One great way to save money in the kitchen is to buy whole chickens and cut them up yourself. Even expensive organic and free-range chickens can be very economical when, instead of buying separate breasts and thighs, you cut the chicken up yourself. You will get a whole batch of chicken stock out of it, too! Nothing is wasted. But cutting up a whole chicken can be intimidating, so here is a thorough video explaining each part of the chicken, and how to quickly and easily cut it into pieces.
This method is pretty much identical to our earlier video and post explaining how to cut up a roast chicken. But the video here is clearer, and Emma explains just where everything is on the chicken. This might seem obvious to some of you, but again, if you've never cut up a whole bird, this is a great place to start!
This method leaves you with neat, separate pieces of chicken that you can either cook immediately or freeze, well-wrapped, for future meals.
The savings breakdown is simple, too: Even if you spend as much as $15 on a really great bird, you will still save money. Two large chicken breasts (again, from a high-quality organic bird) will often run at least $10, and thighs and drumsticks run nearly that as well. Then you add in the wings, and all the stock you can make with that carcass, and you've saved some money! Plus you know that the chicken parts are all as fresh as the chicken itself; they haven't been frozen or in the cooler.
What You Need
One whole chicken
Large cutting board
Chef's knife - should be very sharp
Bowl or platter for cut-up chicken pieces
Paper towels or rag
1. Start by patting your chicken dry with paper towels or a clean rag. Then place it on a large cutting board. Make sure you are standing in a place where you have full range of movement for you and your knife. Have paper towels or a rag on hand to wipe your hands as you go.
2. Place the chicken breast-side-up on the cutting board. Use the tip of your knife to slit the skin where the leg is joined to the body. Cut a small slit in the meat as well, exposing the joint.
3. After the joint has been exposed, rotate and bend the leg away from the body so the joint pops out. Use the knife to cut down hard through the remaining skin and cartilage. You will need to use a bit of force with this, and if you enounter a complete block, you probably hit bone. If this happens, move a quarter inch closer to the joint and try again. Completely separate the leg from the body.
4. Repeat on the other side of the chicken with the other leg, separating it from the body.
5. If desired, you can also separate the thigh from the drumstick. This is a similar process to separating the leg from the body: Start by cutting through the skin and making a shallow slit in the meat. Rotate the joint so that it pops out, and then cut the thigh away from the drumstick by cutting straight down through the remaining cartilage and skin. If you hit a complete block, then you've hit the bone. Try to identify where the joint has popped away from the bone, and cut there.
6. Now move on to the wings. You are probably sensing the pattern here: Cut away a little of the skin and meat, and rotate the joint until it pops out. You can also do the same to the lower joint of the wings (the tips) and cut them away. These have very little meat on them anyway, and unless you really like them, they are best put in the stockpot.
7. To remove the breasts, cut a slit down the middle, between the breasts, to expose the breast bone, and then keep cutting down on one side until you hit the ribs. Once there, just run the knife along the ribs (almost parallel to the ribs) to cut off the breasts. Repeat on the other side.
8. Now you are left with just a chicken carcass. It can be used to make stock! Here's our post on making stock from a chicken carcass: How To Make Homemade Chicken Stock
(Images: Faith Durand)