Preparing Whole Birds


All birds, both domestic - chickens, ducks and geese - and game birds such as partridges or grouse, need careful preparation, not least because keeping the bird's shape during cooking makes carving easier. Before trussing, clean away feathers and down, rinse inside and out, and dry with paper towels.


The wishbone is located at the neck end of the bird. It is not necessary to remove it, but if you do it will be easier to carve the breast. This is particularly important if you are dealing with a large chicken or a turkey. Use a small pointed knife.

1. Pull back the skin from the neck cavity of the bird. Cut around the wishbone.


2. Scrape the meat from the wishbone, then cut away at the base.




Trussing gives the bird a neat shape and helps keep stuffing in place. Use a string to tie quite small birds, such as poussins, partridges, pheasants, grouse and quails, around their legs and bodies. Before you begin to tie up the birds, tuck the wing tips and the neck flap underneath.

1. After seasoning, with the bird breast-side up, tie string around the legs and under the skin-flap at the tail.


2. Bring the string towards the neck end of the bird, passing it down between the legs and body.


3. Turn the bird over. Cross the string over the centre of the bird. Wrap the string around the wings to keep them flat against the bird.


4. Pull the string to bring the wings together, and then tie a firm, double knot. The bird is now ready for cooking - roasting, pot-roasting, barbecuing or casseroling.




The giblets consist of the neck, gizzard, heart and liver of the bird as well as the lungs and intestines (though the last two are generally not included in ready-prepared birds). Unless you clean the bird yourself, you will usually find the giblets packed in a plastic bag inside the body cavity. Often, however, they are absent from ready-prepared birds. Occasionally, you can buy them separately from a butcher if you wish to prepare stock.

To make stock for gravy, trim the giblets, discarding the membrane and yellow gall bladder from the liver. Simmer them with a few tablespoonfuls of chopped onion and carrot, a bouquet garni and a few black peppercorns.

The livers of poultry and some fresh game birds are delicious in their own right, although the giblets of well-hung game birds are best discarded.

Handle and cook giblets as you would poultry. Store them separately, in a covered container away from cooked meats, in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Always cook thoroughly before eating.


Trussing with a needle and thread is beneficial for large birds, and professional chefs always truss birds this way to ensure a neat, compact shape. Trussing helps the bird retain its natural juices, keeping the flesh moist and flavourful.

1. With the bird breast-side up, push the legs back to the centre of the breasts. Insert the needle through the joint in one of the legs, push it through the body, and out through the other leg. A 15-cm piece of string should remain where the needle first entered the bird.


2. Tuck the wing tips under the body, and fold over the flap of skin from the neck. Thread the string through the wings and flap of skin.


3. Make a double knot by tying the end of the string threaded through the wings with the end left at the leg. Trim both ends of the string.


4. Thread the needle under the legs through the tail end, leaving a 15-cm piece of string where the needle first entered the bird. Insert the needle through the end of one leg, push it through the breast, and out through the other leg.


5. Make a double knot by tying the end of the string that has been threaded through the legs with the end left at the tail. Cut both ends of the string.


6.Turn the bird, breast-side up. It is now ready for cooking - roasting, pot-roasting, poaching or barbecuing.




To truss a large bird you need a special trussing needle. These are available in various lengths from specialist kitchenware shops. Make sure you use one which is long enough to pierce the bird fully through both legs and body. A small turkey, for example, will require a trussing needle of about 25 cm in length.

Trussing needles have very sharp points and eyes large enough to allow easy threading. The thread should be black, to show up on the cooked meat and not plastic­coated or otherwise treated.




Large birds that are to be roasted without a stuffing or barbecued can be quickly and simply secured by the insertion o f two large metal skewers. One is pushed through both sections o f the wing, into the neck skin and out through the other wing. The other skewer is pushed through the thighs and tail cavity. Thus secured, the bird will hold its shape and is ready for cooking.