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Chicken Deboning for Beginners

Nancy Leson
All boned out and ready to go

This story originally aired Oct 24, 2018. 

Even if I'm going to cook boneless chicken thighs, I always buy the bone-ins and bone 'em out myself.  They're less expensive that way, and I get to save the bones in the freezer until I have enough to cook up some chicken stock. But up until, now I've never attempted to debone an entire bird.

Surprise: It was way easier to do than I expected and a lot of fun, too. 

What moved me to try?  Mandy Lee's irresistable recipe for Perfectly Butterflied and Crispy Skillet Chicken on her Lady and Pups website.  And I still wouldn't have given it a shot without her short, easy-to-follow video, included in the recipe, showing how to remove the bones from a whole chicken. 

If you're going to cook the whole chicken in a skillet, the bones have got to go, since as Mandy points out, "A bird is a three dimensional object.  The surface of a skillet is a two-dimensional plane."  I was so happy with the juicy meat and gloriously crispy skin this method produced that I alerted Nancy Leson, and she had to try it too.  But as it turned out, neither of us followed instructions exactly.

Credit Nancy Leson / KNKX
Nance served hers with oven-roasted cauliflower "steak."

Where We Departed From the Recipe

Mandy's recipe calls for a 2 1/2 lb. chicken.  I couldn't find one that light, so got a 4 1/2 lb., boned the whole thing and saved one half in the freezer for next time.

Nancy just used a 2 lb Cornish game hen she'd been saving in her freezer.

The chicken is cooked skin side down in a skillet.   Mandy says to cook the top (meat) side by basting with the bird's released fats and butter.  Maybe I wasn't patient enough, but that didn't seem to be working, so despite her warning to "Restrain your urge to overcook the meat," I did flip it for a minute or so to finish cooking and no harm done.

And there were a few other tweaks you'll hear about in the segment.  Nancy and I are both so glad we tried this and plan to make this again, soon.  She points out that it's ideal for a dinner party since most of the prep is done well in advance.  The actual cooking only takes about ten minutes.

"Boning is a pain but it makes such majestic chicken." –Daniel Boulud

"It's easy." – Dick Stein

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.