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How To De-Bone A Chicken

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For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Watch this video to learn how to completely remove a chicken's bones to cook its separate parts.

Video Transcript

I'm Chef Mark Elia from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to cut and debone a chicken.

The first thing we do is turn it over on its breast. Pull the wings a little bit out, so we can see where the joints are connected to the breasts. We take the tip of our knife, and go behind the wingtip and remove one wing. Turn the chicken the other way; just pull down the wing, run your knife behind it, and pull out the wing. You're cutting right at the joint.

We can then turn our chicken back up and lay it on its back. At this point you would take your fingers, and you would run them inside where the thigh connects to the back. Taking the tip of your knife, just run down along the natural seam where the thigh attaches to the back. With a quick motion with your thumb and your index finger, we can just pop the bone open, then use your knife - coming behind the bone - and remove the leg whole. Do the same thing on the other side.

To remove the back and the neck - we'll do this in two steps. We'll pinch the skin down over the tip of the breastbone; we'll lift up gently, take our knife and cut along all the fleshy part of the back. Once you've released it all the way down to the backbone, we take our hand and just break the backbone off, and with one swift motion remove the back. To get the neck out, take your knife and run it through the openings where the wings were. Then just come down about a 35- to 40-degree angle, cutting all the bones as you go down. Peel the neck forward and release any meat that might still be attached.

To debone the breast, we're going to take the tip of our knife and we're going to crack that first piece of cartilage right in between the neck. This would be the wishbone area right here. Just crack the cartilage. Do not cut the bone, because it makes it much more difficult to take out. Put your hands underneath - put your thumbs on the inside, one on each side of the cut - and peel the keel bone open. Taking your thumb and just releasing the connective tissue, go down one side of the cartilage and then the other, and just peel out the keel bone. We have these longer bones here called pinbones. Take the tip of your knife and get underneath the pin bone and just release it from the meat. Turn your knife around toward you; take your other hand and press down on the ribcage to help release it, and run your knife backwards and release all the rib material. Turn it around the other way, and do the same thing - come in underneath the pin bone and just release it from the meat, pressing down on the inside of the rib cage, and just taking the tip of your knife and following right along the curve of the rib cage. We now have a deboned chicken breast.

To remove the meat from the drumsticks and thighs, to remove the skin you would take your thumbs and go underneath the thigh area and just peel the skin back. With the inside of the leg facing you, you will be able to see a line of fat that separates the drumstick from the thigh. At this point, take your knife and run it right alongside that line of fat; that 's the natural seam the joint between the drum and thigh. To remove the meat from the bone of the thigh, just take your thumb and run it along the top of the bone, and it's a natural seam that will just open up. Take the tip of your knife, slide it down one side, slide it down the other side, peel the meat back and roll the bone out with your knife. Here's the thighbone; here's my boneless thigh meat. The drumstick is a little bit trickier. We'll take the drumstick and using the heel of my knife and my thumb, I'll put the bottom of the leg between, and I'll squeeze and I'll run my knife all the way around until there's nothing connected. At that point you can hold it up by the drumstick, run your knife down one side, run it down the other side - and you have a boneless drumstick.

And that would conclude the deboning of the chicken.