Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Stripping Your Chick without Hurting the Breasts: A Deboning Story

You are about to conquer a whole chicken. Using only your bare hands and a sharp knife, you will pillage it from the inside out. There will be no waste, no survivors. This journey will get messy and there will be blood (from the chicken); so it is not for the faint of stomach. But the rewards of cost-efficiency, experience and raw ingredients for homemade meals cannot be matched.
Your first task is entering the dark, cold body cavity. Place your chicken in the sink and dump out the liquids. Next, you take the neck and the giblets hostage [heart, liver, kidney, etc.]. Confine them to a pot that can hold about one gallon of water. At this point you should rinse off your chicken, inside and out. I personally don’t like the wings, so I broke the bones at the elbow, cut them off and tossed them into the pot as well. Later on, all these will make up a quite tasty broth.
Next you must politely undress your chicken, i.e. take off the layer of skin and fat. On a cutting board, tenderly lay the chicken on its back, breasts up. Make a cut [about ½” deep] along the breast bone. Peel back the layers of fat and skin. While pulling the skin taut, use the knife only to glide along the surface, cutting loose fat or skin that can’t be pulled off. Take off all excess fat – from the neck to the drumsticks. However, the fat can be fried with onions or other vegetables or can be used to grease pans.
Now comes the tricky part, taking your meat off the bone. Grab a sharp knife – many recommend boning knives, but I used my new paring knife and it worked just fine. My best recommendation for removing the meat is to continually use your fingers to pull it away so that you have better visibility on what you are cutting. You won’t be sawing through bone, but rather using the bones and muscles as a map. The breasts are the easiest: just follow the contours of the breast plate in a down-and-out motion to slice off the breasts. The two lovely, boneless, white-meat breasts you get from the whole chicken can lead to endless cooking options. When I cut up the thigh and breast parts I snapped the bone at the hip, leaving a good portion of the leg left in the meat. These can be grilled, fried or baked – sometimes it’s nice to leave the bone, especially with dark meat.
Once I had my meat, I wrapped the pieces in plastic wrap, then tinfoil, labeled them and put half of them in the freezer. As for the leftover carcass, I threw that into the pot with the giblets and wings. This just adds more flavor to your eventual broth.
One of my mistakes during this ordeal was that I got too caught up with precision and made the process of cutting off the meat into more of a medical dissection than a cooking quest. I was lucky enough to be taught by a patient teacher my first time. You can attack the sections with one fell swoop, it just takes practice. After all, practice does make perfect.

No comments:

Post a Comment