Knowing how to cut up a whole chicken is a great kitchen skill to have.

A whole fryer chicken is far more economical and takes up less packaging than buying chicken in pieces and it doesn’t take long once you get the hang of it!

pieces of chicken on a cutting board to show How to Cut a Whole Chicken

What Utensils are Needed?

First things first. A clean, even work surface is critical to avoid cross-contamination.

I use a sturdy plastic cutting board since it’s easily sanitized and preferred over wood ones.

A sharp pair of kitchen shears or a really sharp knife will cut through meat and joints easily.

Cut Raw or Cooked Chicken?

Cutting raw vs cooked chicken is purely a personal choice.

A cooked chicken needs to be cooled for comfortable handling and may have some shrinkage due to the fat being cooked off.

How Many Pieces are in a Whole Chicken?

The standard piece size after cutting up a whole chicken for maximum utilization is 8 pieces:

  • 2 breasts
  • 2 thighs
  • 2 wings
  • 2 drumsticks

However, depending on your needs, whole chickens can be cut in a variety of ways. Any leftover bits you don’t use (like the backbone) can be saved to use in broth or for making gravy.

Kitchen Tip

When cutting a chicken (or any meat) you’ll be cutting along the natural joints and pieces of meat for the most part.

Cutting meat should not be difficult if you cut between the natural breaks between muscles and between the joints.

The exception is when you need to trim through bone to remove the backbone.

chicken on a cutting board to show How to Cut a Whole Chicken

How to Cut a Whole Chicken into Pieces

  1. Pat chicken dry so it won’t slip away.
  2. Lay bird breast side up & using a sharp knife, pull (left) leg away from the body. Slice between the breast & the drumstick following the natural lines.

cutting leg off chicken with knife to show How to Cut a Whole Chicken

  1. Bend the leg back until the thighbone pops out & cut through the joint & skin. This removes the leg completely.

slicing chicken to show How to Cut a Whole Chicken

  1. Put chicken on its side & pull the wing away from the body. Cut it away from the body of the chicken.
  2. Complete this process on both sides.

cutting off chicken legs to show How to Cut a Whole Chicken

  1. Separate the leg pieces by cutting through the joints that separate the thigh from the drumstick. This should not be difficult if you nestle the knife between the bones.
  2. Hold chicken upright & cut down the middle of the bird through the rib cage to separate the ‘top from the bottom.’ Save the back for stock.
  3. Place the breast skin side down, & using a chef knife, cut down the center creating two separate breast pieces.

chicken cut up with a knife to show How to Cut a Whole Chicken

The method above should leave you with 8 pieces of chicken.

showing How to Cut a Whole Chicken with cut pieces on a cutting board

Other Ways to Cut a Whole Chicken

Butterfly also known as spatchcock is a great way to cook a chicken. Spatchcocking removes the backbone so the chicken lies flat making chicken meat easier to cook evenly.

It can also be cut in half and the other half can be frozen for later.

  1. Using sharp kitchen shears, remove the backbone from the chicken cutting from the base to the neck.
  2. Flip the bird over, place the heel of your hand against the breastbone, and press down, snapping it allowing the chicken to lay flat.
  3. To cut in half, adjust the skin over the top of the bird and use a sharp chef knife, separate the two halves.

To Cut In Quarters

After spatchcocking, find the joint where the leg is attached and gently cut between the ball and socket joint.

What to Make with Chicken Pieces

There are so many ways to make juicy, tender chicken! Whether it’s Baked Chicken Thighs, Grilled Chicken Breast, or Fried Chicken and Waffles, they are all super easy to make and have a tasty crispy exterior. Deliciously savory Roasted Balsamic Chicken, Hoisin Air Fryer Chicken Thighs, and Crockpot Chicken Fajitas are full of flavor. Don’t forget the gravy and broth, too!


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cut up pieces of chicken in a cutting board to show How to Cut a Whole Chicken with writing
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About the author

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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