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How to Portion a Raw Chicken
Buying Raw Chicken
Whenever we are cooking chicken, it is most often the case that we will either buy the chicken whole and cook it whole, or buy only the particular piece of the bird we require. This is unfortunate for a couple of reasons. Firstly, buying a chicken whole rather than pre-cut can present excellent value for money, and secondly, cutting the chicken at home allows the various parts of the bird to be used for a variety of different purposes. There is nothing difficult or complicated about cutting up a chicken in to the required pieces, provided care is exercised and the correct cutting tool is employed. This page looks in detail, step by step, at how to cut up a raw chicken.
Preparing to Cut Up a Raw Chicken
It is entirely possible to cut up a raw chicken with a very sharp knife but a Chinese style cleaver like the one pictured is usually sharper and therefore makes the process simpler still. It is also necessary to ensure that a quality chopping-board is used and that the surface upon which the task is to be performed is steady and free of clutter.
Remove the Legs, Thighs and Wings from the Chicken
The first step to cutting up a raw chicken in this fashion is to remove the legs and thighs. The chicken should be sat flat on the chopping board, breast side uppermost. One at a time, the legs should then be pulled gently outwards and away from the body and the cleaver used to cut through the attaching skin. The legs should then be gripped firmly and pulled back to snap the bone joint attaching the thighs to the main body of the bird. The cleaver should be used to cut through the flesh, skin and gristle and the legs and thighs pulled free.
The process of removing the wings from the chicken is fairly similar. Pull the wings in turn outwards and cut through the skin. They should again be snapped at the joint before being cut free altogether.
Half the Main Body of the Chicken
In order to remove the breast fillets from the chicken, it is easiest to first of all cut the chicken body in half. Sitting the chicken up on one end, carefully cut down through the cavity, across the way, to essentially separate the top half of the bird from the bottom. Great care has to be exercised at this stage to ensure both that the bird is steady and that the cleaver does not slip as it is used to cut through what is largely bone. Resist the impulse to chop with the cleaver - instead use a combination of dexterity and steady pressure to cut down through what is a fairly straight path.
Removing the Breast Fillets from the Chicken
Depending upon how you intend cooking the breast fillets, you may find it easier to remove the skin, prior to beginning cutting at this stage. This is appropriate where the breast is perhaps being used in a stir fry and the skin would be removed anyway prior to cooking. If the breasts are to be such as shallow fried, however, it is of course desirable that the skin be left in place.
If you are unfamiliar with cutting a raw chicken in this fashion, take a minute prior to beginning to cut the fillets away to familiarise yourself with precisely where you wish to cut. Feel the breast and know the angle which your cleaver will be required to take before starting to cut.
The technique used for cutting the breast fillets from the chicken should be one of individual cuts, in one direction only. Employing what would effectively be a sawing motion will damage the tender flesh of the chicken breast and make for sloppy results. Starting at one end of each fillet in turn, slice gently - again and again - parallel and flush to the ribs, until the fillets are freed.