How to joint a whole chicken

Jointing a chicken is really simple and if you plan your meals ahead, a great money saving technique – all you need is a sharp knife, ten minutes and this step-by step guide (with pictures!). Eating meat doesn’t have to be expensive if you make that little bit of extra effort.

Why would you bother to do it yourself?

  • It is so much cheaper than buying the different cuts individually, you can get a large 2 kg chicken for around £4.20. (Mine was £4.15 for 2.15 kg)
  • The two chicken breasts alone once removed from the whole chicken weighed 600 g in total. If you were to buy a large 650 g pack of chicken breast meat from Sainsbury’s or Tesco right now, it would cost you £4 for that alone! So for 15p more you get slightly less breast meat, but you’d also get two large thighs, drumsticks and wings weighing approximately 1.4 kg in total, plus the use of the carcass!
  • If you want to get better value packaged chicken you have to buy the huge packets, but then you have to eat the same cut of meat all week, which gets really boring.
  • Jointing the chicken means you have a variety of different types of meat which can be used in different dishes. For example I prefer to use chicken breast in sandwiches and pasta, and utilise the flavour of the thighs for curries and tray bakes etc. There is so much more to a chicken than the breast meat!
  • If you joint it at the start of the week once you’ve done a big shop, you can pick which bits you want to use that week and leave in the fridge then freeze the rest for later use. It will last for a few months in the freezer. I freeze the different cuts individually in bags, so you can defrost only what you need without them getting stuck together. The fresh jointed chicken will have the same shelf life as the original whole chicken.
  • Because all the different cuts are so big, a whole chicken can easily last you two weeks worth of meals. The chicken breasts are usually so big that I’d use half of one, rather than a whole one in a big portion of curry or pasta for example.
  • There is no waste – don’t throw away the carcass at the end, it’s makes a great fresh stock which can be used in risotto and sauces etc.  To make a stock, I simply brown the carcass in a deep saucepan with some celery, onion and carrots, season well, then cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then leave to simmer for several hours until reduced in volume by a half. Strain through a sieve into a jug/container, then store in the fridge. The skin on the meat will form a layer of fat above the stock on cooling which preserves the stock in the fridge for several weeks which can be later spooned off before use.
  • If you don’t like touching raw meat, you can joint it with some latex gloves on so you don’t have to touch anything.


  1. Place the chicken on a large chopping board with the legs closest to youimg_3997
  2. To remove the leg, pull the leg away from the body and cut through the skin as shown. The leg will fall away from the main body of the chicken.img_3999
  3. Twist the leg clockwise to expose the bone. To remove the leg, simply tip the chicken onto its side and run your knife along the body and in line with the exposed bone.
  4. Repeat for on the other side to remove both the legs.img_4009
  5. You can leave the leg whole, but I prefer to separate the leg into the thigh and the drumstick. To do this, feel for the joint in between the two bones then slice through firmly to separate them. Trip the end of the drumstick using the same method. Repeat for the other leg.
  6. To remove the wings, feel for the joint on the chicken then align it with the point of your knife. It’s slightly deeper than you think so its best to angle your knife diagonally. To remove, simple slice through the joint then pull away from the body. Repeat on the other side.
  7. To remove the first breast, feel for the tip of the breast bone furthest away from you. align you knife slightly to the side, then slice along the breast bone down the length of the breast, about an inch deep. I find its best to stop here and angle the body so you can see where you’re slicing and it makes it easier to leave the fillet attached.
  8. When you continue you will be able to see that you are slicing close to the body. Continue until the breast comes away from the body in one large piece with the fillet attached (shown in photo). If you continue all the way down without stopping to adjust the angle, you will leave a lot of meat, including the fillet attached to the carcass. Repeat on the other breast.
  9. You can choose to leave the skin on, but I prefer to use skinless chicken breasts. To remove the skin, simply peel away from the meat.img_4033
  10. Now you should have 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 drumsticks, 2 wings and the carcass. All that’s left to do is decide which bits you want to leave the fridge and which bits you’re going to freeze!

Just a couple of safety and hygiene tips:

  • Never wash raw poultry – it spreads bacteria all over your kitchen, and usually onto the previously clean pots on the drying rack!
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat
  • Always prepare raw meat separately to other foods and sanitise your surfaces afterwards
  • Chicken is considered cooked when the ‘juices run clear’. To test this you slice into the centre of the thickest part of the meat. The juices will then run out which can be collected on a teaspoon. If you look at the juices in the light, they should contain no signs of red or pink.  I use a temperature probe to check my chicken is cooked, the internal temperature to look for is 72-25 ºC for at least 2 minutes, or 82 ºC for 15 seconds. Always test the thickest part!
  • The safest way to defrost anything and especially raw meat, is in the refrigerator for 24-48 hrs depending on the food. If you leave it on the kitchen surface, the outside will defrost first and bacteria will be able to multiply rapidly when it reaches room temperature!


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