How to Cut up a Chicken

chicken on cutting board

Six Easy Pieces

Well, play on words notwithstanding, these instructions show you how to cut your whole chicken into 10 serving size pieces (12 if you divide the breast halves into quarters).  Typically the two back portions are used for stock or soup so that leaves you with 8 portions or 10 if you cut the large breast sections in half.

step 1 remove leg

1.  Remove the legs

Place the chicken breast side up on a solid cutting board. Pull one leg away from the body and cut through the skin between the body and both sides of the thigh. Bend the whole leg firmly away from the body until the ball of the thighbone pops from the hip socket.  Cut between the ball and the socket to separate the leg. Repeat with the other leg. step 2 separate thigh from leg

2. Divide The Legs

Place the chicken leg skin side down on the cutting board.   Cut down firmly through the joint between the drumstick and the thigh. step 3 remove wings

3. Remove The Wings

step 4 cut carcass in half

4.  Cut Carcass in Half  

Cut through the cavity of the bird from the tail end and slice through the thin area around the shoulder joint.  Cut parallel to the backbone and slice the bones of the rib cage.  Repeat on the opposite side of the backbone. step 5 separate back from breast

5.  Remove The Breast

Pull apart the breast and the back.  Cut down trough the shoulder bones to detach the breast from the back.  Cut the back into two pieces by cutting across the backbone where the ribs end. step 6 separate breasts

6.  Cut Breast In Half

Nutrition Information For How to Cut up a Chicken

Serving Size
1 unit (yield from 1 lb ready-to-cook chicken)
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 41mg
Sodium 46mg
Total Carbohydrate 0g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 0g
Protein 16g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Why Cut Up Your Own Chicken? 

  1. Whole chickens cost much less per pound 
  2. Pre-cut meat is often poorly trimmed and you get less meat per pound. 
The picture below shows a whole chicken cut in 10 pieces. Eight pieces are typical serving pieces and the back and tail portions are best reserved for the soup or stock pot.

a whole chicken cut up in 10 pieces

a. Legs, b. thighs, c. wings, d. part of back portion. e. tail end of back portion. f. breasts

Supersized Chickens

Many of the fryer chickens we buy today weigh in at about 4 pounds.  You may find the breast portion too large.  You can cut each half-breast in half width-wise. 


Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.