It's a smart way to get more cluck for your buck.

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whole chicken broken down into separate parts: wings, breasts, thighs, drumsticks
Credit: Meredith

It might be tempting to reach for that package of pre-cut pieces when you're shopping for your chicken dinner, but if you compare the price per pound between a whole chicken and a pre-cut pack, you'll see that in most cases the whole chicken is a better buy. #budgetfriendly

But let's say you're going to grill the chicken and you'd rather do it in pieces. That's when it really pays to know how to cut it up (aka break it down) into separate parts. We'll show you how to do that in just four easy steps.

Bonus: The only leftover piece will be the backbone (and maybe the neck and giblets), which you can use to make homemade chicken stock. More money saved!

How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken

Equipment

Tip: Always cut through the joints rather than the bones. The joints are easy to identify because that's where the legs, thighs, and wings bend. The only time You'll cut through the bone is when you cut the whole breast into two halves.

1. Clean out the cavity.

Place the chicken breastbone-side up on a clean, flat cutting surface and reach inside the opening of the chicken to remove the neck and/or giblets that might be in there. You can set these pieces aside (except for the liver) to make homemade chicken stock. This is also a good time to pull off any excess chicken fat.

2. Cut off the legs.

cutting off a chicken leg from a whole chicken
Credit: Meredith

Working with one leg at a time, pull the leg away from the body and cut through the joint where the leg is attached to the body. After they're removed, you can cut through the joint to separate them into drumsticks and thighs.

cutting through the chicken leg joint to separate the drumstick from the thigh
Credit: Meredith

3. Cut off the wings.

cutting through the wing joint where it joins the chicken carcass to remove the wing
Credit: Meredith

Working with one wing at a time, pull the wing away from the body and cut through the joint where the wing is attached.

4. Cut off the chicken breasts.

Using kitchen shears to remove the backbone from the chicken carcass after legs and wings have been removed
Credit: Meredith

Turn the chicken breast-side down and remove the backbone by making a cut down both sides of the backbone. OR you can turn the carcass on its side, as shown above, and use kitchen shears to cut out the backbone. When the backbone is removed, you can keep the breasts turned skin-side down and cut lengthwise down the center of the breast (keel) to make two breast halves.

Cutting through the keel of the chicken breast to separate it into two halves
Credit: Meredith

Whole chicken broken down into separate parts:

whole chicken broken down into separate parts: wings, breasts, thighs, drumsticks
Credit: Meredith

VIDEO: How To Cut up a Whole Chicken:

VIDEO: Watch Chef John cut up a whole chicken using kitchen shears:

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