Techniques 101 –Breaking Down a Chicken to 8 Pieces
( In tribute to Jack Ubaldi)
Many years ago I attended the New York Restaurant School. This was my first experience with formal culinary education. It was a tremendous experience that set my course in life.
Amongst the instructors was a gentleman who taught butchering named Jack Ubaldi. He was a great man! If you click on the link you can learn more about this well known butcher, restaurateur, author and teacher. Under his tutelage I learned how to break down a side of beef,pork, lamb. How to break poultry down and, something no chef I have come across knows how to do, remove the bones from a chicken while leaving the skin and carcass intact ( I will cover this in another post!). These are skills I use to this day!
One of Jack Ubaldi’s best known traits was to bring a bottle of wine with him to class. I remember fondly Jack giving me the keys to his locker and being sent for the wine because it was not enough to learn how to butcher, we had to learn how to cook what we cut!. We would cook a Newport Steak or Denver Ribs or whatever we worked with as part of our class.
Butchering is a lost art. As much as the American Culinary Federation does to keep standards high for skills required to be a Certified Chef, there are a large number of practicing culinarians who call themselves Chef who have no concept of how to break down a side of beef into quarters and then usable cuts or could explain the confirmation of various animals. This is due in large part to the prevalence of portion cut beef and chicken that has eliminated the opportunity for Chef’s to use this skill.
One of the easiest tasks of butchering involves breaking down Chicken into individual pieces. The process starts by removing the wings from the carcass.
The second is to remove the leg and thigh and then separating the leg from the thigh.
The most important thing to remember is to use the path of least resistance ( Note the center picture where there is a separation of the darker meat –leg, and the lighter flesh – thigh). This is where you want to make your cut. Your cuts should be through the cartilage instead of the bone.
Lastly the breast should be separated from the back and either left bone in or ( in a further step) made boneless.It can the be split into 2 pieces through the central breast plate (which in a young chicken is cartilage).