These days, supermarkets offer packs of chicken breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings already prepared. And if you bought two of each of those things, it would cost you an awful lot more than just buying a whole bird. This isn't a problem if you enjoy wasting money, but if you want to be a bit more economical, it's a good idea to learn how to joint a chicken. Here's how to become a chicken butcher.
Before you start, make sure your chicken is cold from the fridge - it makes everything a bit easier. You'll need a chopping board, a big sharp knife, and possibly a small sharp knife. Remove any packaging, and if the chicken is trussed with string, remove that too.
Butchering a chicken - remove the legs
Pull the legs and wings away from the carcass. The first thing to do is remove the legs. With the chicken lying on its back (breasts facing upwards), cut through the skin and flesh between the leg and the body. Feel for the ball and socket joint - your cuts should be directed towards the centre of this. Turn the chicken over and cut through the skin and flesh on the underside. Now hold the carcass still with one hand and grab the leg with the other. Twist the leg until the joint cracks, and pull the leg away.
Divide the chicken leg into thigh and drumstick
Just like a human leg, chicken legs have a knee joint. The part above it is the thigh, and the bit below the knee on a chicken is called the drumstick. Take a hold of both ends of your chicken leg, and bend it so you can see where the knee is. Cut through the skin and flesh until you reach the bone. Now twist the drumstick until joint cracks and you can separate the thigh and drumstick.
Jointing a chicken - remove the breast
Before you can remove the breast, you'll need to remove the wishbone. This v-shaped bone straddles the opening at the neck end, and is buried a couple of centimetres (about an inch) inside the cavity. Using the small knife, just cut away slivers of flesh until you get to the bone. You probably won't be able to get the bone out in one piece. Pull it out with your fingers, making sure you get all of it.
Now lay the chicken on its back, and smooth out the skin. You can feel the breast bone running along the whole length of the breast. With you big knife, cut through the skin along this line, and then slide the knife into the flesh, keeping as close to the bone as possible. As you get down to the bottom of the bird, you'll hit another ball and socket joint where the wing is attached. Make sure you've cut through all the skin and flesh between the breast/wing and the body, and then twist the breast and wing to break the joint.
Jointing a chicken - remove the wing
Straighten out the skin on the breast and pull the wing away from it. Cut through the skin and flesh around the wing joint, and then twist the wing off. Cut off the skinny winglet at the end of the wing, keeping it with your other trimmings for stock. You'll notice the wing has an elbow joint with a web of skin between the upper and lower wing sections. Cut through this web, and then slice through the elbow joint.
Tidy up the breast - you might find a line of fat along the edges, and this needs to be trimmed off.
That's it! You've just jointed a chicken. Wrap all your pieces in plastic film and refrigerate (or freeze if the chicken was not previously frozen) until ready to use. Use the carcass and trimmings to make chicken stock.