Sunday, July 18, 2010

How to Debone a Chicken

Must conquer chicken.

(Jessica: it's not bloody)

After my cooking boot camp chicken disaster, I am on a mission to overcome my aversion of chicken and master it.  I bought a free range whole chicken from Market Meat.  Whole chicken costs slightly less than individual parts and significantly cheaper than the boneless skinless products.  I used to think the differences in cost isn't worth the labour of deboning and de-skinning the whole bird, but after a few practice, it does get easier. Plus, you can use the bones for chicken broth.

There are countless ways to start deboning your chicken. Helen is the master when it comes to this rather formidable task. Maybe I will have her add a few things the post later. I learned to debone chicken at the bootcamp.

Step 1: Cut off the wings. This is much easier than it seems.  Find the "knuckles" in the joints and gently ease your knife in.  If you get the spot right, it should cut right through without much resistance. Repeat for the other side.

Step 2: Feel and find the chicken beast bone. Flip the bird over and point the tail end away from you. Use your finger to get a feel for the bone in the middle of the chicken. You want to figure out where it is, how long and thick it is, and where is the best place to start cutting.  Don't rely on sight.

Step 3: Cut (carve) the breast along the breast bone.  Choose a side of the chicken, starting from the tail end, carve out the breast along the bone.  The bone thickens, curves and then split into collar bones.  Continue to carve the meat along the bone until the end of the collar bones.

Step 4: Separate the breast from the shoulder. At the end of the collar bone, use your hand to feel for the shoulder joint.  Bend the joint back to expose "the knuckle".  This is the same motion as if to dislocate someone's shoulder. Cut through it with your knife. It should slice through easily.

Step 5: Seperate the thigh from the hip. Turn the knife around and cut the chicken along the hip bone until you reach the hip joint. Again, bend the joint back to dislocate the hip completely and then cut through the joint with your knife.

Step 6: Repeat for the other side. Once finish.  Put the bones aside. If you are not making chicken broth, discard the bones.

Step 7: Separate the breasts from the thighs.  At this point, you have two large pieces of chicken with the breast and thigh connected by some skins and tissues.  If you feel around, you will easily find this spot and cut it in half to separate them.

At this point, you need to decide what you what type of end product you want.  For this tutorial, I will keep cutting until all the product is completely boneless and skinless.

Boneless Skinless Breast
At this point, you should have chicken breast with skin on.  Skin can be easily peeled off.  If not, a little encouragement with the knife with suffice.  Attached to the breast is a small elongated piece of tenderloin.  With the skin side down, tenderloin lies onto of the breast. This piece should be separated from the chicken to ensure the breast cooks evenly.  You can remove this piece by hand or with a little help with the knife.

Boneless Skinless Thigh
At this point, the whole leg has both skin and bone.  You will need to feel around the thigh to find the bone.  With your fingers, secure the bone in your hand with two fingers under the bone. With the tip of your knife, ease into the meat to expose the bone and cut under it (like in the photo). Simply cut and scrape along the bones both ways until you reach the knee joint.  If you want to make drumsticks, dislocate the knee joint and cut it.  If you rather use the whole thigh as one piece of meat, don't cut the knee joint.  Instead, with your knife, continue to cut and scrap the meat off the the knee and then the lower bones until the end tip.  This tip of the leg has no meat and a lot of stringy tendons.  Just cut off the skin and tendons here.  Skin then can be easily peeled off by hand or with a knife.

Now, you have two pieces of boneless skinless breast, two thighs, two wings, two tenderloins, and maybe two drumsticks!

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