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An illustrated guide to butchering a chicken. (Warning, gory pictures!)

Discussion in 'Dog Health and Nutrition' started by Souris, Mar 31, 2011.


  1. Souris

    Souris PetForums Senior

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    Illustrated guide on how to butcher a chicken. (Warning, gory pictures!)

    Having seen quite a few threads on new raw feeders recently starting their dogs on chicken, I thought an illustrated guide how to butcher a whole chicken might be handy. Now, whilst chicken in itself is an inexpensive meat and comes ready butchered in packets of thighs, quarters, wings and breast quite often whole chickens can be a touch cheaper than their butchered counterparts. I often see whole chickens reduced at the end of the day, this particular chicken in the following photos was £1.69 in the co-op at the end of the day.

    However, when I first started feeding raw I didn't even look at the whole chickens as anything else but roast. Afterall, I'm not a butcher, I didn't have a clue how to butcher anything! But, one night after picking up two chickens for the bargain price of two pounds fifty a pop at sainsburys on the reduced isle my other half coaxed me into trying to tear it apart. I'll admit it- I butchered that first chicken to the sky, it looked dreadful and the 'cuts' that I got from the chicken were hardly the uniform cuts that you normally get... But, it taught me one thing, and that was not to be scared of a whole chicken. It's suprisingly easy to tear into various parts and even those who lack decent knife skills (like myself) can make a good attempt at it.

    Now, as a disclaimer, my knife skills aren't brill. So expect messy cuts and I apologise in advance to any butchers on this forum who may be pulling their hair out as to the lack of neatness of the job. But, at the end of the day, Pixel isn't one for pristine cuts and the messier the better (as it normally means he gets more meat attached to his cuts!).

    As a second warning, there will be pictures of a butchered chicken below and those with a weak disposition may not want to go any further.


    -----

    Right, for starters, you're going to start with your basic whole chicken. You will also need:

    1. A chicken.
    2. A pair of sharp scissors.
    3. A chopping board.
    4. A large knife.
    5. A small knife.
    6. A rolling pin.

    Now, I bought a pair of knives specially for hacking up Pixel's chicken. They don't have to be expensive, but they do need to be able to go through bones. I bought a pair of Morrison's basic knives which have dulled over the time I've used them, but they do the job. Also, as a note here, please don't mind the state of my chopping board, I need to buy a new one after my slow cooker decided to melt a hole through it! However, it still works for the job, so please bear with my battered board.

    [​IMG]

    Firstly, you want to take the chicken out of the packet, and place him down onto the chopping board back down. From now on I'm going to refer to the back as the 'bottom' of the chicken and the 'breast' as the top of the chicken (where the breast meat is) when you need to turn the chicken over.

    Now, what you'll see is that our dear chicken is all tucked in. This is to A: reduce packaging and B: make our chicken look a bit meatier than it actually is so it looks more appepitising. However, what we need to do is remove the string (just cut it off with a pair of scissors and remove) and untuck the legs and wings.

    Stretch your chicken out, and have a look at it. There in front of you is ten cuts of meat: two thighs, two drumsticks, two wings, two breast pieces, a back and the carcass.

    [​IMG]

    Now, the first thing that we're going to do is take off the leg quarters. Pop the chicken breast side down onto the board and you'll see where the thigh starts. Stick your finger gently beneath the skin of the chicken and cut the skin with a pair of scissors all the way around the joint. If you can't see where the joint is, then cut the skin up from the back up the middle and around the leg cutting close to the body. (You should be able to see a ridge above the drumstick- this is where the breast bone is with the breast meat attached- you want to cut below this).

    Now your skin has gone, pull the leg away from the body until the ball of the thighbone pops out from the hip socket. You should be able to feel it popping- and see it pop out when you do it correctly. It should come out with minimum pressure, but don't be afraid to yank it if you're having real problems.

    [​IMG]

    Now, take your scissors and cut gently between the ball and the socket to remove the leg from the body. Voila, you have a quarter (thigh and drumstick) - now, that wasn't too hard, was it?

    Rinse and repeat on the other side now.

    [​IMG]

    Now, pop those quarters to one side. You have two choices with these, you can keep them whole or you can butcher them into thigh and drumstick like I do later on. For now, pop them over to one side.

    [​IMG]

    The next step is the step I have to admit I find the second most difficult. To remove the wings you want to pop the chicken breast side down again. Feel around the wing near the body and you'll be able to find the joint. Once again, take your scissors and cut around the skin: the big reason I do this is so that I can see the meat itself, it makes it easier for me to joint.

    Now, pull that wing away from the body and cut down through the joint. Use a big knife, and if it's taking some effort then gently whack your knife through the bone with a rolling pin. Just place your knife on the joint (I'd suggest your large knife here so you don't accidently hit your hand), and then tap it through with the pin.

    Then, rinse and repeat on the other side- there you go, two wings. If you're anything like me, they're very messy wings. I very rarely get the wings out 'cleanly', so don't worry too much about it.

    Pop your wings to the side and we now have two quarters, and two wings. Our actual chicken should be looking a lot rounder now.

    [​IMG]

    Right, on the next part there are various ways of doing this: I'll explain one way in the diagrams and then write out another way of doing this below.

    Tip your chicken up onto it's rump, looking down into the chicken you should be able to see the ribcage with the breast meat attached and the back below. If you look to the section between the ribs and the back- you want to cut around there to seperate the carcass into two. Take your scissors (or little knife) and gently chop around the outside of the chicken at the end of the ribs to seperate the top and bottom of the carcass.

    [​IMG]

    (Image of chicken from down showing where the ribs are.)

    You shouldn't need to go through any bone doing this, however if you find resistance- then the knife and the rolling pin always come in handy once again.

    Now, you should have your chicken back (which is suprisingly quite meaty) and the top half of your carcass complete with breast.

    [​IMG]

    As the breast meat is going to be used for my tea, I'm going to opt to cut it off from the bone here, but should the chicken be going to the dog completely then lay the top half of the carcass down on the board. Place a knife in the centre of the breast- and chop directly down seperating the two breasts in half. This will give you a really meaty cut with a bit of boney rib cage attached. You may also need the rolling pin at this point to seperate the two.

    However, as I'm going to be using this particular chicken for mine and the other halfs dinner tonight I've opted to do this slightly differently. If you want the breast meat seperate, then take your knife and cut around the breast to seperate it from the bone. I'm dreadul at this, this is more than likely my worst bit so to speak, but you should be able to seperate the meat from the carcass. If you've done it properly, you should end up with a fairly boney top
    carcass, but if you're anything like me then there's bound to be a fair bit of meat left on there! (I actually cut a bit more meat off this carcass for our tea, but you could leave it like that with quite a bit of meat on it. )

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Right- so now we have a back, a rib cage carcass, two quarters, two wings and two lumps of breast meat. Brill: we're almost done.

    Now, if you have a small dog, then what I do for Pixel is to cut the back in half. I take a knife half way down and simply cut it directly in half so he has two backs.

    Our last step is to section those quarters (if you want to section them- you could leave them whole). Firstly, I cut the skin again around the thigh, and then cut 'up' the drumstick where it meets the thigh. I tend to do this cut by eye, think about how a drumstick looks and then cut up: if I've done it properly I'll hit the joint between the thigh and drumstick. If you want to make this more obvious for yourself, then you could pull the drumstick and the thigh away from eachother which should show you where the joint is.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Then it is simply a case of cutting directly between the joint to seperate the two cuts of meat. Take your knife, place it over the area you want to cut between and then gently cut the pair apart. Voila, you should now have a lump of thigh and a drumstick.

    [​IMG]

    Great- now rinse and repeat for the other.

    If you've got this far then that's as far as this chicken goes. You should have ten sections of chicken (more if you choose to section up the back) with various meaty and boney cuts. All that's left to do now is to pop each part in a freezer bag and store until you're ready to feed your dog. Well done- that wasn't so scary, was it?

    [​IMG]

    You'll get better at doing it with practice, and soon it'll be second nature. Now, don't be scared of a whole chicken ever again. :) If anybody likes this guide, would you also like a guide on how to portion up a rabbit? I quite often get whole rabbits in, and I'd be happy to show you how to portion that up too.
     
  2. shoreset

    shoreset PetForums Senior

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    thats brill but with Kai i just lop it in half, give him half and freeze the other half :p he then does all the faffing and tearing it apart for me
     
  3. Souris

    Souris PetForums Senior

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    Lucky Kai: I bet he doesn't take long to get though half. :)

    Pixel would be a fat boy if I did that however, but no doubt he'd eat it all if I did pop it in front of him!
     
  4. Vampyria

    Vampyria PetForums VIP

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    I don't come into the Dog Forum much, but this is an utterly brilliant and informative post - you made it sound so easy! :D The pictures help a lot.

    Would this be able to become a Sticky? I see this helping a lot of dog (and cat!) owners who feed, or would like to feed raw.
     
  5. Malmum

    Malmum PetForums VIP

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    Looks lovely - i'm lazy I just cut it in half or on special days give it whole! :eek:

    Not for the little dogs though. ;) That chicken looks delicious - must cook me one someday! :eek:

    I tend to cut along the top of the breast bone and crack the back and pull it in half - oow sound like a caveman, lol!
     
  6. JoinTheChase

    JoinTheChase PetForums Junior

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    When you said "gory" I though it was still going to have feathers and a head or something :p
     
  7. Souris

    Souris PetForums Senior

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    JoinTheChase: Ahh, sorry, I thought I best put a disclaimer on it just incase! Better to be safe than sorry. :)

    Malmum: It was yummy Malmum! We had one of the breasts tonight in chicken enchiladas, it was lovely and moist. Pixel enjoyed his back as well.

    Vampyria: I'm glad it can help! I know when I first looked at a chicken my mind just went blank. I ended up getting the laptop up on the kitchen table with a youtube step by step video: still butchered the chicken though! :eek: I ended up with half the thigh still stuck to the back, so if this can help someone that's fantastic to avoid my first mistakes.

    Would anyone be interested in a similar guide for rabbit? I've been looking at getting a whole rabbit in next week, and I'd be happy to take pictures whilst I cut it up.
     
  8. Katherna

    Katherna PetForums Senior

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    What a good post, and the pics aren't gory at all - if you were gutting a fish then maybe ;)

    When portioning a chicken I'll cut it in half along the breastbone and then crack through the spine if I'm just portioning it. If I need to leave the carcass then I take the wishbone so the breast meat comes away easier but I take the thigh and drumstick off first. I pull the thigh away from the body to loosen the joint and then cut just through the skin between the thigh and the body to show the meat - the flesh on a chicken has air pockets in the membrane surrounding it so it is easier to pull apart, put your thumbs in the gap and pull your hands away from each other, this should open up the joint you should be able to feel it with your fingers if you are unsure where it is -remove your hand -and cut through the joint, sometime you get a pop or snap noise as you break the ligament or dislocate the joint, wings along the same principle but I rotate as well (usually pulling it out of the socket), thighs and drumstick are easy as the joint is easy to find.

    I did used to go through chopping boards pretty quickly at one time, but now rubber wood ones are available easily I've not needed a new one - I'm sure it was the cleaver, lol, it's not big and heavy it's a girly one. I've portioned a lot of chicken in my time as I was a butcher and the way I portion one is the way my dad taught me. Portioning a lamb, cow or pig is slightly different :p
     
    #8 Katherna, Mar 31, 2011
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2011
  9. kaisa624

    kaisa624 PetForums VIP

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    Go for the rabbit :) Holly's had some rabbit of ours, but it was precut by our butcher haha
     
  10. Souris

    Souris PetForums Senior

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    Just a quick note to say I picked up a whole duck today, so I'll be sectioning that up tomorrow for anyone interested. :) I also ordered my rabbit yesterday, so that should be here within the next two weeks.

    Katherna: Sorry for the late reply! I'll have to try your method out when I next get a chicken! Thanks for the info about the rubber wood boards: I'll have to get a rubber wood board, I was just going to pick up another plastic one tomorrow but I'll go shopping for a nicer wooden one instead. Since starting on raw I'm finding myself doing more and more with the chopping board, so it makes sense to pick up a slightly nicer one.
     
  11. jjmc

    jjmc PetForums Member

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    Not gory at all, do it all the time with chicken for OH and myself. Great post and most informative, btw if you get chicken from a butcher he/she will do all this work for you for free.
     
  12. Souris

    Souris PetForums Senior

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    Thank you very much! :)

    My butchers (strangely) doesn't sell chicken in general unless it's in their 'stir fry mix' where it's in lumps- although thinking on it, I have a feel that the mix is turkey not chicken. It's most strange, but it's meant I've always had to either get it whole or pre-sectioned.
     
  13. jjmc

    jjmc PetForums Member

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  14. Katherna

    Katherna PetForums Senior

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    Souris Buy Cookworks Large Solid Wood Butchers Block Chopping Board at Argos.co.uk - Your Online Shop for Chopping boards. This is the one I use for my animals. It's lasted a few years and apart from some scratches on it it's like new. I won't warp if it gets wet like 'normal' wooden chopping boards. To clean I sprinkle with salt to soak up any liquid, then wash it in normal water with a little soap added to get rid of any grease.
    You can't really use a butchers block brush on a small board although I have toyed with the idea of getting a small metal brush and seeing how quickly it wore the wood down as traditional butchers blocks are made from rubberwood and in scientific tests using salt and a butchers brush versus plastic chopping board and sanitising cleaning products the butchers wooden block came out cleaner and with less bacteria. RELEASE: Study: Wood cutting boards, not plastic, are safer for food prep
     
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