Hello, Fellow Springdellians! Jess here, and I’m ready to shift gears from talking about fruits and veggies and spend a day chatting about chicken. (My vegetarian and vegan friends may opt to scroll past this post, as it does contain some graphic images of the process of processing.) The next Poultry Harvest is a week from today, and there are still some lovely birds available, just stop by the farm stand to order yours!
One of the things that may be off-putting to bringing home a bird is that you may not be interested in roasting the entire chicken at one time. (Especially a Springdell chicken as they often tend to run large). You might also be off-put by the process of “dealing with” the chicken. This is why I went over to Sarah’s house and asked her to school me in the correct ways of breaking down a chicken. There are so many beautiful parts to a farm-raised chicken, it could feed a family for days (as evidenced by the 5 days I spent posting about one Springdell chicken). Picking up a Springdell chicken on the day of the harvest ensures that you can break it down and then fresh freeze it in parts for later use. It may seem intimidating, but it’s really not so bad. Let’s take a look:
First, you’ll want to have the right tools set up for the job. It’s no fun to scramble for a paper towel once you’ve already cut into the chicken, so have them handy. Start with a cutting board, preferably not wood with a drip edge, and on a towel. Your knife should be sharp, and having a roll of paper towels nearby is a good thing.
Next, you take your sharp knife and lift the bird off of the table by the leg. This creates an obvious fold of skin at which you’ll make your first cut.
Once the skin is broken at the crease, you can see where the next cut across will be made.
Much of cutting up a chicken has to do with finding the joints. Once that cut is made, you place the bird back on the table and pull back on the leg until the joint becomes visible. These are fresh and well exercised chickens, so the joints are apparent.
There it is, that little red nodule…You’ll want to cut just to the right of it to separate the drumstick and thigh from the body.
Here we see the underside of the leg/thigh which has been separated from the rest of the bird.
When you bend back the drumstick and the thigh, you’ll see the next joint and where to cut to separate the two pieces.
This cut is made on the cutting board. If you lose the joint, just pick the piece up and bend back again until you find it.
Once the cut across is made, you have a beautiful drumstick.
Here is the thigh.
We then repeat the process on the other side, lifting the bird by the leg, finding the fold of skin, giving it a cut…
Pulling the leg and thigh back until the joint becomes visible (seen here in red).
Next, separating the drumstick and thigh at the joint.
Here is the drumstick and thigh together. You can keep the piece like this or split it in two as we just did.
There is a line between the thigh and the drumstick that almost spells out where the next cut will be made.
Here is another view, just bend the drumstick back from the thigh to expose the joint and next spot to cut.
Again, one cut at a time is fine, you can pull back and find the joint as you prepare to make the cut.
One more leg down, and moving on.
Next, lift the bird by the wing and cut along to separate it. (It’s kind of a back and forth motion, first cutting on one side, then the other, as it lifts more and until it begins to separate from the body.
Ben the wing part back to reveal the joint.
There it is!
Your drumlet, wing and wing tip can then be cut up in the same manner (by puling back, finding the joint, and making the cuts to separate at the joint.)
The part between the wing tip and wing is the most unpleasant cut to make in my opinion. There is not a clear-cut joint, and you just have to grin and bear it, bear down and crunch through. The wing tip is good to save for making stocks and gravies.
Repeat this separation of drumlet and wing from the bird on the other side.
Here we are left with the beautiful chicken breast. We make an incision right down the middle, just enough to get through the skin.
Make small slices to slowly separate the breast from the breastbone. If you accidentally hit the breastbone, just back up and then start again at a better angle (you can see we did that here). You can go back and cut the pieces that are left off the breastbone as little tenders if you wish.
There you have a fine chicken breast!
Pull the skin off the remaining carcass and you have a fine piece to bird for a beautiful chicken broth or stock. Along with the other parts, you can also freeze the carcass for later use in stocks. Never buy the pre-made stuff again, this is the only way to go! Be sure to clean and disinfect all surfaces at the end of the process.
It really is easier to just watch someone do all this and then try it yourself. If any of the photos aren’t clear, feel free to let me know in the comments section and I’ll post more. (Sarah and I broke down 2 chickens and hence there are lots more photos to share if anyone is in need.) There are many Youtube videos on the process of breaking down a chicken, supplementing this post with one of those may help also. It really isn’t as bad as it all sounds, and once you do it once, it gets easier. You’ll be wondering why you haven’t done this all along! I hope this has been helpful, and hope to see you at the Springdell Poultry Harvest on Saturday!