Cutting up poultry into its various component cuts (called “fabricating” in the culinary industry) is a very good skill to develop. Not only is it generally more economical to buy whole birds, but you are also left with the bones, which can be used to make stock. The most important thing to remember when cutting up poultry is to let the bird’s bone structure guide you.
1. Remove any giblets, livers, etc from cavity. These can be cooked and eaten, used in gravies, or frozen for later use.
2. If attached, remove the feet and head (at neck) using a meat cleaver or the heel of a chef’s knife blade with a forceful strike down.
3. Find the center breast bone and slide your blade down between it and the breast meat with shallow slicing motions. Follow down the rib cage, and angle out of the flesh above the leg. Repeat with other breast. Almost any longish knife can be used but a firm boning knife is best if you have it.
4. Pop leg joint open with your hands and cut straight down through the resulting gap. You may have to crunch through some cartilage, but shouldn’t have to cut or break the bone.
5. Once the leg joint is split, follow the leg around to the bird’s back with your knife, being sure to cut out the soft lumps of flesh (called the oysters, these are considered the most tender meat on the bird) with the leg. They are located just above where the leg connects with the back (although they are quite small on the heritage chickens and may be impossible to find on smaller birds). Separating the leg from the bird results in what is called a leg-thigh combo cut. The thigh joint can be popped and cut through to separate the two if you like.
6. To remove the wings, cut the skin webbing, and pop the joint nearest to the body, cutting down through (may have to crunch through a little cartilage).
Cut off the end joint (the nubbin) and separate the two middle joints. Each of these is one wing piece for the purposes of buffalo wings and similar recipes.
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