Sunday, February 7, 2010


Home butchery is the one of the best method in controlling cost in your kitchen, as well as giving you a better relationship with your food. Though it does require some tools that you may not have in your kitchen, their will be some need to get through some pretty heavy bones, and, as any gruesome civil war movie will show you, the best method is a saw. A simple hack saw with a metal cutting blade will make quick work of a bone and give you pause to wonder how you have ever manage to break bone. A good sharp knife, and it is important to keep you knife very sharp for butchery, is a absolute necessaite and having a boning knife help a great deal (though I have taken apart a whole pig with just a saw and chefs knife, it is advisable to have a boning knife).

In addition to your equipment, before you even make a cut or bring the animal into your kitchen, a plan is a must. With a pig you are more than likely to be getting into some curing, so have all of you cures and brines ready to go. It would even to good to have some assistance, so that as the pieces come off they can be handed off to go straight to their cure. Pieces to be kept fresh should be place immediately on ice, keep a bowl of ice near by with another bowl on top of the ice to place chops, roast, or loins to be packet up and stored for later use. Nothing should come off the animal without you know where they are going and what they will be used for. In the end you will have plentiful supply of bones for stock and fat for sausage or rendering which should be start right away.


The basics of the break down of a chicken can be applied to any fowl with only a little tweaking, such as the trimming of fat from the duck, or some small fowl may come to you viscera intact. The fowl is either prepared whole or broken down into some basics components, breast, leg and thigh (either left whole, or separated for certain preparations), and some times the wings. The wings I will divide into to two parts. The first section, the drumette, I will leave attached to the breast. In the classical culinary cannon this is often done for appearance, but has the added benefit of flavor that bone-on-meats have. It also allows for the flavorful nugget of meat you will get in your hot wings left attach to the breast (the use of the wing for production of hot wings is a bit of a mess of logistics, since each chicken only provide a four pieces meal). The remainder section of the wing made up of the fore arm of the chicken and tip is called the wing tip, which will is reserved for stock. Though there is one good use for the wings, which is in the classic breakdown for the great eight piece chicken (a favorite cut of mine for fried chicken), in this style I will cut off the tip at the last joint and steel a little of the breast meat to give my wing portion a little more meat. I have little problem in sacrificing the breast since I find it to be typically a uninteresting section of meat its only real useful property is it is easily deboned, lean, and convenient for cooking, but has a lack of flavor and easily dries out.

Deboning a chicken

Begin by placing the chicken breast side down and make a shallow cut along the back bone from neck to tail. Then locate the oysters, they are to marble sized ball just above the hip on either side of the spine. Create a second line, just above the oysters, about two inches long making a cross. With your knife point release the oysters without removing then by coming at them from the center of the cross, and sliding underneath them with a circular motion scraping along the bone basin they sit in. Take hold of the thigh with one hand and, with your other inside the cavity of the carcass hold on to the spine, bend the thigh back till you feel it pop out of sock, repeat with the other side. Starting from the cut to remove the oyster pull your knife around the inside of the thigh to the front; cutting down close to bone being careful not to remove too much skin from the breast. With this last cut you should be able to see the joint that you dislocated earlier, simply follow thru with the knife and fully remove the thigh. If you wish to separate the leg and thigh at this point place the piece skin side down on your cutting board and examine the area of flesh where the two pieces meet. You will see a thin white line of fat, if you cut thru just on the leg side of the line, with the cut running parallel to the line, you should cut cleanly without hitting any bone. Turn the bird on to its back with the point of the breast point away from you. With you fingers feel in the fleshy area of the breast where the meet the neck opening, you should feel a triangular bone, the wishbone, running along it. Carefully slide your knife just above the bone on either breast; just enough to reach in to the cut grab the bone. Give a firm pull and it should come out with minimal tearing to the breast (do not worry if it doesn’t come out whole, the bone is often broken during the process of butchering). Turn the bird around now so that the point of the breast is come toward you. Like on the back, make a shallow cut thru the skin down the line separating the two breasts. Follow thru with shallow cuts to the breast bone. Continue the cut on one side using the bone as a guide to your knife. As you continue the cut you will see the beast coming off of the carcass, there are two warnings here for you. First as the point of the breast comes off you will see that it is mostly attached by cartilage, be careful that you are not cutting thru the cartilage leaving part of it on your breast. Secondly, as you remove the front part of the breast (you will also see how easily this comes off thanks to removing the wishbone first) you will come across where the breast, carcass, and wing come together. First concern yourself with removing the wings from carcass by finding three tendons around the joint, once removed you should be able to follow thru with the cut removing the breast and wing still attached. From here you need to decide what will happen to the wing. If you wish to keep the wing whole as another portion cut thru the breast sacrificing some of its meat toward the wing, making it a little more of a substation portion. If the wing is not to be used as a potion I would leave the drumette attached to the breast by cutting thru the wing at its first joint past the breast. The remainder of the wing goes to stock, while you have a breast with the drumette attach as a flag, which makes a lovely and classical presentation.

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