River Cottage Australia

How to Joint a Chicken: Step-by-Step

If you’ve got a recipe that calls for jointing a whole chicken but don’t know how to do it, River Cottage Australia’s Paul West gives a step-by-step guide on how to do it.


  1. Boning knife or Butchers knife – Make sure it’s very sharp. Blunt knives can slip, increasing the risk of cutting yourself. Also, blunt knives will make the job slower and won’t cut as neatly.
  2. Chopping board – This needs to be very clean and dry; a dirty chopping board will increase the risk of contaminating the chicken and other ingredients you intend to prepare. Raw chicken is considered a high risk food for harmful bacteria so make sure your hands are also clean and don’t use the board for anything else other than the chicken without thoroughly cleaning it beforehand. It’s recommended to have a dedicated board used solely for use with raw chicken.
  3. It’s a good idea to place a damp tea towel underneath the chopping board to prevent the board from slipping during use.


Separating the drumsticks and thighs from the carcass

  • Make gentle incisions between the drumstick and the breast-meat; the leg will start to fall away.
  • Naturally follow the contour of the meat with your knife to find the thigh-bone, cutting until you find the hip joint.
  • Lifting the carcass with one hand, pry the drumstick and thigh away from the carcass until the hip joint pops. The joint will now be separated.
  • Put the carcass back on the board and slice between the thigh joint and the carcass to remove the drumstick and thigh completely. The cut comprising the drumstick and thigh is known as the Maryland.
  • Repeat this step to remove the Maryland on the opposite side of the carcass.


Removing the breasts

  • Run your fingers around the edge of the neck cavity; you’ll feel the wishbone.
  • Use the tip of the knife to cut between the breast-meat and the wishbone on both sides from the lowest part to the top of the cavity, where the two parts of the wishbone meet.
  • Using your fingers, pry the wishbone away from the breast-meat. It might break in the process which doesn’t matter. Reserve to use for stock.
  • Next, run your fingers along the top of each breast; you’ll feel the keel-bone of the chicken. Use that as your guide to begin cutting away the breasts.
  • Run the whole of the blade between the breast and the keel-bone, using the keel-bone as your guide, to expose the breast-meat.
  • Gently continue to cut downward several times until you come to the rib-cage; the breast should be coming away nicely by now as you come to the wing-joint.
  • Now, cut straight through the wing-joint to separate the breast and wing from the carcass.
  • Separate the joints of the wing itself by making an incision between the joints, use your hands to pop the joint and then with your knife, cut between the joints to remove the lower part of the wing.
  • Reserve to use for stock.
  • You now have the combined breast and wing.
  • Repeat this step to remove the breast and wing on the opposite side of the carcass.

You’ve now jointed a whole bird and are left with just the carcass. You can now use the cuts in your favourite recipe and can also use the carcass and the reserved wishbone and lower parts of the wing to make a lovely chicken stock to use in soups, braises and sauces.

The other benefits of jointing a whole bird is that, it’s more economical, you have a range of different flavours of chicken meat and you’ve used all of the bird, ensuring nothing has been wasted.

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