Sunday, November 08, 2009

Cutting up a whole chicken

Around town in Ann Arbor lately, there's been big talk of "reskilling".  There's this group called Transition Ann Arbor whose stated goal is to "build resilience". And by this they mean to teach people things they should already know how to do, but never learned.   One thing I keep hearing about is that people are interested in learning how to butcher their own animals.   There's a class offered by a local farm that charges folks $30 each to let people help them butcher their chickens.  Once again, my country living inlaws would be scratching their heads at this trend...they think we Ann Arbor folks are a real hoot. Wait til I tell them that people are paying money to learn how to butcher animals! This will be a great Thanksgiving table discussion. The last time they laughed that hard at me was when the PETA people protested at the buck pole in downtown Dexter.   That being said, I don't know how to butcher a chicken, nor do I see a need to learn, given that I don't own any.  My brother in law raised chickens for years and my neices and nephews would think nothing of grabbing a chicken and cutting it's head off.  But I really should learn how to cut up a whole chicken.  

Many years ago, I was inspired by Cook's Illustrated to try to do it myself, and it wasn't pretty.   I bought some Wusthof poultry shears, and my one and only attempt was a mess and left me squeamish.  I really didn't like all the popping of bones out of joints as described in the process.   Last year, I took a class at Williams Sonoma and the guy teaching it promised to show us all how easy it was, and then he proceeded to have a difficult time doing it.  He didn't seem very confident in his skills.  

Why learn how to cut up a chicken?  Buying whole chickens is a great way to save money.  Plus, I try to buy local chicken when it's affordable, and it just doesn't come on a styrofoam tray and in boneless skinless form.   I need some "reskilling".   My mom used to cut up all the chicken we ever ate.   It was an easy task for her, but then again, when she was a kid, she probably butchered them too in her Appalachian homestead.  And she probably did it with a kerosene lamp and no running water, either.  They didn't have electricity or indoor plumbing.   Not sure if she remembers how anymore either.  I'll ask her.

Meanwhile, I found this video on the web and I am going to give it a shot today.  This gal sounds like she knows what she is talking about.   And there is no excessive pounding and popping.   It can be done with a knife - but I can dust off those poultry shears and use them, too.  Stay tuned and I'll let you know how it turns out.


kerewin said...

Alton Brown did a show on how to cut up a chicken. It looked very easy. Of course, I didn't save it to find out.

Watching By The Sea said...

I'm anxious to hear how the video was and if you think it's worth a watch. I've mastered some of the poultry cut up business but not all of it surely! It was enough learning to separate out the joints in the wings! But hey, think of what our Moms and Grandmoms had to do just to make dinner. Great blog, by the way, I enjoy reading it very much!

Chefbrian1 said...

Great post. The video was very useful. I can never find the joint when cutting up a chicken and end up hacking away.

Having raised chicken, I find them to be a good place to start for re-skilling. They easy to take care of and easy to "process." I also think that people may be less turned off to processing chickens because, speaking form my experience, I am use to seeing a whole raw chicken and parts.

Unfortunately, I cannot raise chickens where I live.


mlle noelle said...

Thanks for sharing that video. I have done it myself from instructions in a book and it wasn't a total disaster but I could definitely stand to improve my skills!

Karine said...

I love to cut a whole chicken in pieces even though it is difficult :)

Patrick Haggood said...

How did this effort for processing your own chickens turn out? A coworker has laying hens that are done laying and I'm very interested in having stewing hens. Years ago i regularly cut up whole chickens from the store but have never killed/defeathered on myself. Any heads up would be appreciated - I am also in Ann Arbor tho so if I do kill them I can't do it in town.

Thanks for any info