How to Prepare Chicken
You wouldn’t think there was much to preparing chicken before cooking it. And there’s not too much, just some key things on how to prepare chicken.
This post will serve the purpose of how to Clean, Trim, Wash your chicken. How to Cut up a Whole Chicken. How to extract blood from the chicken so that it’s not in your final product. And other tidbits of information.
Before we proceed. Food Safety Guidelines suggest not to wash your chicken because it can spread bacteria through water splash. Almost all infections however are caused by eating raw or undercooked chicken. Or improper handling and not necessarily the washing.
It’s your choice whether you want to wash or not. I normally don’t wash chicken. Unless there are thigh pieces. Or If I’m drawing blood out of the chicken. I always wash afterward to remove any excess salt. More on that below.
Clean the Chicken – How to Prepare Chicken
The chicken doesn’t really require any cleaning except the Thigh piece. The legs, wings, breasts are fine.
The Thigh piece however usually has the backbone attached. If so, there are internal organs attached that you will want to clean out for better-tasting chicken.
You place your chicken into a pot and fill it with cold water or just on the cutting board. Then proceed to run your thumb or a small spoon between the spine and thigh squishing or scraping out the internal organs. Then swish the piece to wash off the internal organs or scrape really well so that they are no longer attached.
Drawing Blood Out – How to Prepare Chicken
Kosher salt is used over the chicken which will draw the blood out. After some time you will see pinkish to reddish liquid. That is the blood that has been drawn out.
Sometimes very young chicken is packaged and sold before the bones had sufficient time to develop and this will cause the bones to leak out blood while cooking. The chicken is still safe to eat but it is very unappetizing especially in Fried Chicken. With young chicken, it can be very difficult to extract all the blood because it is deep in the bones and protected. The bones are dense enough to protect the blood but not dense enough where it doesn’t contain much blood and leaks out when cooked.
Because of this, when picking out your fresh chicken, take a look at the bones and see if it is porous and contains a lot of blood. If it does, skip it and find a better chicken.
I do this for my Fried Chicken if I end up with Chicken that is bloody. Once the chicken is coated with Kosher Salt, about 1 Tbl per 12-14 pieces or for a Whole Chicken. Mix the chicken around, cover, and place the chicken in the fridge for a few hours or overnight for best results. The next day, Fill the chicken container with cold water and mix. Drain and repeat ensuring that you get the Salt off. There will still be some salt attached to the chicken but most of it can be washed off.
How to Trim Chicken
Often the chicken pieces will contain extra skin, that you will want to trim to make the chicken look uniformed and clean.
If desired, cut off the wingtips. Trim any loose meat or skin from the end joint for all pieces. The Thigh piece is the piece that needs the most attention.
Trim off any excess skin. Trim off the membrane that runs from the ribs/backbone to the other side. Chop off triangular fat nub.
All Trimmings can be stored in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for making Crackling or fat for your gravies. This is absolutely superior for your gravies so you will want to save these.
Washing – How to Prepare Chicken
If you decide to wash your chicken or need to because of cleaning the thigh piece or Koshered your chicken. With chicken pieces in a pot or container. Fill with Cold water. Mix the chicken around. Pour the water out into the sink and repeat. Remove the chicken from the container and set it aside. Wash the pot and sink out with hot soapy water.
Cutting up whole chicken – How to Prepare Chicken
Why buy Whole Chicken? Whole Roast Chicken of course. But there is more. Often whole chicken is cheaper than already portioned chicken and you get the backbone. This is something you’ll want to make Stock or Broth for soups, stews, gravies, or straight as stock or broth to add to various other recipes. The other benefit is after some time of buying a whole chicken and saving/freezing the wings. You will have enough for a Wing Platter.
For the chicken cut. Choose a cut that suits your needs below. For Fried Chicken, I prefer the 11 or 12 cuts. This I find is the perfect size for breading to chicken ratio on the breast as well as cook time.
KFC does their chicken in 9 Cuts and now I believe 12 Cuts.
8 Piece Chicken
2 Legs, 2 Thighs, 2 Wings, 2 large chicken breasts.
I wouldn’t recommend deep frying the breast of this size. But you can definitely debone the breast and cut for Big Crunch Sandwich or Chicken Popcorn. Or Cube it and save for Butter Chicken, Sweet & Sour Chicken Balls, Kebabs, etc…
9 Piece Chicken
2 Legs, 2 Thighs, 2 Wings, 2 medium chicken breasts, and 1 end piece of both chicken breasts as one piece.
This would be the same as the 8 cuts but the end piece of both breasts is cut away as one piece. This can be deep fried but I still wouldn’t do the breast. Not that you can’t. It’s just my preference for Breading to Meat Ratio and Cook times. If you do want to deep fry this cut. Then cut the end chicken breast piece closer to the center so that you end up with 3 Breast pieces about the same size.
10 Piece Chicken
2 Legs, 2 Thighs, 2 Wings, 4 medium chicken breasts. Chicken breasts are cut in half.
This is the cut I use if for breaking down the breast for Big Crunch. The breast is cut into four. I debone and then slice in half to get 8 thin Breasts or 4 larger ones, Pounded flat enough for the Big Crunch Sandwich.
11 Piece Chicken
2 Legs, 2 Thighs, 2 Wings, 4 small chicken breasts. The end piece of both breasts is cut off for 1 piece then the chicken breast is cut in half.
This is one of my preferred cuts for deep frying. I find you get an overall better experience with this cut from the breading to meat ratio and cook times as well. But this is just my preference. Cut the Chicken Breast so that you end up with 5 same size pieces.
12 Piece Chicken
2 Legs, 2 Thighs, 2 Wings, 6 very small chicken breasts. Each breast is cut into 3.
I also use this cut for Fried Chicken. Sometimes I will use the 2 end pieces of the breast to make Popcorn Chicken or Small Dice it and save/freeze it for Fried Rice. Or Strips for Fajitas
Butterfly – How to Prepare Chicken
Butterflying or spatchcock chicken/turkey requires the backbone to be removed. Then the chicken or turkey is laid down flat and the Breast is pushed down to flatten it out further. I like this method for a faster cook time in the oven or if I want the skin side up and seasoned very well.
The backbone can be frozen and used for Stocks/Broths or cooked along to render fat for Gravies.
The leg is left attached to the thigh. Use this for St Hubert Style Chicken, Tandoori Chicken, or at any recipe where the Leg & Thigh attached is desired. Optionally cut slits to allow a marinade to penetrate more readily.
Practice makes perfect
At first, you’re not going to be sure what to do. That’s okay. Just like with anything, after some time and practicing this, it will come to you with ease. Eventually, it will be nothing to break down a Chicken or Turkey.
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