Why pay extra for a cut up chicken when you can do the job yourself?
If you intend to cook a bird in any way other than whole, you will need to know how to cut it up into its component parts.
All poultry is formed in the same way, so the difference between cutting up, say, a turkey and a pheasant will be more to do with one of size rather than of technique.
Ducks and geese are configured slightly differently. They have long breasts and comparatively short legs, which affects carving, but in essence they, too, are taken apart in the same way.
Remove the wishbone from the bird then cut down through the skin between one of the legs and the carcass
Bend the leg back as far as you can. The tip of the leg bone-a ball and cup arrangement with the backbone-will pop free.
Cut the leg away from the backbone, then repeat the process with the other leg. Each leg can be divided into thigh and drumstick.
Pull a wing out to its fullest extent, then,using poultry shears, cut off the wing tip at the second joint.
If a crown (the whole breast, with wings,on the bone) is wanted, snap the backbone at its halfway point.
Using poultry shears, remove the lower end of the backbone, which has no meat attached to it.
If the breasts are to be cooked on the bone,cut along the breastbone from neck to tail. Trim away any unwanted sections of backbone.
The chicken cut into four pieces: two breast halves with first wing joint "drumette" attached and two whole legs.
Raw poultry carries high levels of bacteria and there are important guidelines in its safe preparation and storage. First, always scrub the board and knives you use to prepare poultry in hot, soapy water before using them again to carve the same bird once cooked. Commercial kitchens use different, color-coded cutting boards to avoid any risk of cross-contamination.
Second, store raw poultry at the bottom of the refrigerator as a precaution against juices from the raw meat dripping onto other food, especially foods that will not be cooked further. Cooked and cooled poultry should be stored in the upper part of the refrigerator to prevent contamination from raw meats. Poultry is best bought fresh and used immediately.
Birds stored in the refrigerator dry out quickly,because the meat has little or no fat covering. Game birds are generally smaller than poultry and are even more prone to drying out.
However, covering or wrapping the meat in plastic wrap is a good preventive measure. Birds kept for any length of time should be turned and rewrapped regularly.
A light brushing with oil also inhibits drying, but the oil can flavor the finished result.
Bland oils such as sunflower are better than olive oil, unless you want the flavor of olive oil in the finished dish. To enjoy frozen poultry at its best, buy it fresh, wrap it carefully, and freeze it yourself.
Ready frozen poultry rarely has any opportunity to develop flavor. I feel there is little point in buying frozen game birds either, because for me part of the pleasure in eating game is the fleeting nature of the hunting season. However, a properly frozen bird will be superior to a fresh bird that was not well handled and will still make a first-rate meal.
Intensive farming has transformed poultry from being an occasional treat, perhaps bought for a special event, to cheap and everyday meat. Today's poultry may seem to have little in common with the well flavored and well nurtured products of before. But do not be disheartened a good butcher will guide you to the best quality. Terms such as free range (or range) and "natural" may mean only minimal access to daylight, no more than mass produced birds. And they guarantee nothing regarding the quality or type of feed used. The term organic is now more reliable, but having a trusted supplier to advise you is better still.
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