To read about our own forays into raising chooks for meat, Walking the Walk takes you through our first experience of killing our own birds. This is for everyone who doesn’t want to go down that path, and thinks they can’t afford to buy organic chicken to eat: you can. You just joint it yourself! As our local seller said, once you’ve taken off the breast meat, the rest of the bird is practically free. So why wouldn’t you?
There are plenty of books and websites that will give you information on how to go about jointing a chicken for eating. But nothing compares to the experience of doing it for yourself. Below is a description of how we do it, with photos of each of the steps. We’ve tried to be as informative as possible, so if there’s something that’s unclear, or that you’d like a better photo of, drop us a line and we’ll try to add it.
1. Equipment List.
- A good sharp general chopping knife will do everything you need, although a pair of poultry shears are useful for snipping through small rib bones, and a heavy carving knife may make severing wings easier. Sharpen them before you begin.
- A clean chopping board, big enough for the bird plus extra splaying-out room. Scrub it with hot soapy water, and rinse thoroughly before you begin.
- A couple of plates or bowls to put the jointed pieces onto/into. I use one for bits that need further jointing (legs, wings) and one for bits that are ready to be packed.
- A stock pot, large saucepan or large container for bones, fat and assorted trimmings, for later stock making.
Stock making is the real key to all of this. Every bit of the bird that you cut away (except for the oil gland) goes in to here, gets roasted, picked over, and then turned into stock. This way, absolutely nothing is wasted. So it doesn’t matter if you can’t (or don’t want to) trim everything perfectly. Bung it into the stock pot, and you’re laughing.
Remember: you can’t ruin anything! If it’s too rough, ragged, messy or small to eat on its own, it goes into the stock pot!
2. Remove the oil gland.
Lay the bird on its breast.
The oil gland is a strange little nipple on the fleshy pad of the tail. You don’t want to eat this. Cut it off – you may need to cut reasonably deeply. (Or, if you don’t like the taste of the parson’s nose – i.e. the tail – you can just cut that off, which will take care of the oil gland too.)
This is the only bit of trimming that doesn’t go into the stock pot.
3. Remove the legs.
Push the leg away from the body, and cut the skin. Keep slicing the skin until you can see right into the joint area.
With one hand on the bird and one on the leg, force the leg joint away and flat until you hear (or see) the hip joint pop out of its socket. You may need to use a fair bit of force at first.
Holding the leg, cut the leg free from the body – slice across, between the ball and the socket, and keep going in a slight curve towards the bird (this maximises the meat you get on the thighs). This gives you the cut known as a “Maryland”, as in “Chicken Maryland”.
Repeat on the other side.
4. Remove the lower back.
Balance the bird on its neck, with the backside facing upwards, and open the cavity as wide as you can with your fingers.
Looking down along the bird’s sides, you should be able to see where the fine rib bones from the back meet against the fine rib bones from the front. Poke the tip of the knife in here, and cut between them so that the back separates away from the front. (If you can’t see exactly where, don’t worry – just cut in that general area. This is a good job for kitchen scissors.)
When you’ve cut both sides free, pull the lower back off in one lump. You may need to use your knife to sever the spine, but most of it can be done with hands. Into the stockpot with it!