How to Bone a Chicken, Turkey, or Other Bird

Boning a chicken: Begin!

Boning a chicken: Begin!

This is how Adriano Alti, my father-in-law, boned birds in his poultry shop in Florence. Unlike some other techniques, which require making a cut along the back, Adriano’s technique leaves the skin intact, and this makes it much easier to stuff the boned bird, or do whatever else the recipe calls for.

In addition to a bird, you will need a couple of knives, one with a stronger blade for cutting through the joints, and one finer for trimming the flesh away from the bones. Both should be quite sharp, and if you have a sharpening steel you will want to use it. You’ll also need a cutting board.

In terms of time required, things go quicker with practice. Adriano, who has a lot, can bone a chicken in less than 5 minutes, and does a duck in about the same time. It takes him a bit longer to do a turkey, because it’s bigger.

Boning a chicken: Trim the wings

Boning a chicken: Trim the wings

Begin by removing the wingtips. Set them aside, together with the other bones, to make stock.

Boning a chicken: Work the skin back

Boning a chicken: Work the skin back

Next, slip your fingers under the skin at the neck hole, and work the skin back until you expose one of the shoulder joints.

Boning a chicken: Cut the Shoulder Joint

Boning a chicken: Cut the Shoulder Joint

Using your larger knife, cut through the shoulder joint to separate the wing bones from the carcass.

Boning a chicken: Scrape the Meat From The Bones

Boning a chicken: Scrape the Meat From The Bones

After you have freed the wing bones, scrape and trim the meat from them using the knife. When you have fisnished, the bones will be clean, while the flesh will be attached to the skin.

Boning a chicken: Scrape the Meat From The Bones

Boning a chicken: Scrape the Meat From The Bones

Grip the stripped-clean end of the wing bone (that which was closest to the shoulder originally) and pull gently; the wing will end up inside-out with the bone attached to the skin only at its extremity. Cut it free and add it to the stock pile. Repeat the process with the other wing.

Boning a chicken: Pull out the wing bone

Boning a chicken: Pull out the wing bone

Pull the skin a little further back over the breast, to expose the wishbone.

Boning a chicken: Expose the wish bone

Boning a chicken: Expose the wish bone

Once you have exposed the upper part of the breast, use your shaper knife to cut under and along the wishbone and thus free it of the breast meat. Remove it and add it to the stock pile.

Boning a chicken: Remove the wish bone

Boning a chicken: Remove the wish bone

Work back along the rib cage, turning the chicken inside out as you go.

Boning a chicken: Trim the Meat from the carcass

Boning a chicken: Trim the Meat from the carcass

You are now ready to trim the meat from the carcass. Using your sharper, finer knife, trim the meat along the ribs, pushing the chicken flesh back as you go; the effect will be rather like turning a sock inside out. Be careful during this phase to keep the point, and blade, of the knife pointed towards the carcass lest you inadvertently puncture the skin.

Dislocate the hips and push the legs down.

Boning a chicken: Dislocate the hips

Boning a chicken: Dislocate the hips

There are two ways to proceed at this point, and we’ll do this one first.

When you come to the legs, bend the knees (one at a time) and continue turning the chicken inside-out to expose them. when you have exposed them, push them flat to dislocate them (Adriano picks the bird up and twists them back, one at a time, and it does take some effort). But doing so makes it easier to cut through the hip joints.

Boning a chicken: Cut through the hip joints

Boning a chicken: Cut through the hip joints

Once you have dislocated the hips, cut through the joints with your heavier knife to separate the legs from the carcass.

Boning a chicken: Finish freeing the carcass

Boning a chicken: Finish freeing the carcass

When you reach the tail bone, cut through it.
Now that the legs are freed from the carcass, continue trimming along the carcass, keeping the point and cutting edge of the knife pointed towards the carcass rather than the skin, until you reach the tailbone. Sever the spine at this point and you will have separated the carcass from the chicken.

Boning a chicken: Scrape the meat from the leg bones

Boning a chicken: Scrape the meat from the leg bones

The chicken still has the leg bones at this point. Proceed as you did with the wings, trimming and scraping them to remove the flesh from them.

Boning a chicken: Cut the leg bones free

Boning a chicken: Cut the leg bones free

When you have trimmed the meat from the leg bones, grasp them by their free ends (those that were towards the hips) and pull; the legs will go inside out, and you can cut the bones free.

An Alternate Technique for Boning the Legs

Boning a chicken: Another way to bone the legs

Boning a chicken: Another way to bone the legs

You can also bone the legs in stages, first the drumsticks and then the thighs, and this technique might be easier with a larger bird, say a turkey.

When you are trimming the meat from the carcass and get to the legs (step 9), flex one and cut through the knee joint. Scrape the meat from the drumstick, pull the free end out, and cut the drumstick free. Repeat the process with the other drumstick.

Boning a chicken: Dislocate the hips

Boning a chicken: Dislocate the hips

Dislocate the hips by pushing them down flat and twisting them (this will take a little effort). Scrape the meat from the bones.

Boning a chicken: Scrape the meat from the bones

Boning a chicken: Scrape the meat from the bones

Trim and scrape the meat from the thigh bones, and then cut them free from the carcass.

Boning a chicken: Separate the carcass from the meat

Boning a chicken: Separate the carcass from the meat

Once you have removed the thigh bones, continue trimming and scraping until you reach the tailbone. Cut through the spine at this point to separate the carcass from the chicken’s body.

Boning a chicken: Turn the chicken skin side out

Boning a chicken: Turn the chicken skin side out

At this point your chicken will be inside-out. Turn it right-side-out, the way you might a sock, so the skin is on the outside.

Boning a chicken: Done!

Boning a chicken: Done!

You’re done! You now have a boned chicken, ready to be put to use, and a pile of bones that will be perfect for making stock.

If you are making Italian style broth, boil the carcass with beef (shanks, brisket, or similar cuts), and a piece of spongy bone. Start with cold water, and add to the pot half an onion spiked with a clove, a small stick of celery, a small carrot, and a small bunch of parsley. Season to taste with salt and a few peppercorns, and simmer the broth, skimming the foam that rises to the surface, until it’s done, about 2 hours. It will be perfect with pasta (especially pastina, tiny bits of pasta), passatelli, or tortellini.

Another option would be chicken soup.

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Categories: Tecniques, Whole Chickens and Other Birds

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.

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