How To Butterfly A Chicken

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Here are the steps involved in butterflying a whole chicken. By removing the backbone and the breastbone (also called the keel bone), a whole chicken lays flat on the grill and cooks more evenly, since all the meat is about the same thickness. It makes for a nice presentation, too.

Another advantage of butterflying a chicken is that it makes separating the two halves easy, either before or after cooking.

Remove Excess Fat From Cavity Opening

two chickens side by sideStart with a whole broiler/fryer chicken weighing 3-1/2 to 4 pounds. Two such birds are shown in Picture 1.


chicken fatRemove the neck and giblets from the body cavity, then trim away any excess fat from around the cavity opening (Picture 2).


Remove The Backbone

Position the chicken so the back is facing up and the drumsticks are pointing towards you.

cutting the chickenUsing a pair of kitchen shears, cut all the way down one side of the backbone (Picture 1). You’re just cutting through the small rib bones, not through the center of the backbone itself. Cut close to the backbone so you don’t lose too much meat.

more cuttingNext, cut all the way down the other side of the backbone (Picture 2), removing it completely (Picture 3).


done cuttingSome people like to cut down only one side of the backbone, leaving it intact. I remove the backbone completely, since I’m not going to eat it. Reserve the backbone for making chicken stock, if you’re so inclined.

Remove The Breastbone

Now position the chicken so the drumsticks are pointing away from you.

circled in yellowUse a paring knife to make a small cut in the white cartilage that conceals the top of the breastbone (click on Picture 1 to see this area circled in yellow). Bend both halves of the carcass backward at the cut to expose the breastbone.

spreading the chickenIt should pop right up through the cut (Picture 2).


more spreadingRun your thumbs or index fingers down both sides of the breastbone to separate it from the meat (Picture 3), then pull the bone out (Picture 4).

something being removedThe breastbone may break into two pieces when you pull it out, especially if you haven’t separated it well enough from the breast meat using your fingers. No big deal, just pull out the two pieces.

halves lying flatPicture 5 shows how the chicken lays flat after the breastbone is removed. At this point, if you want to cook the chicken in halves, simply cut between the two breast sections.

removed stuffPicture 6 shows the breastbones and backbones removed from two chickens.


Some people leave the breastbone intact and simply push the carcass open to break the breastbone and flatten out the chicken. I think the few seconds it takes to remove the breastbone makes for a better presentation and easier cutting into halves after cooking


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