Deboning a chicken

| arrow_downward Jump to Recipe

It was the summer before my junior year in college. That year, I was finally moving off campus into an apartment with my friends, which meant no more dining hall food, so I had to learn to cook for myself. Luckily I already had the basics down due to years of watching and helping my dad cook, but he had one final ESSENTIAL skill to pass down...






That's right, deboning a whole chicken. You see, a whole chicken was generally $0.99/lb while chicken breast was 3x or more the price!! I prefer dark meat anyway, but even chicken thighs cost more than $0.99/lb. And as a humble college student, I had to make my money last, so whole chickens it was. 


The method

Watch the video below, or read on for step-by step instructions!


  • 1 whole chicken
  • A chopping board
  • A pairing knife
  • 3 containers (for meat, skin, bones)

(1) Remove any gizzards/necks that have been stuffed into the chicken and drain any blood/water from the cavity. Give the chicken a quick rinse.

(2) Place the chicken on the cutting board, breast-side down. Cut a slit all the way down the back, following the spine.


(3) Flip over the chicken, and cut down the middle between the breasts


(4) Stand the chicken up and find the right shoulder/wing joint. You should be able to feel the grooves of the joint. Stab your knife between the joint and saw your knife up and down until you feel the wing detach from the joint. 


5) Starting from the shoulder joint, cut a straight line to the back, connecting to the cut down the spine from step 2.


6) Starting again from the shoulder joint, cut a straight line across the collar area to the front cut from step 3. wing-to-breast-cut

7) Next, we are going to detach the right breast and wing with all the skin from the right half of the chicken, all in one motion. Grip the chicken from the top of the neck cavity with your left hand, and grip the right wing/shoulder with your right hand.


Pull your right hand down and away.


As you tear down, the back skin, front skin, and right breast should tear down, and the bottom half of the skin should continue tearing off through the chicken leg.



Set aside the resulting breast + wing + skin.



8) Repeat steps 4 to 7 for the left side



9) Next we will remove the tenders. Flip the chicken on its back and you should see two tenders on either side of the sternum.


To remove the tender, slice your knife along the side of the sternum, and then along the rib cage to detach the tender.




Repeat for the second tender.

10) To detach the leg quarter, flip the chicken on its front. Grab the right leg quarter with your right hand, and keep your left hand on the spine.


Crack the hip joint by bending the leg backwards from its hip joint.


With your pairing knife, cut along the body from the hip to the tail, detaching the leg quarter. Tip: there's a little scoop of meat at the very beginning of the the area (pictured below). Try and get it! Or leave it for soup.




Repeat the same for the other side.

11) To get your chicken wings, Get your breast + wing + skin pieces from step 7 and cut the wing out along the top of the drumette. I find this easier to do with the chicken breast skin-side down. 



12) After you detach your wing, you can rip the skin off the breast to have skinless chicken breast. For $0.99/lb!!! Repeat steps 11-12 for the other wing/breast.



13) For the leg quarters, you can either leave as is if you want roasted leg quarters (although they're skinless at this point), or you can separate the thigh from the drum, or you can debone them all-together. If deboning all-together, lay leg quarter inner-side up .


Press to locate the thigh bone, and cut two cuts along the sides of the bone.


Slip your knife through the cuts and underneath the bone, then cut along the bone and out to the free end, separating the thigh bone from the meat.


Do the same for the drumstick.



At this point, both bones should be somewhat free from the meat, but still attached at the knee joint. Grab the two bones together, push any meat still stuck to the bones toward the knee joint.


Once the meat is pushed down as much as possible, cut around the knee joint and separate the meat and the side. Repeat for the other leg quarter.

And that's it! At the end, you should have

  • 1 chicken carcass
  • 2 wings
  • 2 breasts
  • 2 chicken tenders
  • 2 leg quarters 



I wrap individual parts in plastic wrap and freeze them for later use, and then I use the chicken carcass to make a chicken bone broth.

Hope this was helpful! Let me know at @theflounderingcook on instagram if you give this a shot. Happy deboning! 




I'm Alicia, the floundering cook. Thanks for joining me on my kitchen adventures. I hope you can pick up a few tips or tricks while you're here. Happy cooking!

Subscribe to my newsletter

Stay updated on my latest cooking adventures and learnings via my weekly newsletter

Follow me