The quick and economical method for cutting up poultry shown on the previous pages produces both meaty serving portions and large pieces that serve as a basis for a stock. Professional chefs who want to use as much of the bird as possible for serving portions cut it up by the slightly different technique demonstrated here, which produces five attractive portions, each with roughly the same amount of meat.
In this method, the preliminary removal of the wing tips, neck skin and bone, and excess fat ensures neatness. The legs are not divided into thighs and drumsticks; instead, each leg makes one serving, which includes an ”oyster” — the succulent button of dark meat on each side of the bird’s back that usually disappears into the stock pot with the carcass. The wings are cut so that each piece includes some tender breast meat. The breast itself is left whole. The back — along with the wing tips, neck bone and any oddments trimmed off in the process of shaping the bird for cooking—is reserved for stock or soup.
⇓ You may also listen to the instructions by pressing the play button below
Cutting the Back:
STEP 1: Lay the chicken on its breast and locate the ends of the shoulder blades with your fingers.
STEP 2: Cut a shallow slit across the back below the shoulder blades. From the midpoint of this slit, cut down the backbone to slightly below the hip joints.
STEP 3: Do not slice through the bone. These cuts outline the area that contains the morsels known as oysters.
Freeing the Oysters:
STEP 1: Each oyster nestles snugly in a small hollow on each side of the backbone. Use the point of the knife to free each oyster from the bone, leaving the oyster attached to the skin.
Removing the Legs:
STEP 1: Lay the chicken on its back. Cut through the skin where one thigh joins the body.
STEP 2: Bend the leg outward to pop the bone from its hip joint. Cut through the socket, but not through the skin on the back lest you sever the oyster.
STEP 3: Turn the bird on its side and finish cutting, removing the leg and the oyster.
STEP 4: Repeat with the other leg. Trim off the bony drumstick knobs.
STEP 1: Turn the chicken over, breast side down. Starting at the neck, slice down into the cavity between the backbone and one shoulder blade until you arrive at the end of the shoulder blade; leave the wing attached to the breast.
STEP 2: Repeat this step on the other side of the backbone. Then pull back the freed section of backbone and, when it cracks, twist it off.
Removing the Back:
STEP 1: Insert the knife from the rear into the bird’s cavity, so that the tip of the blade protrudes from the space that was created by removing the section of backbone. Next, cut carefully toward yourself, slitting diagonally through the rib cage away from the backbone.
STEP 2: Repeat on the other side of the bird. The back will now pull away.
STEP 1: Turn the whole breast, with wings attached, skin side up and press down firmly on the breast to crack the bone, producing a flat piece of meat.
STEP 2: Sever the wing portions by cutting firmly through the skin and flesh at the points where each collarbone meets the breastbone. Make the cuts diagonally so that some of the breast meat is included in each wing portion.
Equally Handsome Portions:
When cut along the lines shown on the diagram at top, the average roasting or broiling chicken will yield five pieces of equal size for pan frying, deep frying, broiling or braising.
The leg cuts (A) include part of the back, the wing cuts (B) part of the breast. And most of the meat from the rest of the carcass is included in the breast cut (C). The breast of a larger bird, such as a capon, a goose or a turkey, can be further divided into two or more pieces. The bones left behind have very little flesh on them but can, of course, be used for stock.
Using the Skeleton as a Guide:
This view of a bird’s bone structure will help you to make the cuts shown on these pages. Each shoulder blade is separated from the backbone. Each wing is then cut off with a diagonal stroke that starts at a point where the collarbone meets the breastbone and ends just below the shoulder blade. Above each hip joint against the backbone is a disc of meat, the oyster, that remains with the leg portion.
BONUS POULTRY RECIPE