How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken: A Step by Step Guide

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Kaye Modified: July 11, 2022
How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken: A Step by Step Guide

Knowing how to cut up a whole chicken is a must for every home cook! You may think it is more convenient to buy pre-cut pieces for chicken recipes from your nearby supermarket. But this practical knife skill can help you save money as it’s not only cheaper, but you also can make use of the bones to make chicken broth! In this article, we’ll be teaching you how to cut chicken in four easy steps, as well as explore more benefits of having this trick up your sleeve. Continue reading below to find out more.

How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken

Although it may not seem like it at first, knowing how to cut up a whole chicken is quite easy. So take a whole raw chicken, pat it dry with some clean paper towels, and ready your knife and cutting board. In this section, you’ll get to learn the quickest way of cutting up this piece of poultry in four simple steps. 

Step 1: Cut Off the Leg Quarters

Person cutting off leg quarters from a whole raw chicken

Position the raw whole chicken breast side up on your cutting board. After which, you can begin cutting off the legs. Starting with either side, pull the whole chicken leg away from the body, and hold it in place using your non-dominant hand. With your other hand holding the knife, cut through the joint that connects the leg quarter from the whole bird until it separates. Repeat this step to get the other side as well. 


  • If you’re having a hard time slicing through the body, your knife might be hitting a bone. Work your way around it and cut through the joint.

Step 2: Separate the Drumsticks From the Thighs

Person separating chicken drumsticks from thigh

Depending on the chicken recipe that you plan to follow, you can keep the leg quarters as they are. However, it’s more common to separate the drumstick from the thigh to make smaller pieces when learning how to cut up a whole chicken. To do this, simply cut through the part where the chicken thighs are attached to the drumsticks. As in the previous step, locate the joint and work your way through it for a seamless knife cut. 


  • To debone chicken thighs, cut around the bone and pull it off.

Step 3: Cutting Chicken Wings

Person cutting off chicken wings from whole raw chicken

Cutting chicken wings is as easy as the previous steps in this tutorial on how to cut up a whole chicken. Working with one wing at a time, point the wing tips away from the whole bird. Then, cut through the joint that connects the chicken wings to the body, until the part is completely separated. Try to stay as close to the joint as possible to get decently portioned chicken pieces. Do this for the other side as well. 

READ ALSO: How To Cut Chicken Wings in 6 Simple Steps

Step 4: Cut Off the Chicken Breasts

Person dividing raw chicken breast into two 

Now that we’re down to the last parts of a chicken, we’ll teach you how to cut a chicken breast properly. First, turn the body so that it’s positioned breast side down. Starting with either the left or right side, cut the chicken breast by separating it from the backbone using kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Finally, cut lengthwise through the breast bone to separate the left and right parts. 

For a skinless chicken breast, simply pull off the skin from the part. Shredded, this lean part is perfect as an ingredient for delicious chicken salad recipes


  • If you want to know how to debone a chicken breast, all you have to do is run your knife along the rib cage so that the bone gets separated from the meat.     

Why Learn How to Cut a Whole Chicken?

With chopped-up chicken readily available in supermarkets, you might be wondering if it’s worth the extra effort to do these four steps yourself. To ease your concern, here are the benefits of knowing how to cut up a whole chicken at home:

It Costs Less

Knowing how to cut up a whole chicken can help you save money in the long run. How so? Well, that’s because pre-chopped cuts of chicken are slightly more expensive than the whole thing. So it follows that chopping it yourself can cut the cost of your meal expenses. That’s the reason why this option simply makes sense for people who lean towards making budget recipes to save more of their hard-earned money.

You’ll Get Fresh Chicken Cuts

The second reason to learn how to cut a chicken yourself is quality control. Since you’ll be handling the chicken parts at home, they’ll be less processed compared to pre-chopped ones. Newly-cut meat would also be fresher in comparison to those that you can simply pick up in a store. In addition to this, you’ll also have the say over the size of the individual cuts up to the last minute. 

READ ALSO: How to Defrost Chicken: 4 Quick and Safe Methods & Recipes to Try 

You Can Make Homemade Chicken Stock

The last (but not the least) practical benefit of knowing how to cut up a whole chicken: you’ll get all the parts that are regularly used for cooking, and more! After you separate the meat from the bones, don’t throw away the scrap just yet. Instead, boil the leftover carcass to make the most flavorful chicken bone broth. You can use this as the base for a noodle soup recipe and other dishes that call for this ingredient. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Do You Need Special Equipment for Cutting Raw Chicken?

The simple answer is no. Even while you’re still learning how to butcher a chicken, you don’t need special pieces of equipment or tools to get the job done. As a matter of fact, simple kitchen tools are all you need for this. In particular, a sharp knife and a large chopping board are the only necessities. We’re emphasizing the size, as it may be more helpful for beginner home cooks to have a larger working space. Kitchen or poultry shears are optional, though they also come very handy for beginners.

What Kind of Knife Is Best for Cutting Raw Chicken?

Although no special equipment is needed for learning how to break down a chicken, it might be helpful to know which ones to use for an easier time. If you have one, the most obvious choice is a boning knife. The blade on this tool is long, thin, and quite flexible — making it ideal for cutting through raw pieces of chicken. A butcher or meat knife is also really good for the job. Its blade is large and broad, primarily designed for butchering meat. If not, you can make do with a chef knife or a standard sharp knife that you have in the kitchen.

How Do You Cut a Whole Chicken Into 10 Pieces?

The eight-piece cut is standard for learning how to cut up a whole chicken. But if your recipe requires more or if you simply want smaller pieces, a 10-piece cut chicken might be more suitable for your needs. Just as in the eight-piece tutorial, start by cutting off the standard poultry cuts in this order: drumsticks, thighs, wings, and breasts. Finally, cut each breast crosswise to produce breast quarters. By splitting the breast into four pieces, you’ll yield evenly portioned chicken body parts for your dishes.

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Kaye is a writer and a recent oat milk convert. With a background in Language Studies, she has founded a deep appreciation of cultures, traditions, and the power of words. In her spare time, she enjoys testing some of the trendiest and most accessible recipes on the internet.