March 25, 2012

Breaking Down a Chicken

When I was putting together my recipe directory, it put my avoidance of cooking meat into black and white.  I have never had an vegetarian inclination, I've just never been a meat and potatoes kind of girl.  Granted, there are some times where I crave a burger or "still mooing" steak but it is definitely a rarity.  Most of the meat I consume is out of the house, mainly because I don't want to pay for meat but also because I don't think I'm as skilled at cooking meat.  So I think I need to institute one meat dish a week rule as well.



A couple of weeks ago I went to a cooking class through LivingSocial in their new DC space.  They have this gorgeous new commercial kitchen where local chefs can come in and do a two hour cooking class slash chat, drink, and eat.  I went to the class with Erik Bruner-Yang, the chef at the infamous H street ramen shop Toki Underground.  People will wait HOURS to get into his tiny restaurant, so I thought this would be a great experience.


And it was!  I finally learned how to break down a chicken!  Then we made an amazing stock with using every single part of vegetables, with some chopped and used in dumplings, karaage chicken, and baked and basted chicken legs and wings.  Soooooo good, definitely need to drag someone down to H street to try his ramen!


I wanted to practice my new skill and thought I would share it with you.  The whole chicken I bought ended up being the same price as the typical package of breast meat and I got at least 4 meals out of the bird!  I will be breaking down chickens from now on!




How to: Break Down a Chicken


Before starting, remove the organ bag in the cavity.  Warm up the chicken with your hands, so that it is easier to work with.  The first thing to do is to take off the legs


Hold the chicken in the air by one of the legs.  There will be a skin flap in the joint, cut that with a very sharp knife to reveal the meat.


Lay the chicken back side up, with the legs splayed out.  Use your thumb to find the leg joint and then pop it out of joint.

When you turn the chicken back over, you will be able to see the bone popped out.


Cut around the popped bone to get the leg.  Repeat on the other side.  If you want, you can pull off the skin on the leg and thigh piece.


Next, repeat the same hanging chicken trick to remove the wings.


Pop the bone, then cut through the tendon to release the both of wings.  Now that all of the extremities are removed, it's time to retrieve the breast.  I first removed the skin from the breast.


Next, remove the wishbone.  First, find the hard wishbone at the fatter end of the breast.  Make a shallow slit just above the wishbone, into the base of the breast.  Best to see this cut:


When both sides have been slit, pull out the wishbone.


Then, using the line down the center cut down to the bone and then carefully cut out the entire breast.  Repeat for the other side.  Once you have gotten to the carcass, the final "cuts" will be just pulling the meat off.


Thus, you will have a carcass, two breasts with tenders, two wings, and two leg-thigh pieces.  I used the carcass for a stock, with a hand full of baby carrots, some onions, a head of garlic, ginger, and lemongrass.


I finally separated the leg and the thigh by slicing around the connecting joint similar to the leg and wing removal.  I popped the joint and then separate the leg and thigh.


Finally, I removed the thigh bone from the meat by cutting carefully around the bone.


Now, the pieces are ready to be used!  Cheap chicken with only a little bit of effort.  Now go get creative!

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