poultry shears are scissor-like tools with curved, sharp blades, deftly cutting through bones and cartilage. Their unique design streamlines the process.

Cleaver's Cutting Charm: Cleavers are formidable allies, boasting a broad blade to cleave through bones and joints. They require careful handling due to their heft and might.

Step-by-Step Guide to Breaking Down a Whole Chicken into Pieces

Breaking down a whole chicken yourself has many benefits. You'll save money, gain valuable knife skills, and have more control over quality. Follow these steps to break down a chicken with knife skills into pieces:

Gather Your Tools

You'll need a sharp chef's knife, cutting board, kitchen shears (optional), and a dish for the pieces.

Remove the Wings

Cut through the joints connecting the wings to the body. Bend them, break down a chicken wing away from the body, and cut through the remaining skin.

Remove the Legs

Cut through the skin between the leg and body. Bend the leg away to pop the hip joint out of the socket. Cut through the remaining skin and tendons to remove the leg.

Separate Thighs and Drumsticks

Cut through the joint connecting the drumstick and thigh. Use your fingers to find the joint and apply pressure while cutting.

Remove the Breasts

Cut down along one side of the breastbone. Use your fingers to gently loosen the breast meat from the bone. Cut under the breast to remove it in one piece. Halve the breasts if desired.

Save the Extras (Optional)

The remaining carcass has lots of flavor. Use it to make stock, soup, or stew. Save the liver, heart, and gizzard for dirty rice or gravy.

By breaking down a whole chicken yourself, you'll gain valuable skills and have chicken pieces perfect for any recipe. Save the leftover carcass to make flavorful broths and stocks. Your kitchen prowess and wallet will thank you!


Now you know the basics of breaking down a whole chicken. You'll be amazed at how much more value you can get for your money while controlling exactly what goes into your meals. Sharpen your knife, grab your cutting board, and give it a try. Developing this useful skill will open up a world of culinary possibilities as you utilize every part of the chicken in creative, delicious ways.

Before you know it, you'll break down chickens confidently and wonder why you didn't start sooner. Breaking down a whole chicken is a simple step towards eating better and saving money. Give it a shot - your kitchen skills and wallet will thank you.

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