Once upon a time—actually not too long ago, but before I worked here at BA—I decided that I was going to roast a chicken (I am a vegetarian) and feed it to my meat-eating friends. I thought I needed to know how to roast a chicken to be a fully-formed Adult. But even more importantly, I thought I needed to know how to carve one. So I bought kitchen shears, I watched this video of Chris Morocco roasting a chicken upwards of 50 times, and I prepared myself. And then, when the moment came, I dragged my most chicken-familiar friend into the kitchen and held him captive until he walked me through the process. It wasn’t disastrous but it certainly wasn’t cute—let’s just say my platter of carved meat wasn’t a cover star.
If I knew then what I know now (ah, the wisdom of retrospection), I wouldn’t have gone from zero to roast chicken—I would have gone from zero to boiled chicken. In other words, I would have started not with roast chicken but with chicken soup. When you poach a whole chicken, as you do at the start of Molly Baz’s Classic Chicken Noodle Soup, you get a bird that’s essentially falling apart at the seams (sorry…). It’s bending and flexing in all of the places you’re going to slice. (Whatever you do, don't start by breaking down a raw chicken. It's even harder and, TBH, even more skeevy.)
Here’s how it works. Once your chicken breast has reached 155° F (this seems a bit low, but remember that the meat is going back in the soup later), pull the chicken from the pot and transfer it to a cutting board to cool slightly, breast side up.
Next, grab a wing and pull it outward, away from the body, so you can see where it attaches. Using a chef’s knife, cut through the joint to separate the wing from the breast. You’ll need to angle your knife downwards and toward the chicken’s body, and you’ll know you’re in the wrong place if you hit bone—simply pull the wing out farther, then wiggle your knife into the place where the joint meets the socket. Remove wing, repeat on the other side, then move on to the legs.
Cut through the flap of skin that’s shrouding the leg-body intersection (again, sorry…), then pop the chicken leg backwards—sort of like the bird is doing a hip-opening exercise—so that you see its joint pop out. An open expanse of easily sliceable soft flesh between the joint and the body will be revealed—cut through it. Repeat with the other leg.
All that’s left to do is to remove the breast. Keep in mind that you there’s a bone running straight down the center—you’ll need to cut alongside it on the left and right, angling your knife toward the outside of the bird.
At this point you may be staring at a sort of roughed-up carcass and some chicken parts that are far from picture-perfect. But that’s the best part of carving a chicken for soup: It’s just practice! It’s all getting shredded up anyway and no one has to know that you didn’t do the world’s very best job.
And the next time, when you try it with a roast chicken, you’ll do even better.
Get the recipe:Molly Baz
Originally Appeared on Bon Appétit