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overhead shot of a whole chicken cut into pieces on a cutting board with kitchen scissors on top

Last updated on October 9th, 2023 at 04:54 pm

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How to Cut a Whole Chicken

How to Cut a Whole Chicken is an important kitchen skill that will save you money, and make the prep for dinner time a breeze. Since we all like to save money, cutting our food budget can be a big deal. But groceries keep going up in price so it can be difficult to do. Did you know that buying a whole chicken is a lot less expensive than buying it in pieces?

For example, the average price of a whole chicken is $1.79 per pound but chicken breasts will cost you about $2.70 per pound. But then again, there are some parts of a whole chicken that we do not eat, like the wing tips and backbone. However, these parts can be used for other things like soup, stock, or other recipes. 

So, why doesn’t everyone just buy whole chickens and cut them up themselves? Good question. It may be just that they do not know how, or they think it is too hard. But it is very simple, and you can do it in less than five minutes.

All you need is a cutting board a very sharp high-quality knife and a pair of kitchen shears. The knife is the most important piece so make sure it is sharp. Well, you need a chicken too, of course. 

How to cut a chicken in five easy steps

  1. First, lay the chicken breast side up with the legs facing you. Then, slice the skin at the drumstick and pull the leg outward to pop the joint. Cut right in between the joints. Do that again for the other leg. 
  2. Next, turn the chicken on its side and cut off the wings. This is easy. Simply cut the wing joint and it will pop right out. Flip it over and do the other side. 
  3. Now, use your kitchen shears or scissors to cut down the sides of the backbone. Just cut along each side of the backbone starting at the bottom. 
  4. Then, remove the backbone and slice the breasts in half, making two breast pieces. 
  5. After, cut the leg into two pieces by cutting right behind the line of fat closest to the drumstick. 

That’s it! You now have eight pieces of chicken you can use now or wrap and freeze for later. You could also cut the breasts in half and cut the wings into two sections if you want. There are so many things you can do with chicken. If you want fried chicken, just heat your deep fryer, bread the chicken, and fry it up right now. Simple and easy. You just saved at least $25 cutting and cooking it yourself instead of going out to dinner or buying a bucket of chicken from a fast-food joint. Here are some other ideas:

Frequently asked questions

How do I buy the best chicken?

The first thing to note is that you will get the best chicken from a butcher shop or meat market. However, you can get good quality chicken from the grocery store too. Just look for a fresh chicken that is plump and shiny, has pale pink flesh, and has a clean scent. It should not smell like anything.

The skin should be white. Try not to get one with bruising or tears. Do not buy a chicken with gray flesh. Also, when you press down on it, it should be a bit resilient and come back to shape in seconds. 

What is the difference between a frying chicken and a regular one?

There are several types of chicken. A frying chicken is young (under eight weeks old) and weighs between three and four pounds. A roasting chicken should be more than four pounds and about three or four months old. Baking hens are older, about a year old, and can weigh more than five pounds. However, these older chickens have tougher meat that is best for stews or soups. 

Can I use this technique when carving a whole cooked chicken?

Yes, this is just the same way to cut a whole chicken that is already cooked. The only difference is, that you should wait a certain amount of time before cutting up a chicken after it is cooked. You want the juices to go back to where they came from so your meat will be nice and juicy. It is also better to wait until it has had time to cool off a bit, so you do not burn your fingers when trying to cut it. 

Can I cut a whole turkey this way?

A turkey is just like a chicken only larger as far as anatomy goes so you can certainly use this technique. You will save money buying your turkey whole and cutting it up just as you would a chicken. On average, you can get a whole turkey for about 40 cents per pound while turkey breast costs about $1.29 per pound. 

Expert Tips:

  • If you cook chicken often, buy several chickens and cut them up together so you can have a larger amount of each piece. For instance, if you are making chicken breasts for a family of eight, just two pieces are not going to be enough. You will need to cut up at least two chickens.
  • Buying chicken wings by themselves is worth it if you are just making chicken wings. Especially if you are buying them already cut up without the wing tips. 
  • Chicken backs are perfect for making chicken soup. Boil it low and slow with your favorite herbs and seasonings and remove the bones when you are through. The meat from the back and neck is both tender and delicious. 
  • A chicken’s back has 80% meat to 20% bone. 
  • Do not give your dog chicken bones. Some people like to give their fur babies the backbone, but they are dangerous for pups to chew on.  

How to Cut a Whole Chicken

  • Prep Time10 MIN
  • Cook Time
  • Servings 10 pieces


  • 1 whole chicken
  • water to wash the chicken


  • First, place the whole chicken on a cutting board, breast side up with the legs facing you.
  • Then, slice the inner skin where the drumsticks begin, and pull the leg outward to pop the joint. Using a very sharp butcher knife, or better kitchen scissors, cut right in between the joints. Repeat for the other leg.
  • Next, turn the chicken on its side and cut off the wings.
  • After that, cut down the sides of the backbone by cutting along each side of the backbone starting at the bottom. Remove the backbone and slice the breasts in half, making two breast pieces.
  • Lastly, cut the leg into two pieces by cutting right behind the line of fat closest to the drumstick.

Nutrition Facts

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Christy G

Christy G

I gave away my whole chicken because cutting one up scares me. I’ll have to get one and give this method a try.

Zab Zaria

Zab Zaria

I really like the tips you have provided here and I think they are very helpful. thanks for sharing!



Great tutorial on how to cut up a whole chicken. You know, it's funny I saw this today as I was in one of the local grocery stores in my area and was looking for a whole chicken that was cut up... they don't have them! Also, if I do make fried chicken, I brine in buttermilk and hot sauce for at least 4-6 hours...some people do it overnight. Thanks for a needed kitchen skill.



I haven't tried cutting a whole chicken. Thanks for the tips and tricks!

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