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May 26, 2008 06:28 AM

Do You "Bone" or "Debone" a Chicken?

My wife and I have this ongoing debate, usually rekindled every time I bring home a rotisserie chicken from Costco.

When I want to remove the meat from the bones, I tell my wife I am going to "debone the chicken." She jumps in with "There's no such word as 'debone.' You're going to BONE the chicken."

I see the word "debone" used in many recipes and think it's quite descriptive of the process. Please tell me you think I'm right.

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  1. I'm with you 50'sGuy. I believe that only God can "bone" a chicken. It's up to you to "debone" a chicken.

    You'll find both terms used online, and in some instructions, interchangeably.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Axalady

      If you can't 'add bones' to a chicken, you don't need to make a distinction between the words. Languages tend to drop meanings that aren't needed. At the same time, languages abound with synonyms, duplicates and other redundancies.

      It shouldn't be surprising that English uses 'bone' to mean 'remove bones', and at the same time add the common 'de' to mean the same thing. It really doesn't matter whether 'debone' is the earlier use, and 'bone a shortened version, or v.v.


      1. re: Axalady

        There's also such thing as a boning knife.

      2. Really interesting question.

        First, there is indeed such a word as "debone." You'll find it in Web3 Unabridged (the editor's bible) as well as in the Web Collegiate dictionaries. Interestingly, Web3 defines the word as "to remove the bones from." Web Collegiate defines the word as "to bone."

        Although I'm sure you'll find the word "debone" in cookbooks, I can tell you that as a cookbook editor in my former life "to bone" is definitely the more common parlance.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JoanN

          The online Websters gives the date for "debone" as 1944, but they don't list citations online. Too bad, as I'd be curious. This sense of "bone" dates to the 16th century. I wonder what earlier English speakers did with their chickens, I guess they probably "removed the bones from" them.

          If you have the citations in your Webster, I'd be curious if the origin looks like it really was to create a term that doesn't sound like a synonym for porking the chicken. Or if maybe it was part of the odd trend in American english that will surely have us in 100 years talking about debonification.

          1. re: tmso

            Just found your message.

            No citation in Webster, but I looked it up in the condensed OED. "Debone" isn't listed, but the earliest citation for "bone" is from Henry VII, Act II, in 1494: "Fish . . . not boned or splatted."

        2. Just like shrimp are shelled, but deveined. You peel a banana, and pit an olive, but deseed a tomato. And declaw your cat (but not normally as part of a recipe).

          3 Replies
          1. re: DeppityDawg

            On the contrary, I would assert that you (universal) are much more likely to seed a tomato than to deseed one, if following commonly used language. Clawing your cat would be unkind.

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              I'm with you, I "seed" Tomatoes. and I don't have a cat.

              1. re: starlady

                I've never seeded a tomato but it sounds right. And declawing or clawing a cat is just wrong.

                Boning and deboning I've used interchangeably.

          2. Bone is the more common usage. I wouldn't get overly technical about it, since vocabulary is a-rational.

            By the way, if you think about it, boning a chicken is really about harvesting the valuable bones from the chicken. Only a people who foolishly discard chicken bones without thought would think the job was merely removing the unwanted part of the chicken. For most of human history, using everything was a matter of course.

            1. This is in the same vein as wondering which aisle the pickles are located. A normal person approaches the staff and says, "Could you please tell me which aisle the pickles are located in?" Someone from NJ approaches the same person and says "pickles?"

              Since jfood is from NJ and people from NJ are notorious for minimizing the words needed to express a thought - jfood bones a chicken to remove the bones.

              4 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                Here in Calif we ask "How can I help you?" I understand the equivalent on the east coast is "What do you want?"

                1. re: PeterL

                  As an East Coaster transplanted to the Midwest, I want to thank you (and jfood) for your astute observations (and my big chuckle for the day!) I lived in the Philly area and now I'm in Indiana. It takes a little getting used to the friendliness in the supermarket--I don't even have to ask, I just look a bit quizzical and someone asks if they can help me! And they smile a lot!

                  That said, I have boned and deboned poultry, but I've only ever seeded a tomato. And I have defatted a stock.

                2. re: jfood

                  I laughed loudly at "pickles?" because I do it constantly. Typically (and since I am not standing in NJ when I ask for pickles or whatever it is I need) the person will respond, "What? Excuse me?" and I will have to repeat myself. Usually they will blink a few times and silently wait until I pretty it up by asking (slowly), "Would you please help me find the XQZ?"
                  Anyway- I don't enjoy handling whole, raw chickens, so I get them boneless and/or pre-cut. I hate that squishy/fleshy noise that you get when you cut through bones. Plus any whole, raw chickens are made to dance during dinner prep, so I had to stop buying them until my husband (ok me too) grows out of it. Strangely, the pre-cooked Costco roasted chix are never made to dance. No one knows why.

                  1. re: Boccone Dolce

                    i can't stand cutting up a raw chicken either!

                    btw, those costco (or any roasted birds) just don't have the insouciant flexibility to dance well! ;-)