The gory details of cleaning a foul fowl

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

This is not for the faint hearted - this is the nitty gritty:

I promised the step by step and while I don't have photos, I do have the details. This is assuming you now have a chicken with it's head cut off, already dispatched and ready to go.

Have a table, sharp knife, offal bucket, water bucket, hose and wash cloth set up and ready

1. put the chicken on the table facing you with it's neck slightly over the edge and it's breast up. Located the edge of the cut and insert your knife gently just under the skin and make a slice straight up to the breast bone, not cutting anything but just the skin. You will see there are two layers of membrane. Leave the inner one intact at this point and just slice through the skin all the way to the back legs.

2. Using your hands, separate the skin on both sides all the way to the back and carefully separate the crop and the trachea from the neck and the neck from the skin all the way around. You should slide your fingers from the body cavity towards you to make sure anything that is in the crop stays in the crop. Rinse your hands frequently in the water bucket.

3. Carefully pull gently on the crop to bring it out a little and then cut it off and drop it in the offal bucket and do the same with the trachea.

4. Cut a small upside down V inside the body cavity above the neck to make removing the ends of those organs easier later.

5. Using your hands, tear through the second membrane and pull the skin down on both sides and away from the body. All the feathers will come off with the skin. If, at this point, fecal matter comes out, use your hose to immediately rinse off the chicken and your table and knife. Leave the skin attached at the back.

6. Have a friend help with the next part does make it easier. You want to pull the skin down off the legs and work your fingers between the skin at the back of the thigh/leg joint until you have a hole there. Have your friend stand across the table and put their fingers through that hole and then you pull strong and steady until the skin pulls off at the chickens foot and you can see the white cartilage at the back of the knee.

7. Cut through the cartilage until you can bend the leg backwards and break it. Then cut all around and let the foot drop with the rest of the skin, everything is still in one piece.

8. Flip the bird over and repeat with the other leg.

9. Using a similar action, skin out the wings to the first joint and cut it off, too.

10. Face the bird so the back is towards you and have your friend hold it firmly while you use your hands to pull the skin off the back bone.

11. At this point, the skin, feathers, feet should all be in one piece. Gently but firmly pull it off by pulling towards the tail end of the bird. Do not pull too hard, you do not want to rip the bird open. Drop the skin into your offal bucket.

12. The idea of this next series of steps is to keep the insides from contaminating the meat, so we want the bird's cloaca to stay intact until the end. Position your offal bucket under the edge of the table and place the bird breast side up.

13. Make a tiny slit just under the breast bone, above the body cavity. You are just cutting through the skin, nothing else. Then reverse your knife so the dull edge is inside and slice down the rib cage, being very careful to not pierce the intestines and organs. This will open up the body cavity. Put your knife down.

14. Using one hand, carefully insert it above the liver - you can see the liver at the top against the inside of the breast bone. It easily comes lose and then, slip your hand around all of the insides breaking lose the membrane on all sides.

15. Curve your fingers and reach as far inside the bird as you can and pull gently yet firmly towards yourself to bring the rest of the crop and the trachea out and then curve your fingers under everything else and let it drop over the edge of the table. DO NOT CUT IT LOOSE! You will contaminate your meat at this point, if you do.

16. If you want to harvest the heart and the livers, separate them from the rest of the offal carefully, being sure to cut the liver loose and not cut into the green/blue bile duct. If you do, discard the liver as well.

17. Pull all the guts between the two bones at the very bottom of the carcass. Cut down the side of each bone on the inside, being careful to keep the offal away from your knife, you are cutting skin and muscle, not insides.

18. Cut all the way to the spine in a V-shape and then, making sure all the offal is dangling over your offal bucket. Holding the offal bundle out of the way, cut it all loose and let it fall. You will have removed all the insides without ever cutting it.

19. Rinse the bird off in the hose. You can bag your chicken and put it in the chill chest of water and ice. You can remove the lungs after it's cool by just reaching inside and working them loose from the ribcage and discarding or cooking for your pet.

20.. and then take a break. Eat beef or pork or fish for dinner.


How to break down a chicken into it's parts is yet another post!

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