How to Quarter a Chicken in 3 Easy Steps

Learn how to divide a whole chicken into four pieces using this easy technique.

Quartering chicken
Photo: Ryan Liebe

Mildly flavored and endlessly versatile, chicken is our go-to protein—and we're not alone. Chicken has been the most popular meat (beating out beef and pork in pounds consumed per person) for over 25 years. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are the most popular cut, but we're not big fans. We prefer chicken thighs, but enjoy variety even more. That's why we suggest quartering a whole chicken for all of its parts, rather than relying on pre-packaged single cuts.

If you're ready to branch out from breasts or simply want to know how to cut a chicken into four pieces for roasting, follow our simple, three-step method.

Why You Should Cut a Chicken Into Quarters

A whole chicken offers many possibilities: roast it as is, use it for soup, or cut it up (in half, quarters, or six, eight or 10 pieces). Cutting up a chicken gives you control over the result and also saves you money—and it doesn't take that much extra time or effort, especially if it's a technique you use on the regular. You'll find it goes faster and gets easier with practice.

How to Quarter a Chicken

Before you master this method, make sure you have the right tools for the job. You need a sharp knife, such as boning knife or chef's knife, and a cutting board that you use for eat and poultry.

1. Separate the Legs

Ryan Liebe

Turn the chicken breast-side up on your cutting board. Gently pull a leg away from the body, then slice between the thigh and body to reveal the hip socket; cut through the joint to remove the leg. Repeat with remaining leg.

2. Remove the Backbone

Ryan Liebe

Lift the chicken up and cut downwards through the rib cage. Then, cut through the shoulder joints to separate the breast from the backbone. (Don't discard the backbone: Save it for making stock).

3. Split the Breast

Ryan Liebe

Slice along either side of the bone in the center of the breast, cutting through the rib cage. Use the heel of your knife to split the wishbone in half. Separate breast halves. The result: four chicken quarter portions.

Pro Tip: Let Stand at Room Temperature

Ryan Liebe

If you are going to roast the chicken quarters, like in our Roasted Quartered Chicken with Herb Sauce Recipe, and want to get crispy skin, let the chicken pieces stand at room temperature, uncovered, for one hour before cooking. Then, pat pieces dry with paper towels so the skin doesn't "steam" in oven.

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