How to Cut a Whole Chicken Chinese Style

how to cut a whole chicken into pieces

When people think about Chinese food, the same dishes usually come to mind: beef and broccoli, egg rolls, sweet and sour pork, orange chicken, mushu pork, chow mein, fried rice, etc. Which is basically the entire menu at Panda Express and what we call Americanized Chinese food. Admittedly, as delicious as those dishes are, they’re not authentic. Real Chinese food that real Chinese people eat on a daily basis are often whole, healthy, and delicious. And a big indicator of real, authentic Chinese food is that we eat our food right off the bone. Whether it’s chicken, duck, or fish, often you’ll find us with a plate full of bones at Chinese dinners.

Chopping Steamed Chicken

Which brings us the dish we’ll be covering today, which is steamed chicken. Steamed chicken is a quick and easy dish for any weeknight meal and personally, one of my favorites. When it’s steamed, it’s super juicy and pure in chicken flavor, especially when paired with a simple green onion and ginger sauce. Reference my guide on how to steam a chicken with ginger and green onion sauce. But what intimidates many, if not most, from learning how to cook a steamed chicken, is chopping one.

When I was young, I used to watch as my dad chopped a chicken with a huge cleaver and couldn’t help but squirm every time I heard the cleaver hit the cutting board. I was always terrified of him slipping up and accidentally chopping off his finger. But as I grew up and started cooking more, I realized that chopping a chicken can be intimidating, yes, but it gets easier and easier over time with practice. The great thing about mastering how to chop a chicken is that once you learn it, it’s easier to chop other types of meats. Keep reading on and check out the video below for a step-by-step tutorial on how to chop a chicken!

Anatomy of chopped chicken chinese style

How to Cut Chicken Tips:

  • Chopping a raw chicken vs. cooked chicken will be different because the texture of raw chicken is a bit more slippery. But don’t worry, whether it’s raw or cooked, you use the same method in chopping!
  • Having the right cleaver is key! You want one that is heavy. It doesn’t have to be really heavy, but having some weight to the knife is important because it needs to chop down hard on a chicken bone.  
  • A SHARP cleaver is also key. Like with anything in cooking, a sharp knife makes everything so much easier. It gives you a cleaner cut, allows the knife to do the work for you, and contrary to what many might believe, is actually safer to use than a dull one. So make sure to sharpen your cleaver before starting.

How to Hold a Cleaver

When holding a cleaver, make sure to use the thumb for a firm grip and to only use the bottom of the cleaver when chopping for better control. When you chop down, you want to do 5 things:

  1. Make sure to keep your eye on the target
  2. Make sure your fingers are curled in and and away from the target you’re chopping down on
  3. Make sure that you do not lift the cleaver too high. The higher you lift the cleaver the less control you will have, and more likely that you’ll miss your target. Keep the cleaver low for more control but just high enough that you’ll have some power.
  4. Lastly, chop down with confidence and let the cleaver’s weight and power do the work. As scary as it may seem, once you get the hang of it, it will be easier and easier. 

Choosing the Right Cutting Cutting Board

  1. Thin wooden cutting boards are not great for chopping chicken. The strong force of chopping can break your cutting board
  2. Make sure to find a 2 inch thick or more wooden cutting board is enough to take the pressure of chopping. 

Knife Handling Tips

  1. For flat parts of the chicken such as the thigh, you can chop with one hand. Because it’s flat, it’s easier to control, so you can chop it in sections with one hand. Just make sure to keep your eye on where you want to cut and chop down hard.
  2. For joints of the chicken such as the wing, you can simply put the cleaver at the joint of the wing and use the other hand to grasp the other part of the chicken and use the weight of the cleaver to chop down on the cutting board.
  3. For some harder areas that involve a bone like the breast bone, you can cut until you hit the bone, hold that position, use your other hand to smack the back of the knife to cut through the bone. This is why a sharp cleaver is key!
  4. Another method is to make sure the first chop is the strongest and hardest to penetrate the bone. For the second chop, zero in on your target and lift up only 2-3 inches from the cutting board to ensure precision. Chopping the bone for the thigh and legs is good for this method.  

How to Chop a Chicken Section by Section

  1. Let’s start with the neck. Chop off the head of the chicken and discard. From there, separate the neck from the body by chopping off the neck at its base. Chop neck into 2-inch increments. Pull back chicken feet until the joint pops out, slice through to chop off chicken feet. 

2. Place the chicken with the butt facing up and use one hand to hold one side

3. Take the knife and carve right next to the butt and slice down the chicken along the side of the spine. (The spine is too hard to cut, so slicing from the side of the spine is easier to cut chicken in half)

4. When you get to the bottom of the chicken, chop 2-3 strong chops to cut through breast bone. Set one half of the chicken aside. 

5. Starting with the first half, cut the wing out by feeling the joint of the drumette and snap the joint off and set aside. 

6. Use the bottom of the blade to carve out the leg and thigh from the body of the chicken and set aside. The chicken thigh will have a joint that pops out to make it easier to carve. 

7. After chopping wings and chicken leg, slice down the other side of the spine to separate. Chop in 2-inch increments. You can discard the spine or keep it to eat. 

8. For breast, use the side of the knife or hands to separate the rib cage bone from the meat and discard the bone.

9. Chop the breast in two sections if you have a larger sized chicken. Chop through to the bone to enable more precision, and then chop once you reach the bone. Chop in 1-inch increments and then use your knife to bring breast to the plate.

10. Chicken thigh and legs – Separate the thigh and the legs by finding the joint between the two and slice down to separate. Chop chicken in 1 inch increments so it’s easier to grab with chopsticks. 

11. Wings – Use the cleaver to separate the drumette and the wing by slicing the joint. 

Assembling Chicken Chinese Style

  1. Use your cleaver and place the arranged chicken breast in the center of the plate
  2. Then put legs and thighs on top of the breast. Add in chicken mid joint at the top of the plate and drumette next to chicken legs.
  3. Lastly, brush some green onion and ginger sauce to give chicken a beautiful glaze.
  4. Garnish with cilantro and voila! 
Print

How to Cut a Whole Chicken Chinese Style

how to cut a whole chicken chinese style

The great thing about mastering how to chop a chicken is that once you learn it, it’s easier to chop other types of meats. Keep reading on and check out the video below for a step-by-step tutorial on how to chop a chicken!

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes

Instructions

  1. Let’s start with the neck. Chop off the head of the chicken and discard. From there, separate the neck from the body by chopping off the neck at its base. Chop neck into 2-inch increments. Pull back chicken feet until the joint pops out, slice through to chop off chicken feet. 
  2. Place the chicken with the butt facing up and use one hand to hold one side
  3. Take the knife and carve right next to the butt and slice down the chicken along the side of the spine. (The spine is too hard to cut, so slicing from the side of the spine is easier to cut chicken in half)
  4. When you get to the bottom of the chicken, chop 2-3 strong chops to cut through breast bone. Set one half of the chicken aside. 
  5. Starting with the first half, cut the wing out by feeling the joint of the drumette and snap the joint off and set aside. 
  6. Use the bottom of the blade to carve out the leg and thigh from the body of the chicken and set aside. The chicken thigh will have a joint that pops out to make it easier to carve. 
  7. After chopping wings and chicken leg, slice down the other side of the spine to separate. Chop in 2-inch increments. You can discard the spine or keep it to eat. 
  8. For breast, use the side of the knife or hands to separate the rib cage bone from the meat and discard the bone.
  9. Chop the breast in two sections if you have a larger sized chicken. Chop through to the bone to enable more precision, and then chop once you reach the bone. Chop in 1-inch increments and then use your knife to bring breast to the plate.
  10. Chicken thigh and legs – Separate the thigh and the legs by finding the joint between the two and slice down to separate. Chop chicken in 1 inch increments so it’s easier to grab with chopsticks. 
  11. Wings – Use the cleaver to separate the drumette and the wing by slicing the joint. 

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8 thoughts on “How to Cut a Whole Chicken Chinese Style

  1. I love all your tutorials! I have managed to impress my mom with your recipes. These instructions beat the instructions I get from my mom or mother in law lol

  2. Love this! The video is very helpful. I chop my chicken the same way but I use a chef knife. I think I’ll try a cleaver next time .. thank you!

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