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What is the best tool for dismembering a chicken?

I know it is a boning knife (I guess), but there are a lot of boning knives. There are short 5" and long 7". There are stiff and flexible. There are a couple of Japanese versions that are different then the European ones. A Honesuki and a Hankotsu and another one something like Garasuki. Not sure if I have the spelling correct.
OK guys, you who have actually used these knives and are not just guessing, which is best for cutting up a chicken into parts and then skinning and deboning it?

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  1. Well, it all depends on the size of the bird. For me personally, I prefer the Messermeister Meridian Elite 5" stiff boning knife. Short enough so you can control it around all those nooks and crannys...especially the oyster. To me using a long boning knife is like trying to write a note with a 12" pencil...in the end it should be the knife your most comfortable handling. I knock out a 40# case of wogs in 20 minutes using a combination of stiff boning and cleaver.

    1 Reply
    1. re: vanmartin

      Kitchen shears -- buy a pair that be taken apart easily for cleaning. ATK did a bit awhile back. Not that you can't take a chicken apart with a boning knife, it's just that shears make quick work of it. (A boning knife works a bit better when it comes time to split the breast.)

    2. I use a stiff 5 " and kitchen shears which work best for me. I use both, but honestly I just ask the butcher, he does it no charge. Why not? Less work for me.

      1. My preference is a heavy wusthof chef's knife (v. a lighter chef's) to breakup a bird - the joints are easy to find. For butterflying, I use the kitchen shears. The shorter flexible boning knives are saved for shoulders or shanks along with using the heavy chef's.

        It really comes down to your comfort and experience using the knives or cleavers. There is no right way (eg check out youtube for the myriad of styles!).

        1 Reply
        1. re: alwayscooking

          Very true, use what you feel comfortable with. I use my favorite knife and shears, but my friends using something resembling an axe :))) He loves it. I can't even begin to use it. Some work better than others, but you are the one doing the cooking. So make sure it feels good and you are comfortable with it.

          Good advice AC

        2. I use a 150mm honesuki to break down chickens and large roasts. Don't know if it's the best but works well. The honesuki is thick enough to go through small bones and joints with ease. I wouldn't use it to hack a leg bone in half. It has a nice point for getting the silver skin off meat but is not flexible. It is near single bevel with a 95/5 asymmetric grind. Easy to sharpen and retains edge well.

          1. Best tool for dismembering a chicken? Depends if it's already dead or still alive and flapping.

            1. I have cut up and/or boned countless chickens in restaurants in the US, Australia and Japan. If you are doing a chicken or three per week, most any sharp knife will do. But if you are cutting up or boning cases every day, a smaller Japanese honesuki is a very good tool to have. The blade is stiff and not too long for good control and the point is sharp, which allows you to get in close to the bones .

              1. By "dismembering", I assume you mean a whole chicken that has been cleaned and dressed such as one buys in a butcher shop? If that is indeed what you're talking about, then the two most critical elements are how sharp your knife is and how familiar you are with chicken anatomy. Then what you intend to do with the dismembered chicken parts comes next in importance.

                If you insist on skinning the chicken, that is best done when the bird is still whole. Just slip your hands under the skin and work your way over the carcass, then cut the skin away. It will be most difficult to separate along the ridge of the keel bone (breast) and along the spine where there isn't much fat and you may have to resort to a little knife work, not by actually cutting, but by scraping the inside of the skin as you pull it away from the bones/cartilage. But skin is sooooo good...!

                For frying, I first separate the legs by slashing the skin between the legs and the body, then following it down to the spine and cutting back to the opening where the bowels were removed. Next pull the leg sharply down and away from the body to snap open the hip socket and use the knife to separate the "top" of the thigh meat from the spine. I want generous skin with the thighs when finished, but that's a personal choice. Next I bend the knees tightly, leg against thigh, to locate the knee joint, then slash across to open the joint, then it's a simple matter of cutting between the bones to separate the leg from the thigh.

                For the remaining parts of the bird, there are several options. One is to "fillet" the breast from the ribs, leaving the wings attached to the breast. For this you just need that really sharp knife. Start by cutting along the keel bone and then using your knive to ease the breast meat away from the ribs. When you get to the "shoulder socket", make sure the rest of the breast meat is separated from the carcass, then crack the socket in the same manner as the hips socket. With this method, the wing is often cut off at the "elbow", leaving a nice breast with a handle on it! But if you want the ribs attached to the breast, you can use kitchen /boning shears to cut away the spine by cutting up each side of the spine.. This often results in the kidneys being ruptured into parts, so for aesthetic reasons you may want to remove the kidney remnants with your fingers. I often also remove the keel bone from the breast halves by slicing down each side of it with my very sharp knife, then using the kitchen shears to cut it away, or if the chicken is young enough and your hands are strong enough, you can also separate ribs from keel bone by simply bending, breaking and pulling. This will break the wishbone, but you have the option of removing the halves or leaving them in place for cooking.

                Again we've reached options. The wings! One way is to cut the wings alone from the breast and another option is to leave a smallish bite of breast meat attached. As for the wing proper, some cut off the "hand" in the belief it has too many small bones and not enough meat, which leaves the two wing sections joined at the elbow. Or you can separate them into pieces, as done for Buffalo wings.

                There are options on the spine/back as well. For very old fashioned "traditional" Southern fried chicken, the breast is cut away from the spine a little higher than in the above method so as to leave a little meat attached to the upper back. The spine is often separated at the pelvic saddle, which leaves the bottom half of the spine with some very special meat attached. There are "oysters" of absolutely fantastic meat that sits in sockets just above the hip sockets, and the "parson's nose" (tail) of the chicken), which is the richest, most succulent part of the bird. And whatever options you choose, ALL remaining bones go into the stock pot.

                When I "dismember" a chicken, I never use a knife with a blade longer than six inches. Overall, I prefer a non-flexing blade, but I have used a flexible filleting knife on occasion. And for the record, buying a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself is a great money saver, not to mention the fact that you get it done the way you want it done!

                1. Thank you all for your helpful insight.
                  Caroline, I think you have done this before :-) Great description.
                  To answer your question about what I use the chicken for....mostly stir fry...hence the need to debone and skin.
                  I usually buy parts already to go, but they had a great sale on whole chickens that I could not pass up. 4 of them are hibernating in my freezer at the moment until I get the knife and the nerve to do the surgery. Your description will be a great value, Caroline.
                  I have decided to buy a Honesuki. It seems to fit with everybody's advice. Short, stiff and sharp (and it looks kinda neat too :-) )
                  I will of course save the bones for stock.
                  Thanks again for your help.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: margshep

                    Glad the info was useful! I use chicken breasts for stir fry much of the time even though white meat is my least favorite part of the chicken! Last week my local Sunflower "farmers' market" had free range chicken breasts on sale for $1.88 a pound so I bought a bunch. Actually, I sent my housekeeper to the store for them and when she got home, they are HUGE...!!! One breast (or half a breast, depending on how you want to split the chicken) is over a pound! So now I'm feeling trapped. I'll be eating stir fry three nights a week for the next three years!

                    For the thighs, I encourage you to leave the skin on and they will make GREAT teriyaki! If you need a nice traditional recipe. let me know. I haven't had decent restaurant teriyaki in about twenty years.

                    Sounds like you made the right choice on the knife. Happy chicken carving!

                  2. I typically use a six inch chef's knife or a 4-5 inch boning knife. I don't hack a chicken to pieces; that's uncivilized. I remember spitting out chicken bone fragments in Jamaica, recently...
                    My mother taught me how to dismember a chicken: pull the wings back and make an incision at the joint. The pressure applied, and the cut, will expose the joint and you can easily separate it through the cartilage. The same can be done with the legs and separating the thigh from the drumstick. The I slice off the breast's pulley-bone area. I then pull up on the breast and cut under it from back to front. Now, all you have left is the back. You can break it in half, about midway, without having to hack it with anything. If you're into hacking, the only hacking necessary is cutting the back into two or three pieces. Otherwise it is a very surgical procedure that gives you eight pieces. If I'm just splitting the chicken in half I use my big Henckles and push through with my palm.
                    Of course I only do about one a week... and whole chickens are so much cheaper and there's all that stuff for stock! Lucy (the Lab), usually gets the gizzard, heart and liver.

                    1. You need one of those inverted cones first so you can bleed it out..

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: grant.cook

                        a Ronco Chicken Dismember-o-matic...obviously