Breaking down a whole chicken is easier than you think—and as a bonus, your new skills can save money at the grocery store, too.

Rachel Roszmann
Updated February 21, 2020
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Buying a whole chicken, instead of individual parts, is often more economical. If you don't want to roast or grill a whole chicken at once, you need to cut it into individual parts before you cook it. Here are 7 steps for cutting a whole chicken into 8 pieces: 2 breast halves, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, and 2 wings.

Step 1

Lay the bird on its back. Wiggle a wing to determine where the joint attaches to the breast. To separate the wing from the breast, use a sharp knife to cut through the ball joint where it meets the breast. Repeat with the other wing.

Step 2

Pull a leg away from the body to see where it attaches. To remove the whole leg, first cut through the skin between the thigh and the breast.

Step 3

Continue to pull on the leg and wiggle it a bit to determine where the thigh meets the socket in the back. Use a boning knife or paring knife to cut through that joint. Repeat with the other leg.

Step 4

Place each leg skin-side down. With your hand and knife, bend the leg to feel for the ball joint. That's where the drumstick and thigh are connected. Then, look for the thin line of fat that runs along the ball joint. Cut through the line of fat to separate the thigh and drumstick. Wiggle the joint as needed so it's easy to cut. Repeat with the other leg.

Step 5

To remove the backbone, start at the head end of the bird and cut through the rib cage on one side of the backbone with kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Repeat on the other side of the backbone to remove it completely. (Reserve the backbone and neck for chicken stock, if desired.)

Step 6

Now cut the breast into two halves. Place the breast skin-side down. To protect your hand, fold a kitchen towel and place it on top of a heavy, sharp knife. Use your weight to cut through the breast bone and cartilage down the center of the breast.

Step 7

Now that you have two breast halves, cut each breast half in half again, crosswise. The wishbone is located at the thick part of the breast. If you want, you can tease the meat away from the two pieces of wishbone using your hands and/or a sharp knife to scrape the meat from the bone.

Now that you have your chicken cut up, you're ready to make grilled chicken thighs, baked chicken breasts, or you can try a new air fryer chicken recipe.

Related Recipes: Healthy Recipes for Chicken Drumsticks