How To Carve A Whole Chicken

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Carving a bird at the dinner table has been a role of great prestige in my family. I remember watching my grandpa cut into the turkey every Thanksgiving with the biggest smile on his face as he stood and cracked jokes with the family crammed around the table. And my dad always took pride as he cut into the turkey he spent all day on for his family. I find that my weekly carving of our Sunday night roasted chicken is a little homage to those special men I had in my life. But it did take some practice. I, too, was a little intimated about cutting into that Thanksgiving turkey when I had my chance. My grandpa and dad made it look so easy. And it actually is! A chicken and a turkey are basically the same in terms of the carving process. With these tips, you too will find carving-ease on Sunday nights, Thanksgiving afternoons, or any other day you you’re craving a delicious roasted bird.

There are several ways to cut a chicken, but for this tutorial I’m going to explain the 6-piece and 8-piece cut chicken. Both are standard, simple techniques and the only difference between the two is cutting the leg into the drumstick and thigh. These techniques are great money savers too. Why spend twice (or three times) as much on pre-cut chicken when you can cut your own!

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  1. Start with a perfectly roasted (and rested) chicken (or raw chicken, if you prefer to roast individual pieces).

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2.  Cut into the skin just above the leg — this will expose the thigh socket and joint.

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3. Forcefully pull the leg away from the body until the joint pops. This will be surprisingly easy if the bird is cooked completely.

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4. This is where you turn a 6 piece cut chicken into an 8 piece. To cut the drumstick from the thigh, cut along the groove that visibly separates the two. Wiggle the edge of your knife around slightly to find the joint and pry the thigh free from the drumstick.

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8-piece cut chicken separates the thigh and drumstick. Easiest for sharing at the dinner table.

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5. To cut the wing, pull it slightly away from the bird and then use your knife to cut through and separate the wing joint.

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6. Now you should only be left with the breasts! Cut along the breast bone at a 45° angle. To help with a clean cut, use your hands to pry the breast meat away from the bone as you cut it. Serve the breasts whole or slice at a 45 °angle into 1 inch pieces.

Extra secret chef tip: Have you ever looked for, or better yet, tasted a chicken oyster?? Not actually a seafood oyster, the chicken version is comprised of two oyster-shaped pieces of dark meat hidden on either side of the backbone. It’s arguably two of the tastiest pieces of the chicken. So before you throw your chicken bones into the stock pot for homemade chicken stock, hunt for these little guys first! Just turn the carved chicken over to expose the backbone and the oysters should be staring right at you.

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See, its a piece of cake (er…chicken?). No need to worry when Thanksgiving rolls around. Grab that carving knife and wield it with pride.

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Whole roasted chicken cut into 6 pieces.
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Whole roasted chicken cut into 8 pieces.

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