How To Cut Up a Whole Chicken

If you have never cut up a whole chicken before, it can seem like a daunting task. But don’t worry, it’s actually pretty easy! In this blog post, I will show you how to cut up a whole chicken into 8 pieces.

I’ll also tell you how to spatchcock a chicken, which is one of my favorite ways to cut up a whole chicken if I’m going to cook it on the grill.

whole chicken cut into pieces
whole chicken cut into pieces

So whether you raise your own meat chickens (in which case you’ll probably also do the butchering) or just want to get a bargain by buying a whole chicken at the grocery store and cutting it up into separate parts and pieces, this post is for you.

Why Cut Up a Whole Chicken?

When it comes to cooking chicken, there are many different ways to prepare it. One popular method is to cut the chicken into pieces before cooking. There are several reasons why this is often the preferred approach.

More Kitchen Flexibility and Faster Cooking Times

Cutting the chicken into pieces gives you more flexibility in terms of how you cook it. For example, you can pan-fry individual pieces, or roast the chicken in a single whole piece.

Cutting up the chicken can help to reduce cooking time. This is especially helpful if you’re short on time or need to get dinner on the table quickly.

Saves Money

Buying a whole chicken runs about $1.27/lb. average (in my area), and is much cheaper than buying the parts separately.

Breasts are on average $3.99/lb. and legs/thighs go for $2.19/lb. Don’t get me started on wings!

Allows You To Make Homemade Chicken Stock

Any experienced chef knows that stock is the key to a good recipe. Not only does it add flavor, but it also provides a base for sauces and soups. While store-bought stock is convenient, it can often be bland and lacking in richness. The good news is that it’s easy to make your own stock at home using chicken bones.

If you buy a whole chicken (or raise your own meat birds, as I do), you can easily make stock from the carcass. It’s a great way to minimize waste and improve your family’s access to nutritious foods.

Don’t Need to Buy Processed Chicken – Reduces Bacterial Exposure

Chickens are a staple in many diets around the world. They are relatively easy to raise and provide a good source of protein. However, chickens can also be a source of foodborne illness if they are not handled properly.

One way to reduce your risk of exposure to bacteria is to buy whole chickens and cut them up yourself. This way, you can control how the chicken is prepared and ensure that it is cooked properly.

Additionally, cutting up your own chicken will reduce your exposure to bacteria that may be present on the surface of pre-cut chicken pieces.

Cutting Up a Whole Chicken Step by Step

Below is the method I use most often to cut up a whole chicken – the 8 piece split. When you’re done with these steps, you’ll have two breasts, two thighs, and two wings.

But wait! That’s only six pieces. This is called the 8 piece split because you can choose to cut the breasts again if you’d like to get more meals.

If you’re raising very large chickens, this is a good option to consider.

Don’t forget – you can use the carcass for bone broth, so be sure to save it!

Get Your Items Gathered Up

When it comes to cutting up a whole chicken, there are a few key items that you’ll need in order to do the job properly:

  • cutting board
  • sharp knife
  • kitchen shears
  • platter or bowl

First, you’ll need a clean cutting board. It’s important to have a board that’s big enough to comfortably fit the chicken, as well as one that has a good grip so it won’t slip while you’re working.

You’ll also need sharp kitchen shears for cutting through the fat and connective tissue. Finally, you’ll need some cleaning supplies handy so you can clean up afterwards.

I recommend having a platter on hand to put all of your pieces, too.

whole chicken next to knife on chopping board
whole chicken next to knife on chopping board

Begin by placing the whole chicken, breast side up. Again, you want an extremely SHARP boning or chef’s knife to work with, to minimize slippage and possible injury.

Make Sure the Chicken Isn’t Frozen

thawed whole chicken
thawed whole chicken

If you plan on cutting up a whole chicken, it’s important to make sure that it isn’t frozen first. Frozen chicken is more difficult to cut up, and there’s a higher chance that you’ll end up with uneven pieces.

When cutting up a frozen chicken, use a sharp knife and work slowly and carefully. It’s also a good idea to put the chicken in the fridge for an hour or so before you start cutting, as this will make it slightly easier to handle.

Remove Excess Fat and Any Remaining Innards

If you’re planning on cutting up a whole chicken, there are a few things you’ll need to do first.

If you’ve purchased a bird from most stores or slaughtered your own on your farm quite a while ago, you may be able to skip this step.

First, remove any excess fat from the bird. You can either do this by trimming it off with a knife or using your fingers to pull it away.

Next, remove the innards from the chicken. These include the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Once again, you can either use a knife or your fingers for this task.

Finally, give the chicken a good wash under cold water. This will help to remove any bacteria that may be present on the surface of the bird. Once you’ve done all of these things, you’re ready to start cutting up your whole chicken.

Cut the Fat Line of the Thigh Bone and Leg

Start cutting down the “fat line” of the inner thigh and leg piece together:

cutting the fat line on a whole chicken
cutting the fat line on a whole chicken

Then, you will “pop” the thigh socket part of the chicken to get it to lay flat:

popping socket on whole chicken
popping socket on whole chicken

Return to Leg and Thigh Quarter

cutting thighs and legs on whole chicken
cutting thighs and legs on whole chicken

Go back to the leg and thigh quarter, and follow the “fat lines” to remove. Repeat on the otheron other side.

Separating Drumsticks and Thighs

To have the drumsticks legs and chicken thighs separate, simply place the boning knife in the joint area and “pop” it down to cut through. This is another reason to have a really sharp knife.

Repeat, Then Remove the Chicken Breasts

cut the breast on a whole chicken
cut the breast on a whole chicken

Repeat on the other side. Then, carefully, slice down the breastbone and ribs to remove the chicken breast side. If you want bone-in chicken breasts, you can leave the rib cage in but I usually take it out.

Carefully, cut around the entire breast along the “fat lines” and remove. Repeat on the other side.

Remove the Wings

cutting wing tips
cutting wing tips

Next, you will remove the wings and wing tips along the joint. This may require you to turn the bird slightly to get under the joint.

Skin the Pieces (Can Also Be Done At the Beginning)

If you want to skin the thighs or breasts, this is a good time to do it, too.

Dispose of the Carcass

disposing of chicken carcass
disposing of chicken carcass

Most people know that chicken broth is a tasty and nutritious way to use up leftover chicken bones.

However, there are many other ways to make use of a chicken carcass. For example, the bones can be used to make a rich and flavorful stock for soups and stews.

Or, the carcass can be roasted to create a delicious base for gravy or sauce. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even deep fry the bones to create a crunchy and unique snack.

Whatever you do with it, make sure to dispose of the chicken carcass in a way that’s both safe and environmentally friendly.

Composting is another good option – while it takes a hot compost to break down a chicken effectively, I’ve found this to be a descent method as well. But again, making stock or broth is really my favorite!

How to Spatchcock a Chicken

So now you know how to cut up a chicken into separate parts and pieces – but I also want to tell you about how to spatchcock one!

This is perhaps my FAVORITE method of cutting up a whole chicken.

Spatchcocking, or butterflying, a chicken is a great way to ensure even cooking on the grill.

  1. To start, remove the chicken’s backbone by using kitchen or poultry shears to cut along either side of it.
  2. Once the backbone is removed, open up the chicken and press down firmly to flatten it. Give the chicken a good rinse.
  3. Season the chicken as desired, then place it on the grill over direct heat.
  4. Cook for 8-10 minutes per side, or until the chicken is cooked through. Spatchcocked chicken is a delicious and easy way to enjoy grilled chicken any time of year.

How Long Can I Refrigerate a Whole Chicken?

According to the USDA, a whole chicken can be safely refrigerated for up to two days.

However, it’s important to keep the chicken well-wrapped so that it doesn’t contaminate other foods in the fridge.

If you bought a whole chicken or just slaughtered one and can’t get around to cutting it up right away, don’t worry – you do have some wiggle room!

Final Thoughts

You now have a fully fabricated chicken with all the breast meat, thighs, drummette pieces, and wings you need!

All of these smaller pieces are perfect for your favorite recipes. You can use the pieces any way you wish, and the carcass makes a wonderful bone broth!

There are lots of tutorials out there when it comes to separating thighs and breast meat from a chicken, but hopefully, these instructions have helped to clear things up for you.

What will you do with your chicken pieces? To get some delicious budget stretching chicken recipes, read the post here. Be sure to pin this for later, too!

how to cut up a whole chicken pinterest

last update: August 2nd 2022 by Rebekah Pierce

21 thoughts on “How To Cut Up a Whole Chicken”

  1. Krystal Bernier

    Your method is way better than mine, I will be switching over 🙂 You make it look so easy, so we will see how it goes. It really is amazing how they overcharge for those chicken parts. It takes a little more elbow grease to cut up the chickens yourself, but the savings are so worth it.

  2. My mom would even fry the back. She didn’t waste any part. She even fried the liver, gizzard, and heart. With 6 people to feed, you didn’t waste any part.

  3. This is great, the pictures make it so easy. I’ve never had to cut up a whole chicken because we have so many mouths to feed.

  4. Merissa @ Little House Living

    Thanks for sharing this! I bet I could fit more than one chicken in the crockpot if I cut it up. I may have to try it next time!

  5. This is perfect! I think I’m going to email this article to the peeps who said they’re going to help us slaughter chickens. We usually freeze them whole, But I think I want to part them up this time. Thanks!

  6. This is great! We have been getting whole chickens a lot lately. Can’t wait to follow along with this tutorial!

  7. This is a great help. Butchering is often what stops us from raising chickens. It’s great to see the photos that make it so much easlier.

  8. I have cut up lots (and lots, and lots) of chicken, but I was entirely self-taught. I knew it had to be easier than what I was doing. I used your video today to cut up one and I can’t thank you enough. It was great. I was even able to preserve the little “oyster” of meat on the back of the thigh. Could never do that before.
    This will certainly make butchering time easier.

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