How to Cut-up a Chicken

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Wednesday, December 31, 1913:  Cut up chicken no. 2 and got a breast bone in with the back. That’s one in many of the many failures I’ve committed this year. Wonder how many will occur next year. Hope it will be some different any way.

Photo Source: The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery
Photo Source: The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Good Grief Grandma—

Don’t measure the success or failure of the year based on how well you dress chickens!

In the big scheme of things, how well you cut-up a chicken doesn’t matter much.

I’ve occasionally bought whole chickens and then tried to cut them into pieces—and it’s always been a disaster with mangled parts (such as the breast bone in with the back).

Here are the directions in The American Woman’s Cookbook for cutting up a chicken. (The directions start with a more whole chicken than what you’d find at the store today. 🙂 )

Remove head, tendons, and oil sac. Cut off the legs at thigh joint and separate drumsticks from thigh. Cut the wings from the body, removing tips.

Separate the breast from back by cutting down both sides of bird below ribs. Remove heart, liver, gizzard, entrails and fat together. Remove windpipe, crop and lungs.

Cut back and breast crossswise. The back may be further divided by cutting lengthwise. Remove the wishbone by inserting knife under the tip and cut downward, following the bone.

15 thoughts on “How to Cut-up a Chicken

  1. Oooh, I can’t be doing with all that! I’m afraid I buy the pieces I want from the supermarket – but I do admire those who are able to use the whole bird properly. I’m just about to curry the last of our turkey meat – then it will be a fresh start and a lot of salad for 2014! Happy New Year!

  2. I also don’t buy whole chickens except for maybe a roaster and then just deal with carving after it is done (hubby often does this part :)). Come on grandma. Work on your self esteem. I wonder if she doesn’t give herself a break because someone else would make comment about the butchering mistake.

  3. Mom raised chickens each year. Then would come the slaughter day. She was adept at wringing their necks. The little dog would chase the flopping headless chicken until they stopped. Someone would dip the body into boiling water, pluck the feathers, and singe the pin feathers off in a fire. Then, a crew would set about butchering each one. Lots of graphic memories for a kid.

  4. Gosh that brings back memories of August chicken butchering in a house with no air conditioning. Five a day, until all 100 were done. Oh my. I don’t remember mangling any. Thanks for the memory.

  5. LOL! I prefer to buy my chickens whole! There is more for the money! I grew up on a farm and butchering the chickens was my job from the time I was 10 years old. Daddy used an axe and a chopping block, and handed me the chicken minus the head – and I did the rest of preparing it for dinner. Those were the good ol’ days!

  6. Oh dear. I suppose it was an important skill to have a hundred years ago but Helena had so many other skills, like milking that you would think she wouldn’t worry about one failure. Chickens were a very special and expensive meal when I was young. Perhaps they were for Helena’s family too so she wouldn’t want to make a mess of it.

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