Chicken With Knife


While the words, “chicken with knife” may sound like lyrics to an old rock song, they actually led me to a very useful (and possibly very funny) WordPress plugin. The plugin search I came across was titled, Chicken With Knife WordPress Plugin. Chicken with knife. Enough said.

The Best Knife to Butcher Chicken and Other Poultry With

A Japanese poultry knife deserves a place in any dedicated cook’s knife set.

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Chicken broken down into 8 pieces.

When we came up with the idea of writing earnest recommendations for our most beloved kitchen tools to help our readers shop for the holidays, I knew immediately that I would want to write about two things: my mandoline and my Japanese poultry knife. While a mandoline is unarguably useful for every cook of every skill level, I realize that a specialty knife, one that is essentially a unitasker, might seem like a niche kitchen tool for most people.

But it shouldn’t be because I know for a fact that a whole lot of you out there eat a whole lot of chicken. And if you cook chicken at least a couple of times a week at home, then I believe you should purchase whole chickens and break them down rather than buying them in parts. And I think anyone who breaks down whole chickens with any regularity would love to use and own a Japanese poultry knife.

Called a honesuki, the Japanese poultry knife is small, with a short blade that has a distinctive, triangular shape, and it is typically single-beveled (for more about the differences between single- and double-beveled blades, read here). The blade is heavy for its size and rigid. At one end, it tapers at the tip to a fine point while at the other it expands to a relatively large heel. Similarly, the blade’s spine is thinner at the tip and grows thicker toward the tang, which puts most of the knife’s weight closer to your hand. All of these features are designed with one goal in mind: to make the most efficient tool for taking apart and deboning a bird. The fine, light point is easy to maneuver between joints and against bone; the heavy, stiff blade means you don’t have to apply so much force to the cutting tip, which, combined with its single-beveled edge, makes the task of cutting through flesh and, most importantly, skin, like cutting through butter. The wide heel gives you a lot of room on the knife edge to scrape flesh from bones, but it also can be used to make quick, deep cuts in the bird, as when you split the breast halves away from the breast bone.

Fujiwara FKM Semi Stainless Boning Knife 145mm

Tojiro 6-Inch Honesuki Boning Knife

Tojiro 6-Inch Honesuki Boning Knife

That description should fill you with confidence about the honesuki’s ability to efficiently dismember any poultry carcass, but I fully acknowledge that no one in the world needs this knife. Anyone who’s cut up a chicken knows it’s less a matter of actual cutting than knowing a few simple techniques, such as how to maneuver and snap back the legs and wings to pop bones out of their sockets, or where to slide your knife so the breast halves can be cleanly separated from the carcass. I’ve taken apart many, many chickens using a wide variety of knives: a chef’s knife, a petty knife, a Western boning knife, a santoku…it doesn’t matter. Even a sharp paring knife will do in a pinch.

So if there’s so little cutting involved in breaking down a chicken, then why buy a knife designed specifically for cutting up chickens?

My argument is twofold: Buy a honesuki because it’s a pleasure to use and because it both rewards and demands good technique.

The first one is self-explanatory. While unitaskers get a bad rap because they can only do one thing, there’s something to be said for a tool whose sole purpose is to execute a single task better than any other. And the honesuki truly excels at taking apart birds! Something about the knife’s design makes it entirely intuitive to use; you’re able to make precise cuts from a variety of angles, due to its small size, and it comes to feel as if it’s a natural extension of your hand.

The second argument is a little more nuanced. First of all, the fact that you own a poultry knife means you’re committed to buying whole birds and taking them apart, which is a very good habit! Second, the pleasure of using a honesuki is directly correlated to how sharp you keep it, so you have to be comfortable with sharpening the blade, lest it be utterly useless.*

*On the one hand, this may sound arduous, since sharpening knives isn’t as common a skill for home cooks as it should be (it’s really easy!); on the other hand, because a poultry knife does very little heavy cutting, it doesn’t need to be sharpened as frequently as general-purpose kitchen knives or even other task-specific knives like a deba, a fish butchering knife.

Butchering chicken thighs

Finally, the honesuki is terrible at tasks it’s not designed for, so it forces you to do things correctly. The best examples I have for this are the joint that connects the drumstick to the thigh and the joints between the wing’s drummette, flat, and tip: All of these joints can be separated using brute force, by pushing a knife blade through the connecting cartilage. The tip of the honesuki isn’t really designed to do that (although the heavy heel can be used to cut through cartilage), so it’s far easier to take the time to cut away skin and flesh and expose the joint so you can slide the point of the knife between the bones.

There are some tasks that a honesuki makes even easier, like deboning legs and thighs. And, of course, the honesuki really shines when it comes to fussier work, such as butterflying wing flats or shaving the skin off areas of the back, like the bit just beneath the oyster, which, when removed with the oyster, can be wrapped around the morsel of meat, skewered, and then broiled or grilled to make one of the tastiest bits of chicken in the world.

Finally, since the knife is designed for poultry, it will obviously work for duck, turkey, quail, or other birds. But that sharp, thin knifepoint is great for a lot of small meat-butchering tasks, like cutting a rack of lamb into chops or splitting up a rack of ribs, and that heel is good for Frenching the bones, too.

At home, I use a Fujiwara blade that isn’t a true honesuki—instead of a single bevel, it has an asymmetric bevel, which I chose because, at the time, I wasn’t quite comfortable with the idea of sharpening a single-bevel blade. I’ve since used the single-bevel Tojiro DP honesuki we have in the test kitchen many times, and I can recommend both, both as a gift to buy for yourself this holiday season or as a gift for anyone you know who cooks a fair amount of chicken and likes to use beautifully designed tools.

How to Cut a Whole Chicken Just Like the Pros

Stop paying extra dough for chicken that is already cut up for you! Buy those fryers whole and learn how to cut up a whole chicken yourself! Not only will you save a ton of money, but you’ll also be able to cut portions that are tailored for your purposes.

Best of all, you can salvage ALL the leftover parts for flavorful broths and stocks! Still nervous about how to wrangle that bird? This handy F.N. Sharp guide will walk you through the best way to cut up chicken for a variety of uses, as well as which knives to use – and best of all, what to look for in a quality knife.

The F.N. Sharp Guide to Cutting Up That Chicken

Any recipe is only as good as its ingredients, but the best recipes are prepared with the best tools. At F.N. Sharp, we have a selection of quality knives that can help you tackle any kitchen task, especially when it comes to those expensive cuts of meat!

Choosing the Best Knife for Cutting Chicken

6 Types of Kitchen Knives on Cutting Board

First, determine how you want to ‘fabricate’ your chicken. Do you want the wings separate from the drumsticks or the thighs? Or do you want the thighs connected to the drumsticks for a casserole, like Chicken Cacciatore? Always have your ‘mise en place’ (French for a mental plan before executing anything in the kitchen) ready so you can feel confident, like a true chef! Now onto the best knives for cutting chicken.

The Boning Knife

Boning Knife for Cutting Chicken

The ultimate knife for cutting raw chicken is definitely a boning knife. This specialty knife has the proper curve and blade thickness for cutting around joints and sinew and removing fat. A boning knife also has the heft required for precision cutting but isn’t too big or heavy to hold.

For example, the F.N. Sharp Boning Knife blade is 5.5 inches long with a max thickness of only 2 millimeters. With a full tang housed in a sturdy G10 handle, the F.N. Sharp Boning Knife gives you the stability and precision you need for cutting between the joints of chicken legs and wings.

The Chef’s Knife

Chef Knife for Cutting Chicken

The mainstay tool in any kitchen is the chef’s knife. Depending on the size of your hands and your comfort level, most professional and home-chefs alike prefer a chef’s knife for nearly all of their cutting needs. A solid chef’s knife has the right sized blade for cutting into larger chickens or even a turkey.

The F.N. Sharp Chef’s Knife, for example, is a stand-out not only for its sheer quality of design, but for its ease of use and performance – a must when breaking down a bird. Whether you’re cutting raw chicken or slicing a roasted-to-perfection bird, the F.N. Sharp Chef Knife is 13.5” inches of high-grade performance.

The Bread Knife – The Best Knife for Cutting Cooked Chicken

Bread Knife for Cutting Cooked Chicken

Did you know the bread knife isn’t just for bread? That is if your bread knife has the best edge. Often the only serrated knife in a kitchen knife set, the bread knife has saw-like notches that are designed for cutting through tough ingredients with delicate insides, like crusty loaves of bread. Depending on the size and shape of these serrations, your bread knife is also a great candidate for cutting up a whole cooked bird, as well as standing rib roasts. Other uses for a bread knife include slicing through dense fruits with tough rinds and leveling cakes.

Take the F.N. Sharp Bread Knife, for example: with a 8” scalloped blade, this is the best bread knife for cleanly carving meat into uniform slices while also retaining the flavorful juices.

Get Your Workspace Ready

Tools for Cutting Up a Chicken

Before we get into how to cut a whole chicken, let’s talk safety first.

The most important thing to remember in any kitchen, whether it’s a home or professional kitchen, is that sanitation and safety cannot be compromised.

Nothing is worse than food poisoning or knife accidents. If you’re working with raw meat, then working on a clean, sanitized work surface (or cutting board, in this case) in a well-lit space with the proper tools will set you up for success.

Make sure your chicken is well-rinsed and any internal packages of giblets or organs have been removed. Pat the bird dry and season per your recipe – or check out our meat seasoning guide. Also, always remember to lightly salt the cavity since this creates juicier meat.

When it comes to practicing kitchen knife safety, making sure your knives are sharp enough for the job is the first step. A dull knife can slip and slide over your ingredients, requiring you to apply more pressure to make a full cut. This leads to higher chances of losing control over your knife and cutting into something other than your ingredients (like your fingers) – not to mention a clean cut from a sharp knife heals much better than a rigid cut from a dull knife.

Now back to the word – the bird.

How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken

Chef Knife Next to Uncooked Chicken

Place your chicken breast-side up with the cavity facing towards you. Keep your knives close by, along with a clean, wet dish towel for wiping your blades as needed. Be sure your cutting board is securely placed on a towel on the counter so it doesn’t slip around. Cutting up a chicken will require a little muscle on your part, but you got this! Let’s get started!

With the chicken placed on your cutting board with breast side up, pull each leg away from the body to make a cut between the breast and the drumstick. This is where the boning knife comes in handy as its slender blade with pointed tip is perfect for getting in between those delicate areas. Your chef’s knife will do the trick also, especially if it feels more comfortable in your hand.

Next, turn the chicken on its side and gently bend the legs back until the thigh bone is detached from the socket. Cut through this section to fully remove the leg.

Then pull the wings away from the body (one at a time, of course!) and cut through the joint to remove the wing. Now you have the body of the chicken without the legs and wings.

Now, cut downward through the rib cage and then through the shoulder joints to separate the breast from the back. Save those bones for stock!

Now, turn the chicken over so the breast is skin side down. Split the center bone using your chef knife in a chopping motion. These bones are fairly soft, so it shouldn’t require too much pressure. Separate the breast so it is in two clean, equally sized pieces.

Here is where you can cut the breast halves into quarters by turning each skin side up and cutting diagonally through bone.

To separate the legs from the drumstick, turn the pieces skin side down and cut through the joints along the fat line. You should end up with 6 to 10 separate pieces depending on how you cut the breast halves, the legs, and wings. Easy peasy!

Now go cook up that chicken! And here are some F.N. Sharp Recipes for some inspiration…

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe

Paleo Chicken Sauce Tomat

Paleo Chicken Sauce Tomat Recipe

Paprika-Spiced Velouté Vermouth Chicken

Paprika-Spiced Veloute Vermouth Chicken Recipe

Boneless chicken thighs, vermouth, and spices all come together in this easy recipe for hot paprika-spiced vermouth chicken with homemade velouté sauce.

Instant Pot Butter Chicken

Instant Pot Butter Chicken

Chicken, butter, cream, onion, ginger, tomatoes, and spices all come together in this delicious butter chicken recipe, made easier in the Instant Pot!

Greek Lemon Chicken Kabobs With Talatouri Sauce

Greek Lemon Chicken Kabobs

Get ready to fire up the grill and turn your backyard into a Greek island vacation with this recipe for Greek Lemon Chicken Kabobs and Talatour dipping sauce!

Grilled Chicken and Peach Saltimbocca Kabobs

Chicken Saltimbocca Kabobs Recipe

Saltimbocca doesn’t have to be reserved for restaurant menus – this quick chicken kabob version adds peaches to bring fresh flavor to your dinner plate.

Instant Pot Arroz con Pollo

Instant Pot Arroz con Pollo

Spice up your weeknight meals with this deliciously healthy chicken and rice recipe known as Arroz con Pollo, made easy with F.N. Sharp and the Instant Pot!

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