How to fabricate a chicken (at least one way)

Since I have a few friends and family members who want me to show them how to fabricate a chicken and a few amount of Internet searches for various fabrications – here’s one way of fabricating a chicken (with photos!!!) which will yield:

  • 1 carcass and some wing joints for stock
  • 2 airline breasts which may then be skinned and the first joint of the wing removed to yield 2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 thighs
  • 2 legs (naturally you could keep the legs and thighs attached for various uses such as deboning them to stuff)

Removing the legs:

  1. This should go without saying, but rinse the bird under cold water and pat dry with paper towel.  If necessary remove the giblets and neck from the cavity.
  2. Lay the bird breast side up and cut off the wings at the 2nd joint (go right through the joint, there will be no resistance – if you hit bone try again).
  3. Trim any loose fat around the ass of bird (you could save it to render for schmaltz)
  4. Place the bird back side up and make an incision along the length of it down the center of the back.  Now turn the bird 90 degrees  and where the legs “end” or rather begin, make another incision across so that you have made a cross.  (You can also see two small humps either side of the spine  – the oyster – which is what you want to cut above so that they are attached to the thighs).
  5. Lift the bird up by one of the legs (it doesn’t matter which one) and “slice” along where you just made the last cut so that you’ve made the flesh accessible. 
  6. Lay the leg down and pop the hip joint out of its socket, making sure it’s well supported by two fingers so that you don’t break the joint instead.  You should feel and here it pop out of its socket and not hear the sound of bone breaking.
  7. Now, start along the back and sort of start digging/scraping where the oyster is, then through the joint that you popped out of socket and keep cutting through the length of the bird staying as close to the carcass as possible until the leg and thigh have been removed.  It is important to use only the tip of your knife – think more of using a paint brush as opposed to slicing a steak.
  8. Repeat on the other side of the bird.

Separating legs and thighs:

  1. Place the legs skin side down (flesh side up) and sort of pull them from either end gently.  You should see a line of connective tissue where the thigh and leg meet – move just to the side of the leg and cut through the joint.  If you hit bone try again – it should feel like it did when you cut the wings off.  The aim here is to go through the joint so that the bone doesn’t splinter and choke you, a loved one or a customer.

Removing the breasts

  1. No doubt a little trickier than removing the legs.  Place the remaining carcass breast side up, stretch the skin across the breasts until it’s taut and make an incision just to the right (or left), of the center of the breast, making sure not to go the full length of the breast though – it will be much easier if you don’t go all the way to the bottom of the breast.
  2. Being careful, use the tip of your knife to remove the tenderloin from the carcass by cutting along the breast bone.  You can pull/hold the tenderloin with your free hand gently as it comes free.  Also, hold the remaining wing joint with the thumb of the same hand so that you don’t accidentally cut through the joint and destroy your airline cut.
  3. The trickiest part here is finding and cutting through the joint (if you have trouble finding it you can also pop it out of joint like you did with the thigh).  Following the wishbone with the tip of your knife and making sure you’re holding back the wing, find the joint and cut through it.  You should have freed the breast up so that you can slice the length of it along the carcass.
  4. Repeat with the other side.

Now, if you want to (or need) the wings can be removed from the breast (just cut the wing off as close to the joint as possible.  You may then skin the breast if this is what you desire. 

Also note that if the tenderloins want to fall off the breasts as you’re dealing with them then get rid of it and save them for another use.

Personally I save the wings for stock along with the carcass.

Hopefully this helps any of you out there and motivates some of you to start buying whole chickens instead of pre-fabricated ones.  It’s considerably cheaper to buy a whole chicken plus the risk of contamination is less since it’s been processed less.


4 thoughts on “How to fabricate a chicken (at least one way)

  1. Thank you! I have a final at my own culinary school tonight on fabricating chicken and no one has been able to explain this to me as well as your post and pictures can.
    Best of luck to you,

  2. Pingback: A fresh start « What is Ceci cooking?

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