Begin at the Beginning of Butchering
This is the second part of a three-part series on butchering chickens.
For Part 1, see Preparing Your Work Space; Scalding and Plucking Chickens
Caution: I skipped nothing in these hubs. All guts and gore are shown as they naturally occur. All that is missing are the smells! (Be thankful.)
Cutting Off the Yellow Feet and Legs
The first step in cutting up or gutting a chicken is to remove the yellow-skinned legs and feet. Find the "break" in the joint between the yellow and white/pink portions of leg, and slice right through. You may have to cut from both the front and back of the joint to do a clean job.
If your knife does not go through fairly easily, reassess where the joint really is, and try again.
The Neck and Crop
Begin by making a slit in the skin of the neck near the breast.
Continue cutting up toward the head, until the neck skin is completely split.
Cut loose the excess skin...
...and push it up toward the head.
Feel for the crop (aka "craw"). If you can't find it, slit carefully to one side of the neck, and search visually.
Carefully cut around the crop. Pull it out if you can. If not, wait for the gutting process.
This is what it looks like if you mess up, and cut *into* the crop.
Next, pull the head and neck skin off.
The head should detach fairly easily. Remember, the neck is mostly cut.
Cutting Off the Tail
This little bump is an oil gland, with which the chickens care for their feathers. If you keep the tail, you will want to remove this gland.
If you don't wish to keep the tail, cut off the whole thing. Cut first from the top...
...then on each side, then from underneath, being careful not to nick the intestines.
You may also wait until the chicken is gutted to remove the tail.
This is what happens when you cut into the intestines - chicken poop all over your food. Rinse well, immediately.
Removing the Guts
First, slit above the tail area, on the belly side. (Dad got in a hurry and didn't yet remove the yellow legs, or tail.)
Expand it until you have a triangular opening, large enough to force your hand through.
Insert hand, grab a fistful of warm guts...
...and pull. Repeat. Most of the intestines should come out with one scoop, but certain organs, such as the heart, may stick tighter.
Here is the crop, which often comes out easily with the guts. Don't worry about the lungs, which stick tight at this stage.
Spraying the body cavity clean is a good idea, from the back...
A "finished" chicken. this is about as clean as you can expect chickens to be when you buy them from a store.
Place gutted chickens in your hauling tubs, ready for their final cleaning.
The crop and attached parts. You can see why it is sometimes a problem to remove all at once.
This is the gall bladder. If you burst it, you will have lovely green juice all over, so be careful!
Here are all the major guts and organs. Be sure you remove them all. Save the heart, gizzard, and liver, if you wish. Discard the rest. (See below for how to detach the giblets.)
Cutting Up A Chicken Into Parts - Removing the Thighs and Legs
Pull leg away from body...
...and cut where connection is thinnest. Break the joint over, until it is exposed.
Cut straight into the hip joint, frist from the front, and then from the back.
It should look like this when you are finished.
Find the joint between the lower leg and thigh with your thumb. Cut down toward it. Cut half-way through the joint from the top. This may take more than one try, especially on big birds.
Finish the cut from the bottom.
This is a well-separated joint.
Taking Off the Neck; Separating Breast and Back
Hold chicken upright by neck. Cut along shoulder bone (not a completely straight cut).
Make a deep cut on both sides.
Forcefully separate neck from back. (Pull hard!) On small birds, you may leave the neck attached.
The birds should split right down the sides, into the upper back area. But they don't always. This one separated correctly.
Have a strong person help with this next step. Position bird on back, and take a firm grip with both hands - one on the back, and one on the breast.
Grunt loudly, and pull with all your might. (Sorry, I was 1/2 a second behind on this photo. When the pieces separate, they usually come fast.)
Cut below breast bone, first from the top...
Cutting the Breast into Three Portions
Cut into the center breast cartilage.
Force sections open somewhat.
Cut between ribs and breast bone, from ribs on down, on both sides. Break side pieces away from center breast bone section.
Finish cutting into three portions.
This shows a finished side piece and breast piece.
Preparing the Giblets (Heart, Liver, and Gizzard)
Here is a selection of all the internal organs worth saving - the gizzard, heart, and liver.
Cut the heart off as close to the "tubes" as possible. The fat is okay.
Here is a liver, with gall bladder attached. Cut off gall bladder, gently.
Cut gizzard away from intestines. (Gizzards are slippery, be careful.)
Cut open the gizzard on the side with the widest "hump". Try not to cut into the inner sac, as was done here.
Peel away inner sac gently, while standing over the gut bucket, in case the sac breaks and spills the grain and rocks inside.
Two finished gizzards. The gizzards from these birds were extremely fatty. They are not always this way.
Besides Stuffing, What are Giblets Good For?
Livers - fishing bait; liver mousse; pates.
Hearts - Snacks, or side dish (coat with flour and pan-fry in oil).
Gizzards - Snacks (stew until tender).
Feet - While not a giblet, some people enjoy chicken foot soup.
I haven't yet found a use for chicken lips.
This bird is as finished as most processing plants get them.
But if you look closely, you will see there is still some cleaning to be done. Pin feathers, lung bits, blood, and dirty yellow skin still remain.