How to Portion a Chicken in Five Minutes Using Only Kitchen Scissors

I’m reading a book called ‘The Undercover Economist’ by Tim Harford. It’s very much in the gist of books like Freakonomics, brimming with anecdotes that cause one eyebrow to raise, beard stroking to commence and the reader to emit tuneful humming noises. The book recounts the never-ending ambition of big corporations to find new and inventive ways of drilling more money out of consumers when they least expect it. It makes some points that are almost terrifyingly obvious, and yet that most of us get duped by every day. I work with businesses accounts, finances, revenue, profit margins and other thrilling conversation-killers on a regular basis and yet I was genuinely shocked to realise that it doesn’t actually cost a cafe an extra 50 pence to pile squirty cream and marshmallows on to my hot chocolate.

As corporations go, supermarkets are a particularly wiley bunch, happily embracing organic, fair trade and high welfare food as they can jack up the price well beyond what the genuine additional cost is. When you pick up one of these ‘ethical’ choices, you’re telling them that you are happy to pay more, not just the actual extra cost, but much more.

And they are happy to oblige. 

In fairness, they also use card schemes and vouchers to artificially reduce the cost of other items for those not willing to pay as much, but this is no selfless Robin Hood redistribution of wealth, the crucial word here is ‘willing’. They’re not directing these specifically at people with lower income, they’re just selecting those who their data shows only go for discounted goods or cheaper products.

It is this kind of logic that has been applied to whole chickens and their respective portions. If you are willing to buy chicken breasts alone in a packet, then you have money to burn, and they want it. It is not unusual to see a pair of chicken breasts that cost almost as much as an entire chicken. And I don’t mean by comparing free range breasts with whole broiler chickens – I mean like-for-like. It’s the equivalent of going into a piano shop and being told you can buy the keys for £400, or the whole piano for £450.

Are they hoping that people don’t realise that chicken breasts have come of the actual chicken?

Of course not.

They know that we’ll pay for convenience, and pay we do, day after day.

So, with this in mind, here is a quick and easy way to stick it to the man, put two fingers up to the corporate giants, and have your chuck and eat it.

How to Portion a Chicken Using Kitchen Scissors

Portioning a chicken with kitchen scissors is quick and easy, it requires no special skills and you’ll wonder why you haven’t been doing it all along.

1. Set your chuck down on a firm board, and cut the funny bit of elastic string that holds its legs together. Ptwiiiing! Avoid said string as it flies across kitchen.

2. Cut off the wings at the main joint with the body, so you’re cutting off the entire v-shaped section of wing. Keep the wings for stock:
3. Flip your chuck over onto its front, and cut slightly to the left and right of the spine (thick nobbly bit in the middle), all the way up. Avoid cutting the actual spine, or you’ll end up with portioned scissors. Keep the spine for stock:
4. You now have a butterflied chicken – if you flatten it out, it can go straight onto a bbq like this. But we’re not done yet. Put the chicken on its side, and you’ll see the familiar shape of a leg portion. Cut around it, starting underneath the pointy end of the breasts (stop sniggering at the back):
You now have two leg portions and a breast ‘crown’, which can be used as a small roast portion for two people:
5. Turn the breasts over, and cut straight up the middle. If you find cutting this way difficult, you can turn the breasts back over which may make it easier:
Voila, four portions and two wings:
6. If you want to turn the leg portions into legs and thighs, turn them over and cut through the mid point where they join:
Here are the finished leg and thigh portions – if you prefer, you can also cut of the extra bit of leg fairly easily at the joint with the main drumstick:

The breast portions are still on the bone, and I’d encourage you to cook them this way as it can be more forgiving than a breast fillet. If you’d prefer the breast deboned, however, this can easily be done by slicing where the breast meets the bone with a sharp knife, sliding the knife repeatedly between the meat and bone until it eventually all pulls away.

Twitter: @TimHarford