How to Cut a Whole Chicken

Have you ever wondered how to cut a whole chicken? Many of us buy chicken already cut because it’s easier. However, there are ways to cut a whole chicken.

How to Break Down a Chicken FB


Cutting a whole chicken is easy! Save money when you follow these instructions to cut a whole chicken into the wing, thigh, drumstick and breast pieces.

It’s just a matter of knowing how to do it correctly. While it doesn’t really take a lot of skill to cut up a chicken, it does take following directions and a little patience. 

Put the chicken on its back

When you want to cut a whole chicken, you’ll want to put the chicken on its back. Assuming the chicken has already been butchered, cleaned, and is ready for this step. 

A whole chicken sitting on a cutting board.

Pull the each leg away from the chicken 

Cutting a whole chicken has to start somewhere. With this particular step, you will want to gently pull the leg away from the body.

Cutting through the hip joint to quarter a chicken

Using a sharp chef’s knife, you will want to cut through the skin, which is located between the breast and the drumstick. 

Separating the leg from the thigh of a whole chicken.

Separate the drumstick from the thigh

The thigh and drumstick should be separated and you can do this by cutting right through the joint.

Slicing through the skin to remove the leg quarter from a whole chicken

Do this through both of the chicken legs. 

Cutting through the hip joint to quarter a chicken

Cutting through the wing

You will want to pull the wing away from the chicken. 

Separating the leg from the thigh of a whole chicken.

As you pull the wing away from the chicken, you will cut through the skin, muscle, and joints. 

Cutting the legs and thighs from a whole chicken.

Cutting the backbone off

After you have completed removed the wings and legs from the chicken, you can cut the backbone off. For this you can use scissors or you can use a knife.

Removing the backbone of a chicken from the breast.

Look for the fat line and cut along it, you’ll cut through the ribs, and eventually break the backbone off. You can then add the backbone to a pot to use for stock.

Breaking the breast into two

Removing the keel bone to split the breast of a chicken.

After you have removed the backbone from the breasts, you can start cutting the breast into two pieces.

Keel bone removed from the breast of a whole chicken.

You can do this by using a sharp knife and cutting right in between the two chicken breasts. You may have to break the bone in between the two breasts to make cutting that much easier. 

Chicken breasts on cutting board

Cutting the breasts in half

If you’re feeling up to it, you can go ahead and cut the breasts in half. So, that will leave you with four breasts, instead of two.

How to cut a whole chicken into individual cuts to save money.

What is the purpose of whole chickens?

You might be wondering why someone would want a whole chicken. Well, some people want to roast a whole chicken and then break it down to eat it.

Some people buy the whole chicken and then break it down because it’s cheaper. 

How to Cut a Whole Chicken Process Shots

Why do people buy whole chickens?

One thing you will notice, while shopping, is that chicken is not always cheap. Buying a whole chicken will get you a lot more chicken for a lesser price. So, you may consider buying a whole chicken to help you stay on budget. 

Should you wash a whole chicken before messing with it?

This is a question that not everyone knows the answer to anymore. It used to be a thing that people washed their chicken before they cooked it. Now, it’s said that washing chicken before cooking it or cutting it up can actually spread bacteria.

Bacteria from the chicken, that’s being washed, can be spread on clothes, countertops, and even equipment that you use to cook with. The bottom line is NOT to wash raw chicken.

How to Cut a Whole Chicken PIN

Why are chicken cuts important?

Following this tutorial can help you get the proper cuts for your chicken. If you just start ripping apart the chicken and not cutting it properly, you may not get the type of chicken cuts you desire.

Chicken cuts are important because this determines how you cook the selections. 

You can also learn how to spatchcock a chicken and how to make a pressure cooker bone-in chicken.

Cut Chicken Pieces PIN

Recipes that use chicken:

overhead shot of basket of buttermilk fried chicken

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

4.72 from 7 votes
This is the best Buttermilk Fried Chicken recipe! Brined chicken with fresh herbs, buttermilk and seasoned flour makes for a crispy and flavorful southern fried chicken.
See The Recipe!
Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken on a white tray

Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken Recipe

4.34 from 12 votes
Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken is made up of a simple chicken marinade for foolproof chicken on the grill every time.
See The Recipe!

Why do people make their own stock?

A lot of people make their own stock because then they’re able to know what’s in it. Once they realize how easy it is to make stock, they’re more likely to make it over and over again.

It’s as simple as 1-2-3, when it comes to making stock with the backbone of a whole cut chicken. 

How to Brine a Turkey- a step-by-step guide for brining turkey, tips for a better turkey, how to brown turkey skin and a recipe for juicy turkey. #turkeybrinerecipe #thanksgivingturkeyrecipe

The next time you look for tips on how to cut a whole chicken, I hope you will use these tips. Whole chickens are budget friendly, plus you can use the backbone to make stock.

Not only do you get a meal or two out of the chicken, you also get delicious stock that you can use for another meal.

Here is even more on how to make stock

Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Questions and Reviews

  1. I love the step by step photos making the process of breaking down a chicken so easy to follow! Great information!

  2. Thank you so much – I have always wondering how its actually done. Bookmarking in case I need it in the future.