How to Debone a Chicken

The ability to debone a chicken is something that will often come in useful. Buying a whole chicken is often far cheaper than buying it in pieces and it provides you with many more cooking options. Furthermore, even if you do by chicken in pieces, such as legs or thighs, then you may still need to debone them.

What You Need

The first think you will need is a very sharp knife. It is best to have both a large knife, such as a butcher cleaver or chef knife, and a small knife. A boning knife is ideal, but a paring knife will work.

You will also need a sturdy cutting board. It is best to use a plastic one that can be placed in the dishwasher. If your cutting board moves around, then place a wet, thin kitchen towel underneath it.

Deboning a Chicken

Deboning a chicken is a bit tricky. You will have to be careful to remove the meat while leaving it in one piece. It is possible to ask butchers to do it for you, but if you want to give it a try, then follow these steps.

  1. Remove the Wishbone

Place the chicken breast-side up with the neck facing towards you on the cutting board. Feel around the neck for the wishbone and make a small slit on either side, start at the top and slice until the knife reaches the shoulder then repeat the process on the other side.

With your fingers, carefully pull the wishbone up to remove it from the neck. You may want to use a paper towel to get a better grip on the bone. The wishbone is very delicate, so if it snaps be sure to remove any fragments left behind.

  1. Remove the Wings at the Second Joint

Leaving the drumette part of the wing attached to the carcass, use your fingers to find the joint between the wing flat and the drumette. Then slice through the joint and repeat the process on the other side.

  1. Cut the Meat from the Bone at the Shoulder

Place the chicken breast-side down and cut down the centre of the backbone to reveal the meat. Turn the chicken on its side and lift the wing drumette. Using your finger, find the joint that connects the wing at the shoulder. Cut through it and then turn the chicken over and repeat the process on the other shoulder.

Next, place the chicken so that it is upright on the cutting board with the neck up. Hold it with one hand and with the other, pull the meat down away from one shoulder until you see the oyster. Then do the same on the other side.

  1. Remove the Breast Meat

At this point the chicken is deboned at each shoulder. Next, you should pull down the front of the chicken to remove the breast meat. This can be done without a knife. The tenders will remain attached to the carcass, but you can return and remove them later.

  1. Cut the Meat from the Bone at the Hip

At this stage, the chicken is only attached to the carcass at the hip. Place the chicken on its side and make a small semi-circle cut around the oyster to cut around the joint. Then, holding the chicken by its knee, bend the knee and position the leg so that it is parallel to the spine. You then need to pull it up and away from the body. You will hear a “crack” as the joint comes out of its socket. If you are struggling, try it with the leg at a different angle.

Cut through the joint and pull the leg free from the body. You shouldn’t need a knife but if you are struggling, you can cut downwards along the backbone. Repeat this process on the other side.

  1. Remove the Leg Bones

With the exception of the tenderloins, which can simply be pulled out, the chicken meat is now free of the carcass. To remove the leg bones, you should cut around the end of the thighbone until you can hold it in one hand. Then, using the base of the knife, scrape along the bone until you reach the knee. Cut around the knee join and start scraping again when you reach the drumstick.

At the bottom of the drumstick, use a meat cleaver to remove the bottom inch of the drumstick bone. The scraped bone inside will come free.

  1. Remove the Wing Bone

Cut around the joint where the wing bone meats the shoulder until you can push down on the meat. The bone should come free easily.

Deboning Chicken Breasts

Normally chicken breasts are sold boneless. However, if you want skin-on chicken breasts then you will need to buy a split chicken breast and debone it yourself.

Place the chicken breast skin-side down on the cutting board. Starting with the thickest part of the breast, run the tip of the knife down then bone where the breastbone meets the meat. You are likely to need to make several passes while using your free hand to pull the breastbone up as you cut.

When you reach the rib cage, angle the knife along it and pull the breastbone up firmly with your free hand until it releases.

Deboning Chicken Legs

If you want to remove the leg bone from a chicken quarter, start by cutting around the end of the thighbone until you can hold it in one hand. Use the base of the knife to scrape down the bone until you reach the knee. Cut around the joint and then start scraping again when you reach the drumstick bone. Scrape it all the way down to the bottom. You can then use a meat cleaver to cut off the bottom inch of the drumstick bone and the rest of the bone will come free.