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what to d
ith a whole chicken 
by Yee-Fan Sun | 
1 2 3 

I'm the worst kind of meat-eater: I've always loved the taste of meat, but anything that puts me too up close and personal with the animal it came from does, inherently, make me squirm. As a kid I remember going to Chinese banquets featuring whole steamed fish, white eyes gazing creepily out at me, and cut-up roast pigeon, complete with head jauntily perched at the end of the platter. For ages, I'd happily eat beef if someone else prepped it for me, but hardly ever cooked with it myself because I couldn't get past its strong bloody smell. Raw chicken was better -- no blood, no odor. Stick with boneless breasts and thighs, maybe the occasional mega-pack of pre-cut wings, and it was pretty easy to dissociate the meat from the animal.

All this has made me feel like a bit of a hypocrite, eating meat only when I don't have to think about how it got to my plate. But while vegetarianism might be the logical choice in many ways, it just doesn't feel right for me. Don't get me wrong: I adore vegetables. I go for days in a row eating completely vegetarian, but every once in awhile, I just like having other options. Meat makes my diet richer; I just can't fathom giving up so many of my favorite foods. Still, I'm not convinced that liking the taste is justification enough. If I'm going to eat meat, it seems important for me to reconcile myself to the fact that an animal's life was sacrificed for me to enjoy my meal. And so I've been making an effort to get more acquainted with the meat I eat -- to quit getting grossed out by blood and bones, to accept that meat (duh) comes from animals.

And so a few months back, I decided I was going to buy a whole chicken and cut it up myself, instead of reaching for my usual shrink-wrapped boneless chicken breast. I'd tended to avoid whole chickens in the past -- with the exception of the very occasional whole roast -- paying many times more for the convenience of ready-prepped parts. As it turned out, cutting up a whole chicken wasn't nearly as daunting a task as I'd always imagined; actually, once I got over the initial squeamishness, seeing how all the various parts connected was even kind of cool. With only a minor bit of wrestling with the bird, I was able to get 8 nicely chopped up, very meaty pieces of chicken, for less than the cost of a pack of 3 skimpy boneless skinless breasts. A few chickens later, my chopping technique has improved even; cutting up a whole chicken is so quick and easy that I'm now kind of embarrassed that I once threw away so much dough on pre-cut parts.

Yes, for my fellow meat-eaters, knowing how to chop up a chicken is a very handy kitchen skill to have indeed. Ready to start cutting your grocery bills by working with whole chickens instead of processed parts? Here's an illustrated guide to cutting up a whole bird…

what you'll need |

  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Boning knife or paring knife
  • Paper towel (for occasionally wiping dry your hand and knife handle if they get too slippery from handling the meat)

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