Learn How to Cut a Whole Chicken into pieces in 10 minutes. Not only will you save money, but you’ll have enough chicken pieces for 2 dinners and the most delicious chicken broth.
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With over 160 healthy chicken recipes on iFoodReal, I can confidently say chicken is our favorite protein to have on hand for easy meals. Whether it be healthy chicken salad at lunch or chicken burrito skillet at dinner, I never run out of ways to use a whole chicken after cutting it up!
Growing up in Ukraine, my grandma always made 3 meals from a whole chicken. Money was tight and grocery stores did not sell chicken pieces. Whole chicken, often from your own chicken coop, was the way to survive. Until this day, I believe it makes the most sense!
Why Learn How to Cut a Whole Chicken?
- Save money: On average, whole chicken costs $2.49/lb vs. chicken breasts at $5.99/lb – that’s twice the savings!
- Stretch the meat: Once you cut up a whole chicken, you can make Instant Pot chicken and potatoes and curry chicken salad with it. Plus bones are good for chicken broth. That’s 3 meals from 1 chicken!
- You automatically get different cuts of meat which is great to have a variety.
- Make homemade chicken stock: Often you have to buy chicken pieces and chicken bones separately if you want to make chicken stock. When you cut up a whole chicken, you get those as a bonus.
- Because it’s so easy: This easy step-by-step tutorial will guide you every step of the way, with tips for best practices along the way.
I always have a Ziploc bag in my freezer with chicken carcass and bones from cutting whole chicken. Whenever I cut up another chicken, I just add to it and then can make bone broth in Instant Pot or Instant Pot chicken stock on demand.
How to Cut a Whole Chicken
It’s worth the extra bit of effort to learn how to properly cut a whole chicken. All you need is a sharp knife and a clean flat cutting board, and you’re on your way.
- Lay chicken on its back chicken breast side up. Remove bag with giblets, if any.
- Trim fat and skin on both sides of the opening.
- Remove the tail or I like to call it “butt”. Sharp kitchen shears are great for this step.
- Cut each chicken leg at the joint where the leg meets the body. It helps to start cutting through the chicken skin and then snap the leg. You will hear a crack, so cut the muscle between 2 joints.
- Cut chicken wings the same way as chicken legs. You’ll notice there is a ball joint where the wing mets the breast (kind of like an armpit). It helps to wiggle it away from the body at first to get a sense of where you’ll start cutting.
- Pull chicken skin from the breasts using your hands and help it separate from meat with the knife along the way. It should come off very easily. This step is only necessary if you want skinless chicken breasts, otherwise leave it on.
- Flip the chicken and trim skin the same way on the back. There will be more fat attached to the chicken carcass under the skin. Trim it as well.
- Flip chicken on its back again and remove the breasts. Cut each chicken breast in the middle close to the center bone and along the ribs. The closer you get to the bone, the more bang for your buck (ie. more meat).
- That’s it. Cut up whole chicken a couple more times and you’ll soon become a pro!
Tips for Best Results
- Sharp quality knife: If you don’t yet have one, consider it a lifetime investment. I like to cut up whole chicken with sharp utility knife but you can also use a chef’s knife.
- Sharp kitchen shears are also very helpful for cutting excess fat quickly and efficiently.
- Make sure your chicken is not frozen. You can cut up only fresh whole chicken or thawed chicken.
- Pat your bird down with paper towel to make sure it’s dry, so you can properly grip it. You may need to pat dry it again later on.
- Have a sturdy, flat cutting board to work on. Make sure it’s secure and not slipping and sliding everywhere. This is my favorite sturdy, dishwasher safe cutting board.
- Clean up thoroughly when you’re done. You don’t want to leave any raw meat bacteria (salmonella) hanging around. Always wash utensils used for handling raw meat and the sink with hot soapy water.
Recipes to Use Cut Up Chicken In
Use chicken legs and chicken wings in these recipes:
- Instant Pot chicken and potatoes
- Roasted chicken thighs and potatoes
- Instant Pot chicken and rice
- Healthy fried chicken
- Air fryer chicken wings
Use chicken breasts to make these recipes:
- Baked chicken breast
- Cilantro lime chicken
- Instant Pot chicken breast
- Grilled chicken breast
- Air fried chicken breast
Use chicken thighs for these recipes:
Chicken carcass is great for making soups like:
How to Store
Store: Once you have cut up a whole chicken into pieces, it is ready for use in all kinds of chicken recipes. If you need to marinate the chicken, go ahead and get that started. Otherwise, refrigerate chicken parts in an airtight bag or airtight container for up to 2 days until you’re ready to use them.
Freeze: You can freeze raw chicken pieces for up to 9 months. If you’re freezing whole chicken prior to cutting it, it will keep frozen for up to 1 year. This is why buying a bunch of whole chickens when they’re on sale is a great idea!
Follow the steps above and slice chicken breasts into 2 breast halves crosswise. Now, you’ve got 2 extra pieces totaling 8 chicken pieces plus chicken carcass.
To get 10 pieces, which will include 2 chicken wings, 2 chicken drumsticks, 2 chicken breasts cut in halves (4), and chicken 2 thighs, you need to separate the drumsticks from the thighs. Again, find the joint and use your knife to cut through the area where the two pieces meet.
My favorite way to save money on poultry is to buy a 2 pack of whole chickens at Costco.
You can use sharp kitchen shears to cut up whole chicken. The only step you will have to use a knife is if you would like to separate chicken breasts from the carcass. Otherwise, you can even cut the chicken carcass and breast bones with kitchen scissors and have bone-in chicken breasts.
More How to Cut Tutorials
- How to cut an avocado
- How to cut cauliflower
- How to cut spaghetti squash
- How to peel and cut butternut squash
Whole Chicken Recipes to Try
If you don’t feel like cutting a whole chicken try it in these recipes:
How to Cut a Whole Chicken
- Lay chicken on its back breasts side up. Remove bag with giblets, if any.
- Trim fat and skin on both sides of the opening.
- Remove the tail or I like to call it “butt”. Sharp kitchen shears are great for this too.
- Cut each leg between the leg bone and the bone that is attached to the body. It helps to start cutting and then snap the leg. You will hear a crack, so cut the muscle between 2 joints.
- Cut the wings the same way as legs.
- Pull the skin from the breasts using your hands and help it separate from meat with the knife along the way. It should come off very easily. Or leave it on.
- Flip the chicken and trim skin the same way on the back. There will be more fat attached to the carcass under the skin. Trim it as well.
- Flip chicken on its back again and remove the breasts. Cut each breast in the middle close to the center bone and along the ribs.
- Store: Once you have cut your chicken into pieces it is ready for use in all kinds of dishes. If you need to marinate, go ahead and get that started. Keep them stored in an airtight bag or container for up to 2 days until you’re ready to use them.
- Freeze: Pieces of raw chicken can be kept frozen for up to 9 months. If you’re freezing a whole chicken prior to cutting it, it will keep frozen for up to 1 year. This is why buying them when they’re on sale is a great idea!