How to remove bones from chicken, turkey and duck.

boning poultry
Boning poultry, whether it's chicken, turkey or duck, involves removing the bones and skeleton from the bird, so that it can then be rolled, stuffed, seasoned or whatever the recipe requires.

This process can be mastered with a little practise and it may be easier to start off with a smaller bird, such as a chicken, until you feel more confident with the technique.

The boning process is the same for all types of poultry. At first it may take up to an hour of your time. The more practise you have, the quicker it will take and the easier it will get.
There are several advantages of boning poultry yourself. Firstly, the cost. It is more expensive to buy a chicken or turkey that has already been boned, as a lot of work will have been carried out to prepare the bird, which means extra costs to pay.

Secondly, the fewer people that handle the poultry, the lower the risk of contamination and the less time spent waiting to be processed, the fresher the bird will be.

How to bone a whole bird

The following steps will guide you through how to bone a whole bird.

Some techniques ask you to make a cut along the back of the bird, however, the following technique shows you how to bone a bird without breaking the skin, therefore making it easier to stuff and roast.

By boning the bird, carving is also made simpler once the bird has been cooked, as you won't have any bones to contend with.

To de-bone a bird all you will need is a sharp knife, one sharp enough to cut through joints, and a cutting board.
  1. To start, clean and wash the bird. If you are boning a whole turkey, remove the neck and giblets.
  2. Next, remove the wingtips and set them aside to make a stock later on.
  3. Set the bird down on the cutting board and begin by pulling back the skin from the neck and the breast, so that you are turning the bird inside out, until you find the wishbone. The wishbone is the first bone that you will come across.
  4. Pull the skin back fully over the breast in order to fully expose the wishbone. You may need a knife to cut into the surrounding flesh in order to do this.
  5. Cut the wishbone free and remove it, scraping off any breast meat as you do so. Add the bone to the stock pile.
  6. The next step is to free the wings from the body. The main bones in the wings and the legs are not removed (although you can if you wish). This way the bird will keep a natural appearance once it has been stuffed, trussed and cooked.
  7. Hold up one wing and gently pull the flesh away from the shoulder. Cut through the joint, thus freeing the wing from the carcass. Keep the bone in place. Repeat this procedure in order to free the other wing.
  8. To remove the shoulder blades, snap the end of the collarbone that is attached to each shoulder blade and snap it at the other end where it is attached to the breastbone.
  9. Pull away any meat from the bones with your fingers and cut the bones at the joints.
  10. Remove the shoulder blades by carefully pulling the bones out of the bird.
  11. Pull the skin further back around the shoulders and you will come to the structure of the rib cage, back and breastbone, which is the main bulk of the body.
  12. Scrape the meat away from the carcass with a sharp knife, working your way towards the legs of the bird. Slice through any cartilage and continue to separate the meat from the skeleton.
  13. Once you reach the legs, free the thighbone from the carcass by popping the ball and socket hip joints that join the back and cut through the cartilage and hip joints, leaving the leg bones in place if you so wish.
  14. Peel back more skin until you arrive at the tail end and bone. The final stage is to cut the tailbone.
  15. The bird will now be almost turned completely inside out. Remove any bones that may still be lodged in the flesh and then turn the bird back the right way out, so that the skin is on the outside again.
  16. You should then end up with a flat boneless bird, with the skin still intact, that is ready to stuff and cook. With the bones and the carcass a tasty stock can be made.
When stuffing the hollow boned bird, fill the cavity with your chosen flavour of stuffing until its normal shape is regained. Do not overstuff the bird, as during cooking the stuffing will swell and the bird will shrink slightly.

If you do not want to attempt to bone a whole chicken or turkey straightaway, you could first practice on chicken or turkey breasts.

Chicken or turkey breasts are widely available in supermarkets or from the butcher and can be purchased either boned on with the bones still in place.

The boned breasts will always cost more than the bone-in breasts.

The following steps will show you how to obtain two boned poultry breasts from a whole bone-in breast.

  1. Peel the skin from the breast away if you so wish, although this is optional.
  2. Take the breast halves and bend them forwards and backwards until the kneel bone that separates the two halves, pops out.
  3. Hold the bone and try to loosen it gently.
  4. Remove the kneel bone with the breastbone and cartilage. It should come out in one or two pieces.
  5. Take hold of one side of the breast and with a sharp knife cut and scrape the meat away from the rib cage, keeping the knife close to the bones, pulling the bones away from the meat as you go.
  6. To entirely free the breast from the rib cage you must cut through the shoulder joint. Repeat on the other side.
  7. Turn the breast over and cut the wishbone away from the breast.
  8. You will be able to see two white tendons on the underside of the breast, which can be removed by pulling them out.
  9. The whole boned breast can now either be cut into two halves or kept whole.

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