This follows a comment on my Coq Au Vin recipe, so I thought I’d do a quick post on how to separate a chicken into its various useful parts. As always, I recommend the purchase of free-range chicken and it is often much more economical to buy a whole bird, even if you just wanted, say, the breast for a recipe, and then use the rest at a later date, perhaps freezing the other portions until needed.
Jointing a chicken is very easy, especially if you have a decent pair of poultry shears or heavy (and, of course, sharp) kitchen scissors, but you can just do it with a good knife if you go carefully.
Snip the skin where the leg joints meet the body, and pull the leg back until you feel the joint break away. Use a sharp knife to cut through the joint, and any flesh and skin until the leg comes away. Repeat the other side.
Cut along one side of the breast bone with the scissors or VERY carefully with a knife. Open the bird like a book and cut away the backbone, again, preferably with scissors. Keep the breastbone for stock.
You now have two legs and two large breast portions. You can stop here, or break the chicken down further.
Cut each leg in half at the joint. Cut each breast in two, following the line of the ribs at a suitable point – one portion on each side will include the wing, but you can separate these if you like in a similar way to the legs.
That’s it; job done, and very easy. Remember, whenever handling and preparing chicken, however good its provenance, to thoroughly wash hands, knives, scissors and surfaces and give a good squirt with anti-bacterial spray.