Raising chickens and killing them later for meat may be a painful act, especially once you are already attached to them. Experienced butchers will tell you that dressing a chicken is just cleaning a fish. But if you feel uncomfortable doing it, you can simply bring them to a commercial slaughterhouse. On the other hand, if you want to save some money and you think you can do it yourself, here are the steps on how to butcher a kitchen.
First of all, make sure that the chicken is healthy for human consumption. See to it that the chicken has no fluid in the body cavity, has spots on the liver surface, or any abnormalities. You should also have enough space and the right tools. To avoid contamination of the carcass, your area should be clean and has a good water supply. As a safety precaution, ask for help from someone familiar with butchering chickens.
The chicken needs to go into fasting (no eating) for 24 to 34 hours before the slaughter. In some cases, 12 hours of fasting is enough. A chicken with an empty stomach reduces potential contamination of the carcass during processing. Nevertheless, giving them water will maintain their skin. During the fasting period, the chicken should be kept in a wire bottom cage to prevent them from dirt.
Butchering chicken at home does not require special tools or equipment. However, your cutting knives and pinning knife should be sharp enough. You should also have a plastic or metal garbage can near you for scalding and chilling water. For feathers, plastic bags are good enough. Once everything has been prepared, you may now start the butchering process.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Humanely Kill a Chicken
- 2 Bleeding a Chicken
- 3 Scalding a Chicken
- 4 Picking a Chicken
- 5 Pinning a Chicken
- 6 Singeing a Chicken
- 7 Evisceration of Chicken
- 8 How to Open the Abdomen of a Chicken
- 9 How to Remove the Internal Organs of a Chicken
- 10 How to Pack and Chill a Chicken Meat
How to Humanely Kill a Chicken
Use a short piece of rope to hang the chicken in a shackle by its feet. You can also place the chicken in a killing cone. To prevent it from moving, hold its head in one hand and pull it down for slight tension. Using a sharp knife, cut the throat just behind the lower jaw. To humanely kill a chicken, the cut should be quick, at least 2 inches long and must reach the base of the skull. Avoid cutting the esophagus to prevent contamination.
Bleeding a Chicken
Chickens don’t bleed that much, and therefore, you can allow the blood to flow freely. To prevent excess blood splatter, hold its head firmly for about 3 minutes until the bleeding stops. Use a container or a bucket partially filled with water to catch the blood. If you will dispose of the blood into a sink, pour it along with cold water to avoid clogging.
Scalding a Chicken
Scalding is the process of treating carcasses with boiling water so you can easily remove the feathers. Scald time usually lasts from 60 to 90 seconds. For younger chickens, the scalding temperature is from 125° to 130°F. For the older ones, the temperature may be up to 140°F. Hold the feet and immerse its head in the scalding water. To attain uniform scalding, move the chicken up and down and side to sides. If there are feathers that are hard to remove, you can re-dip the bird for a short while.
Picking a Chicken
To do the picking, suspend or hang the carcass back on the rope or placed it on top of a clean table. With slight pressure, gently rub it to remove the feathers. This should be done immediately after scalding, and as fast as possible. You can use a sequence that works for you best. However, it is recommended to do the wings and tails first, followed by the rest of the body. It may take you 5 minutes to complete the process, especially if the scalding process was done properly. Make sure you rinse properly.
Pinning a Chicken
Pinning is similar to picking, except that it is being done toward pinfeathers or some small feathers that were not removed after picking. Using a sharp pinning knife or any dull tool along with streaming cold water can help you in doing the task faster and more effectively.
Singeing a Chicken
Singeing is the process of burning off the feathers of a carcass. This is usually applicable only to mature chickens because of the few hairs left after pinning. If you don’t have a single torch, you can use an open flame on a gas range or bottle gas torch. Be extra careful during the process, and make sure you don’t burn yourself or the chicken’s skin.
Evisceration of Chicken
Evisceration is the process of removing the internal organs of a dressed chicken.
Cut the feet
To cut the feet, use a sharp pair of shears or a boning knife. Place the chicken on the table or in a shackle. Cut the feet through the hock joint and pull them up with slight pressure while holding the shank. Moving the feet slightly will help a lot in completing the cut.
Remove the oil gland
With the bird still on the table with its breast down, cut about 1 inch forward of the small nipple of the oil gland. Slice it down vertically until you hit the bone. Keeping this part may affect the taste of your bird once cooked. Afterward, cut deep the tail vertebra deeply. Then, make a scooping cut of the vertebra to the end of the tail. Note, however, that if you plan to cut off the tail, you don’t have to remove the oil gland.
Cut off the head
To cut the head properly, stretch the neck and cut the head off into the top of the neck skin using a sharp knife. Slightly pull the head off around the base in a twisting motion. This is to avoid cutting the neck bones. Also, don’t cut the flesh inside the neck or the crop inside the throat.
Cut off the neck
If you plan to fry the chicken or enjoy a barbeque chicken, cut the neck and its skin with a sharp knife. But if you prefer a roasted chicken, insert a knife through the neck skin at the point of the shoulders. Cut it forward up to the back of the neck. Then, slowly pull the skin from the neck. Removing the neck can also be done after chilling.
Remove the crop
The crop is where the chicken stores its food, and it is attached tightly to the chicken’s body. Before you can cut it, you should first locate the esophagus or windpipe. Once you find the crop, pull it out slowly and make sure you don’t break it. If the chicken is in the process of digesting, you can easily find the crop because it may still contain some food. But if it is already empty, finding it can be challenging a bit.
How to Open the Abdomen of a Chicken
There are two ways to open the abdomen. The first one is called the mid-line cut (also known as the “J” cut, and the other one is called the bar cut. The mid-line cut is usually done for broilers and small fowls and involves a vertical cut. On the other hand, the bar cut is for roasting huge chickens or turkey, and the cut is done horizontally.
Gently pull the abdominal skin forward and up away from the internal organs (viscera). Point your knife to the right side of the heel bone. Cut through the skin and body wall slowly up to the tail. The cut should not be deep so you won’t be able to cut the intestine. Finish the cut around the vent. To complete the cut around the vent, keep the knife next to the back and tail. As much as possible, make it away from the vent. To avoid contamination inside the carcass, cut around the vent entirely and pull out the vent and the end part of the large intestine away from the cavity opening.
In this process, it is preferred to have your chicken suspended by the hocks.
- Make a semi-circle cut around the vent next to the chicken’s tail.
- Using a short, thin-bladed knife, make a slow-stroke into the abdominal cavity above the vent.
- Cut each direction sideways to pin bones or slightly farther. Make sure you don’t cut the intestine.
- Insert your index finger into the cut opening up to the intestine.
- Using your finger as a guide, extend the cut with a pair of shears or knife to cut around and free the vent.
- Pull out the vent gently along with a small part of the intestine. Make sure it will not drop into the cavity. Otherwise, the carcass will be severely contaminated.
- Make a horizontal cut across the bird around 3 inches long. The cut should be 1.5 to 2 inches below the keel point. In doing so, there will be a bar of skin below the cut, around 1.5 to 2 inches wide.
- To complete the process, thread the cloaca up to the end of the intestine.
How to Remove the Internal Organs of a Chicken
To remove the internal organs (viscera) or guts, you should first stretch the abdominal opening. Then, reach your hand inside as far as you can until you detach the organs from the wall. Pull out the heart with care to avoid breaking the gall bladder. With a slightly twisting motion, gently pull out all the other organs and close your hand around the viscera. If you accidentally break the gall bladder, the meat will be contaminated. Use a knife to cut the intestine but avoid cutting it open.
Harvest the giblets
- Use a pair of shears or a knife to cut the gizzard from the intestine and stomach.
- Peel the excess fat, as well as the thin wall side.
- Cut the liver off and again, avoid the gall bladder from breaking.
- Cut open the gizzard and remove all its contents with the help of a gentle stream of water.
- Peel off the gizzard lining using your thumbnail and pull it away from the muscle.
- Wash all the giblets properly and place them in a container with cold water.
Remove the gonads (testes or ovaries)
The gonads are usually attached to the backbone, just above the liver. You can find them on the cavity floor if the chicken is on its back. Pull them out with your hand or with a lung scraper. If the gonads are not present, the chicken is likely to be a capon or has been castrated.
Remove the lungs
To remove the lungs, you can use your hand or a lung scraper. If you prefer using your hands, roll your index finger on each side of the chicken to break them.
Once you are sure that you have removed all the other parts, wash the body cavity thoroughly. Also, wash the external part of the chicken and make sure there are no bloodstains, pinfeathers, and any kind of dirt. Then, place the carcass on the container with cold water.
How to Pack and Chill a Chicken Meat
During pre-chilling, place the carcass in a container with the cold water running continuously at a slow rate and overflowing. Alternatively, you can replace the water from time to time. In doing so, the carcass will be cleaned further. You can use tap water as long as it is safe for drinking.
For an effective chilling process, use ice and water. The ideal temperature for carcasses is 40° F before packing them. For huge capons, the chilling time should be 3 hours or longer. For turkeys, chilling time should be between 18 and 24 hours. After chilling the carcass, hang them by their wings and let them drain for about 10 to 30 minutes.
Fresh-dressed and ready-to-cook chicken should be refrigerated between 29 and 34°F but should be taken out after 5 days. If you want them to be frozen, refrigerate them 3 days after they have been dressed and chilled. Likewise, don’t freeze a fresh-dressed chicken until it has been chilled to up to 40°F. Also, never put the warm freshly dressed chicken inside the freezer.
Wrap the liver, gizzard, and heart using a small plastic food warp. Place the neck and the giblets inside the body of a chilled carcass. To pack the carcass, put it inside the plastic bag of proper size, head first.