Quartering any form of poultry (in our case, a chicken) means to break down the bird into four separate parts between the dark and light meat. This process allows you to not only cook with the meat of the entire bird, but to also use the bones for a stock or broth. Learning how to quarter a chicken will ultimately save you time and money! (I would recommend using a boning knife for this HOW TO, but a sharp chef’s knife will also be sufficient). So here’s how to quarter a chicken!
Step 1) Prepare the Bird
– Remove any giblets from the chicken’s cavity, then wash the bird to remove any blood or extra fat. Using a towel, dry off the bird so it won’t slip on your cutting board. Place the bird on a sturdy cutting board and get ready to butcher!
Step 2) Remove the Wishbone
– Place the bird on its rear-end and feel for the wishbone (a small collar bone the bird has close to the neck and above the breasts). Removing the wishbone will make removing the two breasts much easier later on.
– After locating the bone with your finger, gently cut around the wishbone with your knife. Make sure to cut around each end of the wishbone because there are tougher tendons holding the bone to the flesh. But again, be careful not to cut too deep or you run the possibility of damaging the breast meat.
– If the wishbone breaks, don’t fret! Just continue to remove the portions still intact, until the entire bone is removed.
Step 3) Remove the Wings and Manchonner the Legs
– After removing the wishbone, cut away the wing tip portion of the bird. To do this, cut each wing at the second joint, by running your knife around this joint, then cutting through the tendon. Push back the flesh for a clean bone at the end.
– Then move onto the legs, cutting through the nuckle portion. This step is called manchonner. Just like the wings, push back the flesh for a clean bone at the end.
– This step is not required for quartering a chicken. The main purpose of this step is for aesthetic purposes once the bird is cooked (but who doesn’t want their food to look good?!?!)
Step 4) Find the Oysters
– Now it’s time to really start butchering! The first task is to find the oysters (two small portions of delicious meat right above the thighs). To locate the oysters, lay the chicken on its stomach and pull the wings back toward you. Using your knife, make a cross down the spine and at the very end of the wing tips. This will help pin point the oysters more easily.
Step 5) Remove the Thighs
– Now flip the bird on its side, cutting around the entire thigh (dark meat), making sure to cut up to the cross and around the oyster. Make sure to be very tedious around the oysters, scraping the flesh away from the bone so the entire oyster will stay attached to the thigh.
– Once the oyster is removed and the thigh is cut away, bend the thigh over to expose the joint. Dislocate the joint (you may hear a breaking sound, its ok!), then cut off the thigh entirely. Continue this process with the other thigh and set aside.
– TIP: When cutting around the thigh, make sure to leave as much skin as possible! It is easy for the skin to slide around, so continually smooth out the skin so you will end up with the most skin as possible once the chicken is quartered.
Step 6) Remove the Spine
– Now that the thighs are removed, you will be left with the breast and spine portions of the bird. Your next task is to remove the bottom portion of the spine. Do this by bending the top portion over and breaking the bones. You then twist the spine to remove. You shouldn’t even have to cut at this point, it should break away rather easily.
– Next, cut out the rest of the back portion by cutting through the ribs. A knife should cut through the ribs, but you could always use kitchen shears also. Now the entire spine should be removed, and all that is left are the breasts and rib cage.
Step 7) Separate the Breasts
– The next step is to separate the breasts (all white meat). To do this, you first have to run your knife along the keal bone (a larger bone that holds the ribs in place). Once the cut is made, bend the two breasts backwards to expose the keal bone. (The keal bone may break, but it’s OK!) Remove the entire bone and cartilage at this point and set aside.
– The final step is to cut the two breasts in half, making sure the skin is even on both sides. Now you have a quartered chicken! Ta-da!!!
***All of the bones that were removed and cut away during the butchering process (spine, keal bone, wings, etc.) can now be used in a stock or broth.