In this article we’ll walk you step by step through how to butcher a chicken. This is a great skill to learn that will definitely save you money.
Next time you have a recipe that calls for a couple of chicken breasts, look at the price per kilo of that meat. Now look at the price of a whole bird. Doesn’t it make more sense to buy the whole bird, butcher it yourself and freeze the bits you don’t need right away?
All that money you’ll save will allow you to splurge on choosing a higher welfare, happier bird too.
Butchering a Chicken
Remove the bird from the packaging, and cut off any string holding the legs in place. Pinch the skin on top of the bird, and cut it with a sharp knife. Using both your hands, peel & tear all the skin away from the bird and discard (I leave it on the wings as I’m lazy). If you prefer to use chicken meat with the skin on, ignore this step.
Feel along the top of the bird (where my knife is) and you’ll feel a kind of ridge running along the length. This is the breastbone, and the breasts lie either side of it.
Cut down on one side of the breastbone, and carefully cut the breast out.
Just follow the lines of the meat/muscle, then repeat on the other side.
Turn the breast over and you’ll see a scrappy smaller piece of meat attached to it. This is the fillet and you can leave it on the breast or cut it away and use it on its own.
Next you need remove the thighs. Bend the leg back until the hip joint ‘pops’. Use the knife to cut the leg away, taking as much meat with it as you can.
You can also remove the wings at this point if you fancy. I only bother when we are processing several chickens at once, so we’ll have a bag full of them in the freezer. Just ‘pop’ the wing joint as you did the thigh, and remove.
Here are the bits we’ve cut away. Two legs, two breasts and two fillets. Freeze them in small individual freezer bags or freeze them on a tray, ensuring the pieces aren’t touching. When frozen, remove from the tray and put in one bigger freezer bag.
This is what you’re left with.
There is still lots of meat on here, and you can certainly cut it all away. However, that is really time-consuming so I generally pop the carcass in the slow cooker, add water and cook on high for 4-6 hours. When it cools I have a great pot of chicken stock, and lots of cooked chicken bits that are easy to peel away and use in a sandwich or salad.
Hope that helps! If you have any questions, please holler!Janie x
Excellent tip! Several years ago when I started buying chicken from the farmers’ market, I realized how much less expensive buying the whole chicken was as opposed to just the chicken breast. So I started buying the whole chicken. I would typically roast the whole thing, and then cut the chicken away to use for different meals throughout the week. I never actually thought to cut it before cooking :-) Makes sense though!
I do the ‘rubber chicken’ method (so named as it kind of ‘bounces’ the meat from one meal to another) too, especially if we want to roast dinner first. What I do find though is that cooked chicken meat doesn’t last so well in the depths of the freezer as raw meat. Also, cooked meat never looks very appetising when you’re trying to drum something up for dinner!
Off for a nosey round your blog now :)
Anne Kimball says
Hi, I’m Anne, and I’m here from the blog hop. This was great! I’m going to be trying meat birds this summer, so this was very timely and helpful. Thanks, and have a great day!
Great news Anne! If you’re raising them yourself I recommend plucking around half the birds and freezing them whole for roasting, and with the other don’t bother plucking, just cut the skin off as above but with the feathers still attached. We call it peeling as opposed to plucking! It’ll save you heaps of time, esp if you have quite a few to process at one time!
I never thought about putting the carcass in the crockpot and then pulling the meat off! great idea!
I’m all for an easy (read lazy!) life MamaHen! :)
I am going to learn how to butcher my own chickens with a friend. Not sure if I am excited or grossed out. :)
Good for you Vicki, are these birds you have grown? If so, no meat will ever have tasted so good – I promise!
If you’re feeling squeamish, pretend that you’re in a survival situation and you are the only one that can feed your family. It’ll be a breeze!
Hi Janie! I’m 60 years old and have been cutting up chickens for at least 40 of those years, but I just now found out where the fillet comes from! lol I always thought it was just slices of breast.
I found you at Homestead Revival’s Barn Hop and am so glad I did!
Thanks for the lesson.
Ha! So cute! Donna you’ve made my day, thank you for taking the time out to write that note.
And here’s to another 40 years of preparing real food :)
Erika @ HomesteadSimple says
Great post! It’s true a whole bird cost a lot less! When cooking certain recipes the bone adds great flavor so I’m def. not afraid of cutting up a whole chicken! :) Would love it if you shared at our first link party – Home is Where the Heart is. For homesteading and homemaking! http://www.homesteadsimple.com/home-is-where-the-heart-is-link-it-up-wednesdays-1/
Thanks for the link Erika, I’ll see you over there!
Anne Kimball says
I enjoyed this just as much the second time around. And I’m ready to process my first batch of meat birds (w/in a few days), so I’ll be putting this into practice. Thanks for joining up with the TALU again!
Bugger, I posted this one already? Doh! I’m not very good at this am I?!
Good luck with your birds :)
Debbie McCormick says
Awesome tutorial. This is something so simple but yet I have never known how to do it. I’m keeping this for future reference. (TALU)
Hi Debbie, and thank you!
See now that is extremely handy as yes, I do buy whole chickens but I somehow always struggle with the legs! I only ever did the popping thing when they’re cooked… Don’t ask me why, I know better now! Thanks!
Jane Sarchet says
Ha! Glad to have been of assistance Simone, and thanks for popping by!