Dressing a whole chicken from start to finish is an essential skill that any prepper should possess.
You may not want to kill a chicken yourself, but in the event that you need to, it helps to know how to do it in the most humane way.
Cutting the chicken’s head with an ax or knife will kill it instantly if you cut below the eyes. Otherwise, you will have another case of “Mike, the headless chicken.” Even if you are able to kill it right away, the chicken would still thrash about, and the splattered blood would be very messy.
So before you cut the chicken’s head, it is best to sever the head from the neck manually. To do this, tie the chicken’s feet together, and hang it upside down. Hold the chicken’s body close to yours with your left hand, and place the index and middle finger of your right hand on either side of the chicken’s neck, where it meets the skull. Gripping tightly, pull the head down with sudden force until you hear a pop.
The moment the brain is separated from the neck, there will be a lot of writhing around, but that does not mean the chicken is in pain, since the part of the brain responsible for feeling pain is already severed. You can feel the pressure of the blood flow to the neck, and if you choose to, you can continue holding it for a minute or so until it stops moving.
You can then take the chicken down, slit the throat, drain the blood neatly, then cut the head off.
How to Pluck the Feathers and Remove the Organs
To make plucking easier, plunge the chicken into boiling water to loosen the feathers. Hold the chicken by the feet, and using a wooden ladle, fully immerse the chicken into the boiling water for ten seconds. You may have to soak older chickens longer but not exceeding a minute as you don’t want to cook the chicken. You should wear gloves to protect your skin from the heat.
Start plucking immediately after you pull the chicken out. If the feathers don’t come off easily, you can dip it in the hot water again for two to five seconds more. The light, hairy feathers that remain after plucking can be scalded off over a gas flame or any open flame.
Related: The Prepper’s Guide For Raising Chickens
To remove the internal organs, use a sharp knife to slice the skin around the butt carefully, taking care not to cut into the intestine. Close your hand around the guts, and pull them outward gently until all the guts have been removed. Make sure the gall bladder is removed along with the viscera and unruptured, otherwise the bile will spill into the meat and make it bitter.
Discard the viscera. You are now ready to butcher your dressed chicken!
Preparation for any food should always be sanitary, so make sure that your table, knife, and chopping board are all clean and dry.
Start by cleaning the chicken: Pull out the gizzard, liver, kidneys, and heart. Then rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry to minimize drips. You’re now ready to cut!
How to Cut Up a Whole Raw Chicken
- Place the chicken on a clean cutting board. Using a sharp knife, sever the feet at the joint.
- To separate the leg from the body, slice through the skin between the breast and thigh, pressing the leg away from the body. Cut through the joint and skin carefully, following the body contour until the leg is detached completely.
- Pull the wing away from the body, and cut through the joint. Repeat the procedure with the other wing.
- To separate the breast from the back, start cutting at the pointed end of the breast, through the rib cage, and down to the shoulder joints. Remember to always sever at the joints.
- Trim the excess fat and gristle around the neck, the back, and the tail area.
- Cut the breast in half by using a chopping force on the center bone. You can use a butcher’s knife for this part, using controlled force. Once the bone is split, you can then slice through the meat and skin.
- Turn the breast pieces skin up to cut the breast halves into quarters. Cut diagonally through the bone.
- Separate the thigh and drumstick by cutting them apart at the joint. Repeat this procedure with the other leg.
- Depending on whether you divide the legs and the breast halves, you will end up with six to ten pieces of premium chicken, all ready to cook for dinner!
There are so many ways to cook chicken. It can be deep fried, sautéed, mixed with vegetables, barbecued, roasted, baked…. The possibilities are endless. But do you know that the other parts that others normally just throw away can be used to create amazing dishes?
What to Do with the Other Parts
#1. Back and Neck
Divide the back part into three pieces, and cut the tail off. You can take out the lungs by using your finger, a spoon handle, or a baby spoon. The back and even the neck are fairly meaty and are typically used to make broth. To make chicken soup out of the back and neck, wash the parts again to remove the remaining lungs, fat, and gristle. Add water and bring to a boil.
If you wish to harvest the remaining meat from the bones, you can do so after an hour of simmering then return the bones to the pot to continue simmering for two more hours.
Related: How To Can Chicken (Step By Step Guide With Pictures)
You can use a few slices of ginger and a stalk of lemongrass to season your bone broth and sprinkle a dash of moringa powder and salt to taste. You can use the leftover meat for chicken sandwich spread, tacos, or casseroles with potatoes and tomato sauce.
The back and neck are also great for crispy fries. All you have to do is season them with vinegar, garlic, salt, and laurel leaves. Add a little water and boil them for 20 minutes. Dip them in beaten egg, sprinkle some pepper on them, coat them with flour, and deep fry till crispy. Yum!
#2. Giblets, Feet, and Claws
Don’t throw away the giblets (heart, liver, gizzard, neck, and tail) or the chicken feet and claw.
Store them in the freezer each time you cut up a chicken until you have enough of them to use for different recipes.
You can make a tasty gravy and an amazing dish out of the giblets, neck, and tail. To make the gravy, all you have to do is sauté the gizzards, livers, necks, and hearts with a lot of onions. Add soy sauce, vinegar, and salt to taste, and stir fry for three minutes. Add some water, and let simmer for 20 minutes.
In a separate bowl, mix some water, flour, and creamer or milk. Remove some of the sauce, add it to the flour mixture, and heat in another container, stirring until thick. You can then add oil to the giblets and stir fry them for ten more minutes, and you have an amazing dish!
Chicken Feet and Claw Dim Sum with Black Beans
If you’re a fan of collagen, then this tender package of almost fat-less skin and tendons is the best recipe for you! Carefully strip the hard, outer scale of the feet and clip the claw. Cut any dirty part of the feet and the claw and wash them thoroughly.
- 1 pound chicken feet
- 1/3 cup oyster sauce
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 2 pieces star anise
- 2 slices of ginger
- 1/3 cup black beans
- 2 tablespoon catsup or 1 tbsp. tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 piece bell pepper, chopped (You can use a chili if you want it hot.)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a covered pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 2 hours or until very tender. Delicious whether served hot or cold. Enjoy!
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Chicken feet make the best bone broth, so unless you are saving them for something specific, like that recipe, throw them into the stock pot, with the rest of your bones. They’re also a great source of collagen.
The more stressed the chicken the harder to pluck. So a stress-free kill, if your hens are used to handling, is to pick it up, put it under your your, open it’s beak a plunge a sharp knife through the mouth into the brain. Then remove head and pluck as usual.
I’ve always done the axe and chopping block method. Let the chicken go and stay out of the way of the blood. It’s quick and the chickens don’t seem to be under stress before the axe falls.
My father always used that method to kill our chickens, only he hung the chicken upside down by its feet to let the blood drain out.
Remember to remove the oil sac at the base of the chicken’s tail because your soup or broth will be very oily.
Wow, but doesn’t that bring back memories. We used to process about 500 fryers every other month, then pack them in ice and bootleg them (yeah, that’s the right term 🙂 QWe had maybe a hundred brown egg layers, and dozens of bantys (bantam) that kept feed cleaned up. Banties are prolific, but only seasonal layers. But, tastier than the fryers were. Mom refused to have Rhode Island Reds or Cornish (crossed, they make a good, fast growing bird) because the roosters are too aggressive. Murray McMurray Poultry has males for sale, cheap, and it’s not hard to learn how to caponize a rooster. For winter lay in the north, Americana are great birds. They love to scratch in the snow, where most birds will stay inside. Bit, but gentle, and usually safe around small children. niio
Grandma would quick fry the chicken feet in a little lard till crispy. That and pig tails is what i teethed on as an infant
Grandma also taught me that to kill the bird come up behind it and grab the head between the middle and ring finger. Then in one quick motion, like throwing a bowling ball, bring it up and then a quick downward jerk. Breaks the neck quick and clean. Be warned to hard of a jerk and the head comes off in your hand.
If Dad made Mom do that, he’d be the second on she flipped. With a few dozen or less, we hung them on the line and cut their throats. Then, come back with an ice pick that was curved a little to pierce the brain. That loosens the feathers. When Dad asked Mom what she wanted for her birthday, one year, she said chicken picker. He got her one at a farm sale 🙂 The poultry belong to the women. Feet were sold by the pound and we never had enough. Pig tails! Did she cure and smoke them, first? They went in a pot for broth, then dried. We used to take them camping in the brush and gnaw on them all day when playing. niio!
Something else one can use to split the breastbone (among other things) are plinking sheers. the prices vary on them but say around $10.00 to $15.00 give or take.
Example: You can use them to Butterfly the chicken and cook it on the grill….
Just something to think about.
One other thing is to add paraffin to the boiling water, It does make plucking fowl…ducks, geese turkeys,quail, whatever.
Don’t need to use your good pinking shears to cut the breast bone, a pair of garden by-pass shears will do the trick quite nicely. You don’t want to use anvil type garden shears as they won’t cut clear through the bone. Corona used to be top of the line but their products are made in China now so who knows? Their warranty is still good though and the folks on the phone were very helpful when I have had occasion to call.