How to joint a whole chicken, turkey or duck.

jointing poultry
To joint poultry means to cut up a whole bird into smaller pieces of meat, so that they can be used for various recipes, that only require smaller parts of the bird. The cuts are made at the joint that connect each different part of the bird together.

Although chicken and other poultry can be bought from the supermarket pre-packaged and already jointed into halves, quarters, thighs breasts, drumsticks and wings, you can easily, with a little practice, joint the bird yourself at home. It is much more economical to do so, as poultry costs less per pound of meat when bought whole.

Moreover, pre-cut meat can be poorly jointed and you could easily end up with less meat.
At least if you joint the bird yourself, you will know exactly how much you are getting and that due care has been taken in ensuring that all surfaces and utensils are clean, which is also extremely important. Don't forget either that you will be saving yourself some money.

It is not difficult to joint a bird yourself, as the bones will all separate easily once the tendons and gristly parts that connect them have been cut at the joint. There is nothing worse than a piece of chicken or turkey that contains splinters of bones in the meat or bones that have been cut at different angles.

All you will need to joint the poultry is a strong sharp knife, sturdy kitchen scissors or poultry shears and a chopping board that can be washed at a high temperature if possible, in order to kill the bacteria that may be harbouring in the raw meat. It is also a good idea to reserve one chopping board purely for preparing raw meat so that germs and bacteria do not spread to other foods.

Due to the way that poultry is reared and slaughtered for commercial consumption, the meat readily becomes contaminated by bacteria, in particular salmonella.

It is extremely difficult to tell whether or not poultry has been infected, as it does not taste, look or smell any different.

Therefore it is highly important that all utensils have been properly disinfected before and after handling the meat and that the meat is cooked to the temperatures required in order to destroy the bacteria. If not, contaminated equipment or under-cooked poultry meat could lead to food poisoning.

If any other cooked foods contained in the fridge come into contact with the juices or blood of a raw bird, they could also become infected. Take care as these foods could be infected directly from the raw meat or indirectly from a contaminated surface or piece of equipment.

Once you have jointed your poultry, the pieces can be kept in the fridge for no longer than two days. However, you can store them in the freezer for up to six months. Make sure that you carefully wrap each portion in freezer bags, cling-film or foil beforehand.


The following instructions will guide you through how to joint poultry into 8 portions: 2 breast, 2 wings, 2 thighs and 2 drumsticks.
  1. Wash your hands, all utensils and surfaces.
  2. Remove the bird from its packaging.
  3. Take out the giblets and clean the bird thoroughly with water from a running tap. Pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Place the bird on a clean surface breast side up. To remove the leg portion away from the breast, cut through the skin only, on one side of the body of the bird, between the breast and the leg to where the thigh joins the body.
  5. Bend the leg back until the ball and socket joint cracks and pops out. Cut through the joint in order to detach the leg portion from the breast, whilst holding the leg out at an angle away from the body. Some of the meat from the back will also be removed with the leg.
  6. Repeat on the other side.
  7. The following step is to remove the breast from the back. Cut along the rib cage, through the flap of skin found there, cutting towards the neck and starting from the tail end.
  8. Turn the bird over and cut in the same way on the other side, cutting through any connecting joints on both sides.
  9. Pull the breast meat away and separate it from the back. The back can be reserved to make a stock later on.
  10. Turn the breast over so that the skin is face down on the surface and bend each side back firmly to crack the breastbone. It should detach itself and easily pop out. Carefully remove the bone with scissors or a sharp knife.
  11. Take the whole breast and cut in half lengthways. You will have to cut through the wishbone in doing so.
  12. At this stage you should end up with two leg portions and two breasts with wings. If you wish to divide the meat into 8 pieces, separate the wings from the breast piece. Hold one wing out away from the body and bend it back. Cut between the joint of the wing and the breast, trying to include some of the breast meat with the wing, to make a meatier portion.
  13. Repeat with the other wing.
  14. To separate the thigh from the drumstick, bend each leg to crack the ball and socket joint and then cut through the joint with a knife.
  15. Rewash each portion of meat and drain. Carefully wrap each portion and place in the freezer immediately or in a covered dish in the fridge for no more than two days.
The carcass and giblets can be kept to make a stock, although these parts of the bird should not remain out of the fridge for longer than 20 minutes.

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