How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken

A Step-by-Step Guide to Cutting a Whole Chicken into 8 Parts

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

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

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

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

Step 4

Place each leg skin-side down. Flex to see where the ball joint between the drumstick and thigh is located. Look for the thin line of fat that was perpendicular to the body. Cut through the line of fat to separate the thigh and drumstick, wiggling the joint as needed to determine where it is. Repeat with the other leg.


Step 5

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

Step 6

To cut the breast into 2 halves, place it skin-side down, exposing the breastbone. To protect your hand, fold up a kitchen towel and place it on top of a heavy, sharp knife. Use a lot of pressure to cut through the reddish breast bone and whitish cartilage right down the center of the breast. Now you have 2 breast halves. Cut each breast half in half again, crosswise, if desired. (The wishbone is located at the thick part of the breast. If desired, tease the meat away from the 2 pieces of wishbone using your hands and/or a sharp knife to scrape the meat from the bone.)


Step 7

Step 7

Now you have 8 nice pieces of chicken.