How is everyone? I’m feeling good. Today, I’d like to introduce you to whole chickens, which we will break down into 8 portions.
So, obviously, you start with the whole chicken, giblets removed.
After removing the fat from the back of the legs, flip the chicken and take out the wish bone. You have to cut into the neck area a bit, and feel with your fingers exactly where the bones are.
After taking out the wishbone, you flip the chicken back around, and start taking off the thigh and drum. You cut into the skin around the legs, and up towards the spine.
Crack the hip joint, and then finish cutting off the thigh, with the drum still attached. I was a bit squeamish about this part at first, but got used to it pretty quickly. It’s amazing how fast you can let go of (or forget about) the fact that this used to be a living animal.
After removing the legs, we move on to the front of the bird. Here, we remove the wing tips. After that, we can cut or twist off the back half of the chicken. Basically, you twist the spine, which makes an awful cracking sound. This is not for the faint of heart. The first time chef demonstrated it, shivers ran down my spine. But again, the desensitization process of doing it over and over again helps to remove emotions from the entire project.
Moving on, we cut off the ribs and what is left of the neck bones. Because the chicken breasts are attached to the rib cage, we have to be careful to cut right along the ribs and not take off too much of the breast meat with the ribs and skin in that area.
Flipping the chicken back over, we cut a part of the breast off with the wings. Basically, you want to cut straight down and through the shoulder joint. That leaves us with the breasts.
For this last cut, we will cut perpendicular to the breasts, right where the keel bone ends. The keel bone on the chicken is similar to the breast bone on humans, except it sticks out like the keel on a ship (hence the name).
And finally, we have the eight pieces of the chicken. The drums have been separated from the thighs.
So, in the end, I learned quite quickly to not think of the living animal in order to be able to break down the chicken like the chef showed us. I got better at it, and also starting working more quickly, which is essential, both to saving time (and therefore money), and also for the internal temperature of the chicken.
I’ve probably mentioned before in posts that we need to keep logs about the internal temperatures of the meats and poultry we work with. We take a starting temperature, a temperature at 30 minutes, and then again at the end. The meat or poultry cannot go over 51 degrees, otherwise bacteria start to grow more rapidly, and that becomes a health hazard. So we keep temperature logs both for the state inspection and for ourselves.
One thing about working with poultry (chicken or turkey in my case), was that it is almost frozen when we first started working with it, which in turn made my fingers cold. And we all know cold fingers are harder to move, so I had to pay special attention. Another thing I figured out right away is that chicken bones are very sharp, and I cut myself a little bit working with them. So instead of continuing to cut myself, I decided to put on gloves right away. This made me more relaxed about working more quickly, because the gloves added extra protection to my hands.
In case you were wondering, the chicken bones (the ribs, wing tips, and spine pieces) are saved and used for stock, so almost nothing gets wasted, except for some extra fat and skin.
Just in case my photos lately haven’t grossed you out enough, here’s one more:
Sorry about that. Veggies, anyone?