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The idea of cutting up a raw, whole chicken can feel a bit overwhelming and even downright unnecessary, especially when the shelves of our local meat department are lined with shiny packages of pre-cut pieces. The truth is that until recent times, most people didn’t have the luxury of convenience and when it comes to chicken… maybe that was a good thing. Instead of grabbing the first package of chicken parts you see, try reaching for a whole chicken. We promise you can tackle it at home and stretch your money in more ways than one!


Saving money and shopping economically is important, but some people don’t realize that buying individual pieces of chicken costs much more than whole because another person was paid to do the work of chopping it up. You definitely end up saving when you start whole, because, in addition to its being cheaper, you’re getting more meat for your money, which you can turn into more meals – meals and chicken pieces that you can use now or freeze for later. This not only keeps more money in your pocket, but saves you more time in the long run, since you’ll be able to make use of the whole chicken instead of going back to the store for more pieces.


Using a whole chicken also allows you to make chicken stock with chicken bones serving as a base for delicious soups, sauces, and gravies. Making your own stock from scratch is handy because you can freeze it in containers for later. Its healthy, cheaper, and it tastes a thousand times better! Starting with a whole chicken also makes the possibility of affording an organic or free-range chicken more realistic, because you’re saving money by not buying expensive, individually packaged cuts!!

We promise, cutting up a whole chicken is easier than you might think so here’s how you can do it quickly in a few simple steps:


Before you begin, have a sharp, large knife handy, some dry paper towels, a bowl, and very clean kitchen shears. Wash your hands well before you begin and then remove the packaging from your whole raw chicken inside your empty, clean kitchen sink. This will keep all the juices and packaging contained and away from your countertops. Remove any organs inside the chicken and save or freeze them if you wish. Rather than rinsing, pat your chicken dry with clean paper towels. Place one wet paper towel underneath a non-porous (anti-bacterial) cutting board so that it won’t slip around then place your chicken on top.


Firmly grip the chicken with a dry paper towel at the end of the leg first. Make one neat incision between the leg and the body. Use your hand to bend the leg backwards, popping it clean out of the joint. Follow the same process on the other leg.

Turn the chicken over and find a line of fat that runs along the joint, using it as a road map for where to cut the leg and attached thigh apart from the main body. Cut in nice smooth motions through the skin, meat, and joint, just outside the fat line. Follow the same process again for the other side.


Begin cutting the wings by grabbing one at the tip with a paper towel, letting the full weight of the body hang below. Carefully slice 2-3 three times around the joint where the wing meets the body. Lower the chicken back down to the cutting board while continuing to hold the wing above and finish slicing it away from the body completely. Repeat for the other side.


To slice and split the breasts, first use your kitchen shears to detach the spine, cutting along either side from one end to the other. Notice there will be another line of fat that you can also use as a guide to cut along; trim most of the excess fat and discard. Be careful to save the spine to make stock. (It’s so healthy and versatile when you do it yourself. If you don’t have time to make it right away, no problem. Simply place the spine in a freezer back to preserve for later.)

Turn the detached breast over and press down firmly with the palms of your hands and your bodyweight to crack the bone – you might hear a “pop.”

Turn the breast over and cut in-between, splitting the breast. Pat your pieces dry again with a paper towel for cooking, storing, and freezing.

We understand that cutting up your own chicken might sound intimidating, but it won’t when you learn these easy techniques that anyone can do! Once you start saving time and money, while also getting more bang for your buck, you won’t want to stop. These are some techniques that, while seemingly overwhelming at first, you’ll have down in no time. You’ll be left with more money in your wallet and will be so happy you made the switch to whole chickens – you’ll see!

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