Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sep 18: Cutting up a Chicken

"Cut it up!" "Cut it up!" "Cut it up!"
Is one of the catch phrases for Chef Martin Yan on his PBS cooking show, Yan Can Cook.

Part of his campy shtick is his demonstration on breaking down a chicken in 18 seconds.

I can't break down a chicken in 18 seconds. Maybe two minutes in more my speed.

**** Warning! I will be cutting a chicken in this post ****
**** Not for the squeamish! ****

I had a roommate in college who had no problems eating meat or chicken, but preparing chicken freaked him out. I remember one day I was prepping a chicken when he walked into the kitchen. He saw chicken and gasped like he saw a ghost!

Before I continue with the post... I read through Julia Childs book and her recommendations. What struck me was her methods and concerns about dealing with raw chicken. Her method reminded me of The Anal Retentive Chef skit from Saturday Night Live.

Here for your view pleasure :-)

Oops... I can't embed the video... so you'll have to go check it out at NBC.
Anal Retentive Chef Clip <--- The clip is quite funny.

According to Julia, you need to lay ample amounts of newspaper around the area. Have your area ready, towels, dishes and knives at the ready.

My three favorite knives and a good pair of kitchen/poultry shears. This time, I picked the shears and the knife (the sharpest) below the shears.

One word about the cleaver. It's more of a Chinese vegetable cleaver that's good for slicing and light chopping. I tried chopping a chicken bone one time and you can tell the chicken bone won that round... lol!

When buying a chicken at the supermarket, look for the chicken with the least amount of discoloration on the wing tip. In the USA, chickens can be labeled as "fresh" when they're not stored below 26F. The theory is least amount of discoloration the fresher the chicken.

Remove the extra fat and giblets. Wash the chicken inside and out. Dry.

[left photo] Grab the wing and roll chicken on it's side to see the crease where the joint is located.
[right photo] Cut through joint to remove the wing.

Chicken Breast
For the breast you can have the bone-on or boneless. I, generally, go the boneless route.

Boneless Chicken Breast
[left photo] Along the top center-line of the chicken you'll see a ridge and a line of fat. That is the keel bone of the chicken (shown in the dashed oval).
[right photo] Cut along the side of the keel bone and use the bones to guide the knife under the breast. At the front of the chicken is the wishbone, just let the wishbone guide the knife.

Chicken breast - rib still attached.
[left photo] Lay the chicken on its side... the line of fat is what I use as a reference. Shears makes this part easy.
[middle photo] The breast is now cut away from the backbone.
[right photo] Roll chicken breast side up. Cut the breast meat away from the keel bone or you can use the shears to cut through the keel bone (can be difficult). When the breast is cut off the keel bone, use the shears to cut off the breast with the ribs still attached.

Leg Quarter
[left photo] For the leg quarter, pull up on the leg and slice through the skin.
[right photo] Pop the joint and slice from back towards the front.

Splitting the Leg Quarter
[left photo] Use the line of fat (shown in the oval) as a reference to find the joint.
[right photo] Slice down and through. Now you have a drumstick and a thigh.

Breaking down is very straight forward. The natural creases, ridges, lines of fat in the chicken act as reference points to simplyfy the whole process.

The Chicken cut into pieces - still need to trim the fat and skin, but the big task is done - breaking down the chicken.

Chicken was on sale for $0.79/pound.
Chicken weight on package: 5.66 pounds
Cost for the whole chicken: $4.47

What I ended up with after trimming excess fat and removing excess skin.
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast:1.42 lbs (Typically at $3.49/pound=$4.95)
Wings: 0.63 lbs (Typically at $2.29/pound=$1.45)
Thigh: 0.92 lbs (Typically at $1.29/pound=$1.19)
Drumsticks: 0.62 (Typically at $1.29/pound=$0.79)
Total Cost, if purchased separately, $8.38

Savings by buying whole: $3.91 !!!
Even if you only like boneless chicken breast... you still come out ahead buying whole that's on sale.

As you can tell, I can never be an anal retentive chef.
1. No aluminum foil.
2. Corners aren't squared.
3. No Tape to seal package.


Anonymous said...

Nicely done. Wow! Couldn't believe you saved so much by buying a whole chicken. Loved your blue arrows on the pictures and the videos. You are quite talented! So, tell me, what are you going to do with your cut-up chicken? Have you tried frying chicken? Do you have your own special recipe of herbs and spices? Now I'm hungry for chicken! lol

Eat4Fun said...

:-) Thank you!
What am I going to do with the chicken pieces?

Funny you should mention fried chicken.

Stay tuned! :-)