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Help, I need to learn how to bone a chicken breast

I've never really learned how to do this and my favorite butcher is now charging $8.50 lb for boned, skinless breasts.

Do I need to buy a boning knife? If so, what kind? Right now, I only have 2 small paring knives and some butcher knives that are not suitable.

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  1. Youtube has a number of vids with instructions, it's an easy process and yes, you can do it with a paring knife, if that's what you have available:
    I checked out the second video from the left, time 1:09 or search "How to debone a chicken breast." There were many more examples.
    Throw the bones and skin in the freezer for chicken stock when you've collected enough.
    $8.50 lb is outrageous; debone your own.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bushwickgirl

      These videos were pretty informative; thanks. Now, I must consider buying a boning knife.

    2. It does help to have a sharp knife, but it doesn't have to be a boning knife, just one that is relatively narrow, which is why a boning knife works so well.

      Videos are great instructors to watch, but you just have to get in there and do it a few times to lose that fear of the unknown. Basically you take the breast at the top, thickest point, and insert the knife into meat, following along the bone. From there you cut and scrape the meat from the bones, following the rib bones all the way down. Just pull the meat as you go, and it comes off rather easily. The best tip is to let the bones guide you, keep the knife parallel to the bones & it will be fine.

      And definitely keep them to make stock - you can freeze them if you're not cooking it right away.

      1. That best be some high quality, pasture-raised, organic, certified humane chicken breast for $8.50 a pound. Somehow I don't think it's even close. Find another butcher - look in the mirror. :-)

        1. jfood likes this video for a split breast


          if it's a whole breast just start at the breast bone and slide a very sharp knife along the breast plate.

          1. For $8.50 /lb they better come to my house & cook it & wash the dishes afterwards. Curious--how much is it with the bone in?

            8 Replies
            1. re: sparkareno

              I just called the butcher for prices -- I can't believe they've even gone higher since I was in there about 2 weeks ago. It's now $9.49 lb for boneless, skinless breasts. They are all natural but not organic. Bone-in with skin is $4.29 lb so you can bet I'll be boning my own from now on even if I don't do such a great job -- maybe I'll improve with practice.

              1. re: walker

                At those prices you'll improve quickly.;-))

                1. re: walker

                  Out of curiosity, where is this butcher located? Both prices look pretty steep to me. Is this midtown Manhattan?

                  1. re: John E.

                    In San Francisco, my favorite butcher is Bryan's. All the chicken, fish, meat look better than any at any other butcher within driving distance -- that I know of. No odor whatsoever. The last time I was there, I just looked -- the prices were just too high and now these boneless breasts are even higher -- hard to believe that price.

                    I like the rotisserie chicken at WF. Before, their chicken breasts have seemed tough to me but they have 3 different kinds so maybe I'll give them another try.

                    1. re: walker

                      Why not head down to the Ferry Building Farmers Market? I know they have nice fresh birds that are organic, sustainable, humane and pasture-raised. Breaking down a chicken is not hard (at all) and I think it's something that everyone should know how to do if you cook. Buying from these folks will not only save you money, but you'll feel better about what you're buying and feeding your family.


                      1. re: Fuller

                        I'd like to but work very late, sleep mornings, same on days off. Also, I prefer to drive to places to do my shopping. Any other stores you like for chicken? I looked at TJ and they have some Empire boneless, skinless breasts but they are almost $8 a lb.

                        1. re: walker

                          #1 Who says you can't drive to the farmers market???

                          #2 There is more to a chicken than boneless skinless breasts. Frankly speaking, branch out.

                          I can't help ya as I don't live anywhere near SF, but I have been to the market several times and I think the quality of items there is unsurpassed. To me, quality is a big issue when it comes to buying my food. To others, maybe not so much...

                          I would not mind getting up early one day a week, driving to the market to pick up some nice produce and meats and then going home to go back to sleep. But if you're not willing to do that, meat from factory farms is your only choice.

                  2. re: walker

                    FYI: "All natural" is not a regulated term and essentially means nothing.

                2. There must be videos of Jacques Pepin dismantling a chicken. He only uses the knife a little bit initially, then pulls the whole thing apart, cutting it into pieces afterwards. In about 30 seconds....a real master!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: greygarious

                    I saw him debone a whole turkey once - amazing!

                    1. re: Phurstluv

                      turkey, shmurkey. try deboning 15 cornish hens and keep them in one piece.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        exactly with a whole breast...first slice along the breast bone, pull back and finish. 30 seconds is probably 15 more than it takes after practice,

                      2. You do cut aroung the top of the breast bone, and then there the top of the wishbone too. I use a small paring knife and work it, then pull that out. The other thing is I take out the silver skin, if you can grab the end hold the end between the knife and your thumb, and pull it, sometimes the knife runs the length of it to help you. I don't care for that little silver skin and so I learned to remove it. It might take you couple times.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          By silverskin, do you mean the tendon that connects the chicken tenderloin to the breast?

                          1. re: greygarious

                            ok I guess it's a tendon.. it looks silverery to me. But yes you're correct, that has to go.

                        2. You don't have to have a boning knife, but it is nice to have one. I have a Dexter-Russell wood handle boning, but I think paulfinest earlier suggestion to me is good. He suggested the Wushof Butcher series boning knife.

                          1. I use a paring knife to debone chickens. Faster than my boning knife.

                            1. After watching Jacques Pepin debone chicken and a few videos on the net, I figured it couldn't be that hard to debone some split chicken breasts I bought at the store. They were on sale for $1.00 per pound as opposed to $2.99 per pound for boneless skinless chicken breasts.

                              I used a paring knife because I don't have a boning knife. All the videos I have seen show the chef just using the tip of the knife to slice the meat away from the bone.

                              You keep pulling the meat away from the bone and making short slicing strokes with the tip and as the videos said. The chicken will show you how.

                              After 1 or 2, I was deboning like I had been doing it all my life. I was able to get some boneless breast halves and some tenderloins. I had bones and skin I could use for a stock.

                              I cut the breasts in half lengthwise and pounded them to make cutlets or scallopine. I sliced everything else up for stir fry.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: tonka11_99

                                Nice job, with a sharp knife very easy task once the brain and hand work in sync.

                                Now to the price. A while ago jfood did a A vs B analysis on the price delta between the bone in and the boneless. The wet finger in the air result was that if the boneless are greater than $1 more than the bone in than doing the fileting at home is worth it. At about $1 per pound difference it turns to a push.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  How did you come by the $1 figure? Is that based on an hourly wage for boning fillets or something else?
                                  Serious inquiry.

                                  1. re: bushwickgirl


                                    - Buy a whole bone in 2# breast for $3/lb totaling $6
                                    - De-bone breast
                                    - Meat alone weighs 1.5#
                                    - Since you paid $6 and now have 1.5# of meat, the cost for the boneless breast meat is $6 divided by 1.5# = $4.00

                                    Hope that helps

                                  2. re: jfood

                                    I came to that same conclusion. While butchering those split chicken breasts, I did a bunch of calculations. I found that you maybe saved 10 cents a pound if you compared lowest sale price to lowest sale price.

                                    However, you get the bones and skin for your stock, if you use it (perhaps a big if).I had some tenderloins that would be a good thing but there weren't enough to use right then and there so you would have to save them until you had enough or use them for stir fry.

                                    One other thing. Did you know that the weight of the item in the refrigerated meat case included the weight of the packaging? It did for me. I had a "value pack" of split chicken breasts that weighed 3.53 pounds at $1.00 per pound. I took it home and weighed the package and every thing. It weighed 3.53 pounds so they filled the package, wrapped it in plastic wrap and went to the scale. The packaging weighed 4.6 ounces. Once I removed the bones, I had about 31 ounces of meat a little under 2 pounds. I spent about $1.85 per pound on the boneless skinless meat and sale price for boneless skinless breasts are $1.99 but I can get the split breasts at $1 per pound more often than I can get the boneless skinless breasts for $1.99.

                                    1. re: tonka11_99

                                      I can't completely agree with your logic here because you didn't seem to account for th packaging on the boneless/skinless chicken breasts. At $1/poung vs. $2/pound the difference is much more than 10 cents/pound. The weight of the skin and bones don't account for as much weight as your conclusion. If I want boneless/skinless chicken, I usually by thighs for 95 cents a pound at Sam's or Costco and save a dollar a pound and like you mentioned, make stock with the bones/skin.

                                      I agree with whomever said there's more to a chicken than boneless/skinless breasts. I much prefer the thighs because they don't dry out and the texture doesn't get spongy. (Plus they actually have some flavor).

                                      1. re: tonka11_99

                                        Another thing I want to say about boning or butchering. Separate muscles that have different purposes but are right against each other are going to have a layer of sinew and fat between them so they don't attach to each other. Doesn't that make sense? So following the sinew and the fat will show you where to cut to separate the muscles and that is what butchering is about. When deboning the bone shows you where to cut.

                                        The fact is, it just isn't that hard once you get into it. give it a try. The worst that can happen is you have stir fry instead.

                                        1. re: tonka11_99

                                          That's the way I look at it too. You do save some money and you get the bones which are used for stock which then saves you more money. I recently bought 15# of leg quarters @ $0.59/lb. When I was done I had nearly equal amounts of bones and flesh. I was able to remove both the thigh and leg bone connected and intact. I was making chicken sausage so the meat and a lot of the skin were ground together. The bones and some skin were quickly dispatched to the pressure cooker to render 4 qts of stock.

                                    2. This is going to sound over-simplified after all of the posts so far, but here goes. In order to bone out a chicken breast, cut away all the meat from the bone. That's it. You basically learn by doing. One other tip that I haven't seen (or missed) is to take a clean set of pliers and gold onto the end of the sinew/tendon and then pull the tenderloin off with your other hand. That little piece of meat is great for stir fries and doesn't really stay attached to the breast too well.