Removing the bones from chicken parts makes them cook faster; removing the skin allows direct browning of the surface of the meat. These steps prepare chicken parts for almost every cooking method we demonstrate: baking, broiling, grilling, sautéing, stir-frying, and braising. When you can do these steps yourself, you not only save money, you have more flexibility. Familiarity with these techniques means that you can buy a whole bird to cut up yourself as demonstrated in the technique for Cutting Up a Whole Chicken, then decide later on whether to use them as bone-in pieces with or without skin intact or in a recipe that calls for boneless, skinless meat.
For breasts, deboning cuts away the breastbone and ribs. A boning knife is the best tool for this job, as its tapered, flexible blade slips easily between meat and bone. For thighs, which are smaller, use a boning knife or a small, sharp paring knife.
Stripping away skin is easily accomplished by hand, with the occasional assistance of a knife or kitchen scissors to release the skin from the meat.
Skinning Chicken Breasts or Thighs
Place a half breast skin-side up on a cutting board. Holding the piece with one hand, pull the skin away from the meat with the other hand, starting at the narrow end. Use the same technique for skinning chicken thighs.
Boning Chicken Breasts
Starting at one side of the ribs, cut the meat away from the bones with a boning knife. Continue cutting, pressing the flat side of the knife blade almost flat against the rib bones. Cut as close to the bone as possible.
Removing Tendon from Breast
To remove the tendon, pull it back with your fingers to stretch it out. With a knife, gently scrape the meat away from it until the entire length of the tendon is completely exposed. Sever and discard.
Boning Chicken Thighs
Place the thigh on the cutting board with the meatier side down. With a boning knife or small, sharp knife, make a lengthwise slit through the meat to the bone. Carefully separate the meat from the bone by scraping it away around the bone and at the ends.