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 Post subject: Tips For Butchering A Whole Chicken
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:25 am 

Joined: Sun Mar 30, 2014 4:45 am
Posts: 18
Hi guys,

Tonight I prepared a sautéed chicken dish from Julia Child's "The Way to Cook." I don't have the book (yet), I just watched the youtube video of her making it and copied the recipe. I should preface this by saying I am a home cook, and quite new to French cuisine.

I was wondering if anyone here has any tips on how to butcher, or segment, a whole chicken. I watched some how-to videos, and I think I did fine for my first time. The one area where I want to improve is being able to keep the skin attached to the breast. How do you guys manage this?

Also a related question, what is your favorite butcher knife? I've heard about Old Hickory butcher knives and the Victorinox cimeters. Are there any others I should check out? I currently don't have a dedicated butcher knife.

Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Tips For Butchering A Whole Chicken
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 5:39 am 

Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 6:56 pm
Posts: 322
For chicken I just a Sabatier chef knife. You don't need a butcher knife or even a boning knife for chicken. If you watch Jacque Pepin do it he uses a chef knife and a paring knife. Nothing special needed for chicken.

When I worked in a place where I eight-pieced chickens it would take about 40 seconds a bird and that was prepping the wing bone to be frenched. It just takes practice.

Regarding the skin on the boob, don't man-handle the bird too much. It should stay on pretty well on its own unless you're constantly flopping the bird about and pulling this way and that.


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 Post subject: Re: Tips For Butchering A Whole Chicken
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 6:41 am 

Joined: Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:15 am
Posts: 1345
Location: Raleigh, NC
As a rule, I neither break nor cut any bones when butchering chicken. I only cut through joints.

I remove the breasts after the thighs and before I work on the wings. Before I cut I pop out the wing joint. With a boning knife I slice down through the center line between the breasts to hit the breast bone. Then, using the tip of the knife, I carve the meat off using the bone as a guide, somewhat like filleting fish. When I reach it I slice through the wing joint. After I have removed most of the larger portion of the breast, I pull the entire breast down to ensure I get as much of the tip as possible. Trim any excess skin and I have a nearly airlined breast. This all lets me keep the tenders on and french or remove the wing later.

I do not own or use a nice butcher knife as I do not break down sides of beef or large game. The house butcher uses Dexter Russels well. Victorinox will be on par if not a bit better. For chicken I like a flex boning knife. The Artifex hankotsu would be my next step up. To eight way chicken, a Sabatier is your knife.


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 Post subject: Re: Tips For Butchering A Whole Chicken
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:09 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 29, 2013 10:29 pm
Posts: 500
Before I got my honesuki, I used a victorinox 6" curved skinning knife for breaking down birds. I like a stiff knife for this. I have thought of doing a video of this to post to show how I do it. My season will be starting in about another 3-4 weeks. Do a YouTube search of Joel or Daniel salatin chicken butchering. My technique for breaking down birds is similar to how Daniel does it and he uses the curved skinning knife. I like the honesuki, but I've done lots and lots with the victorinox.


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 Post subject: Re: Tips For Butchering A Whole Chicken
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:15 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 29, 2013 10:29 pm
Posts: 500
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w20ftpefyww
Here is his technique. I do it slightly different but this is a good example.


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 Post subject: Re: Tips For Butchering A Whole Chicken
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 2:15 am 

Joined: Sun Mar 30, 2014 4:45 am
Posts: 18
Thank you guys for the great advice. It sounds like the consensus is that a Sabatier and a 4" paring knife would be sufficient, and either the Victorinox skinning or boning knife would be a good, versatile option to consider especially if you were prepping many chickens per day.

Panko, 40 seconds a bird is blazing fast. On your suggestion I watched some of Pepin's videos, and that guy is incredible. Jeff B. posted this video a little while ago of him boning out a chicken which is particularly impressive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAekQ5fzfGM.

Lepus, the point you made about cutting through the joints, or articulations, is well taken. It seems like the most efficient way to do it, and it also helps maintain the edge of your knife. I was unfamiliar with hankotsu knives before you mentioned them. To the uninitiated, they almost look like steak knives.

RedWattle, thanks for posting that video. It made me think that the ideal way to get good at breaking down a bird is to do it all day long (just like anything else I suppose). Also, which honesuki do you have and how do you like it?


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 Post subject: Re: Tips For Butchering A Whole Chicken
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:44 am 

Joined: Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:15 am
Posts: 1345
Location: Raleigh, NC
My technique, in my experience, is fairly slow but produces for me the most efficient results. I can eight way a chicken far faster and, with the right knife (like a sabatier), it's not terrible on the blade. But I haven't lost a wing section or any skin, separated a chicken tender, or had any bone fragments in the meat (save when some prick in the factory kicked my chicken!) in a long time.

And ironically enough, there's a steak knife thread right now where people are discussing hankotsu for said purpose.


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 Post subject: Re: Tips For Butchering A Whole Chicken
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:14 am 

Joined: Tue Jan 21, 2014 6:56 pm
Posts: 322
ryan_elliott wrote:Thank you guys for the great advice. It sounds like the consensus is that a Sabatier and a 4" paring knife would be sufficient, and either the Victorinox skinning or boning knife would be a good, versatile option to consider especially if you were prepping many chickens per day.

Panko, 40 seconds a bird is blazing fast. On your suggestion I watched some of Pepin's videos, and that guy is incredible. Jeff B. posted this video a little while ago of him boning out a chicken which is particularly impressive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAekQ5fzfGM.

Lepus, the point you made about cutting through the joints, or articulations, is well taken. It seems like the most efficient way to do it, and it also helps maintain the edge of your knife. I was unfamiliar with hankotsu knives before you mentioned them. To the uninitiated, they almost look like steak knives.

RedWattle, thanks for posting that video. It made me think that the ideal way to get good at breaking down a bird is to do it all day long (just like anything else I suppose). Also, which honesuki do you have and how do you like it?

Jaque and Julia Child are both often overlooked. They have some great videos out there. Glad it helped.


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 Post subject: Re: Tips For Butchering A Whole Chicken
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:27 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 29, 2013 10:29 pm
Posts: 500
I have the moritaka.http://www.chefknivestogo.com/moho15.html I really love this knife. It gets scary sharp, has good edge retention, 50/50 bevel, and it has a slight belly to the profile. There are two basic shapes of honesuki, one with a flatter profile and one with a slight belly. There is a traditional term for each of these which I do not have memorized, but I suppose you could look them up if your interested. I like the slight belly for my technique especially how I remove the breast. I do it opposite from how Daniel does it. I cut down along the keel bone down to the breast plate up towards the neck and then twist the knife slightly in behind the wish bone and down towards shoulder area. The cut can be done all in one motion. This increases my yield on the breast cut. Then I use my hands and fingers to remove it whole, while leaving the tenders there. The moritaka is a great value. Yes, when you are doing it non stop for even a few hours at a time, you get quite good at it. I think the way Daniel shows it is good as well, but just seems backward to me because I've just always done it in the fashion above.


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 Post subject: Re: Tips For Butchering A Whole Chicken
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:06 am 

Joined: Sun Mar 30, 2014 4:45 am
Posts: 18
You guys are awesome. The breadth and depth of the expertise on this forum is astounding. This is really a cool group of people to talk to.

Panko, I'd heard of Julia Child before, and probably heard someone do an impression of her voice, but I'd never watched any of her programs. Becoming interested in knives has lead me to seek out new and more interesting ways to use them in the kitchen, which in turn lead to Julia's work. She is a fantastic teacher who truly understood her audience. I love how she cooks on an electric range and uses ingredients you can find at the supermarket. It's like she was trying to make a point that you don't need fancy ingredients or expensive equipment to cook a great meal.

Lepus, that is a heck of a track record. And it's a good point that you make about speed. At the end of the day it's about going at the fastest pace that will allow you to maintain consistently high-quality results, right? And somebody kicked your chicken? Not cool!

RedWattle, that is a beautiful honesuki. The first thing I thought when I saw it is, "Dang, that thing is flat!", so it's interesting that there are others that have even flatter profiles. I like that the Moritaka has a 50/50 grind on it. Your technique for removing the breast seems like a very natural approach. And it sounds like you only use the knife as much as you need to, then use your hands to do the rest. I can see how that technique would improve the yield on the breast cut.


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