How to cut up a whole chicken...don't panic, you can do it!

Being able to purchase a whole chicken and cut it up yourself opens up countless options for cooking methods and recipes. Here’s a step-by-step guide for the method we use for our pastured chickens.

From conversations we’ve had with our customers, the mere thought of cutting up a whole chicken is enough to cause a look of panic in many people’s eyes. This simple process may be intimidating to some, but by following this step-by-step guide, the intimidation bubble can be burst.

Not only can this open up new ways to enjoy your pastured chicken, it saves money and allows you to make use of the whole bird. Parts such as backs and wing tips that frequently are not used when the chicken is cooked whole can be saved for stocks or soup bases.

During the cut up process, you’ll want to use the weight of the bird to help you. Pick the bird up by the piece you are removing as you make your cuts, it will make it easier to find the natural separation spaces and joints.

Here we go

  1. Remove the legs

    • With the chicken on its back, pull the leg away from the body. Make a slit with your knife through the skin that connects the leg and breast.

    • Pull the leg further away exposing the joint between the thigh and body. Pick the leg up, extending the joint. Cut through the joint, between the two bones. Remember, use the weight of the bird to help separate as you do this. Repeat on the other side.

  2. Separate drumstick from thigh

    • Place each leg skin side down. There is a thin line of fat visible between the drumstick and thigh that shows you where the joint is. Cut right along the line of fat, feeling where the joint is to guide you. Again, cut BETWEEN the bones at the joint.

  3. Remove the wings

    • Again with the bird on it’s back, extend the wing to feel the joint with the body. Partially pick the chicken up by the wing , cut through the joint letting the weight of the bird separate the parts as you make the cut.

  4. Remove the backbone

    • Starting at the head end, with kitchen shears, cut through the rib cage on one side of the backbone then the other. There is a fat line to guide you here as well. Cut right along the fat line. (Save that back! you can’t beat it for making stock)

  5. Separate the breast into halves

    • With the breast skin side down, make a slit along the length of the breastbone. This will help make it easier to separate the breast in two

    • Flip the breast over and with both hands, bear down right in the center opposite where you made the slit. You will hear the bone crack

    • Even the breast skin back out, cut right down the middle where you have just broken the bone

    That’s it! You did it. You now have your pastured chicken in 8 pieces as the possibilities are endless.

    Take a look at this video that shows the entire process.

How to decrystallize raw honey

If you have been eating our raw honey for long, you’ve probably experienced honey that has “turned to sugar”. Some people prefer their honey this way, but it doesn’t have to stay like this. Here are a few tips on how to decrystallize honey without destroying it’s wonderful benefits.

Crystallization of honey is a good thing. It means that it has not been heated to the point of destroying it’s natural properties. Our raw honey is alive with enzymes, antioxidants, pollen and other healthful goodies. For those who prefer their honey liquid, carefully applied heat can melt the crystals without harming the honey.

The most important aspect of the decrystallization process is SLOW, controlled heat. Temperatures over 140°F ruin the natural properties of honey, so you want to stay well below this.

The easiest way to do this with glass jars is to create a “hot-tub” for your honey. Start by heating some water in a pot. You want enough water to cover most of the way up the sides of the jar, but not touching the lid. Heat your water to 110-120°F.

Place the jar with lid on into the water bath. The goal is to maintain the temperature of the water at a consistent 110-120°F. Occasionally take your jar of honey out carefully and swirl it around to even out the temperature of the honey. How long it will take to decrystallize the honey depends very much on how much honey is in your jar, and how solidly it was crystallized in the first place. Plan on at least an hour or two, possible more.

Remember, this is a SLOW process. It will take some time, but preserving all those beneficial properties of your raw honey is worth it! Once your honey is an even color throughout with no crystals visible, you are done.

Most of us consume raw honey for its nutritional benefits, including us here at Ten Hens Farm. So, embrace crystallized honey as a measure that your honey has all of it’s wonderful beneficial properties intact. Decrystallizing honey is an easy process, and the reward is delightfully sweet!

"Organic", "Free-Range", "Natural", "Pastured" - Help! What does it all really mean anyway??

You work hard to educate yourself to make the BEST decisions when it comes to spending your food dollars, and making sure your family eats well. Lately, labeling of food products has become so overwhelming and confusing, it’s hard to know if you’re making the right decisions.

The marketplace is full of claims that are often deliberately misleading. With many commercial producers trying to take advantage of the increased awareness of the benefits of pasture-based methods, a few key points can help you ensure that you are getting what you think you are.

What Does Natural Mean?

In short, “Natural” does not mean a darn thing. Anyone can label their food product as natural - even if it includes GMOs, artificial flavors, hormones, pesticides, etc. It’s a deceptive marketing ploy used to real in unsuspecting shoppers.

I know I have been reeled in by this one. Natural makes me think I am buying a better or healthier food. Don’t be fooled.

Is Organic Really All That?

Is pastured poultry certified organic? No. Organic is a certifiable label that carries specific requirements. Mainly, that the poultry are fed organic feed. But does organic really mean what you think it does? Is it really the healthiest option?

Organic poultry do not necessarily live out on green grass pasture. They can be raised in conventional confinement barns, sometimes never seeing the light of day. They are fed organic feed though. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but it may not be what you think of when you see that organic label. Compare this to poultry that have been living and moving in fresh grass, fresh air, and sunshine.

For some really great information on this subject from the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, click here.

Free-range Is Not Pastured Poultry

Commercial confinement poultry operations have besmirched this one as well. Although free-range conjures up images of birds spread over green fields in the sun, this is not necessarily the case. Free-range has come to mean (USDA definition) the poultry have access to outdoors. This is a broad definition that is abused by large-scale poultry integrators.

Access to outdoors could be one or two doors open in a barn of 15,000 chickens, that lead to a small dirt run. As Joel Salatin, a pioneer of grass-based farming would say, “Folks, this ain’t normal.”

What Does Pastured Mean?

Oh no, not another label!!

There is no legal definition of the term pastured. But, most farmers truly raising pastured poultry are small and local. A visit or conversation with your farmer is the most effective way to ensure that you are getting what you want on this one. Try talking to the actual farmer at a large-scale commodity chicken operation…good luck.

Our standards for pastured are extremely high. There is no one holding us to these standards except ourselves, and YOU. Our customers are the ones holding us to these standards because they know us. We invite them to the farm to see what we do, and they are giving us direct feedback on the quality of our poultry.

Pastured poultry embodies outdoor production on green vegetated pastures and frequent movement of the birds to fresh pasture. These two elements are NOT found in 90% of the certified organic poultry in the marketplace today. We say that fresh air, adequate living space, and sunshine are the ingredients for happy and healthy poultry.

I hope that this has helped clear up some of the unknown regarding all of these labels. My take away from all of this would be know your farmer. By choosing local small-scale farms, you have the chance to have a conversation with your farmer, see their methods in action, and make a confident choice in where you spend your food dollars, and what you feed your family.

Matt at Ten Hens Farm