Jointing And Cutting


Birds are usually left whole for roasting, pot-roasting and poaching, but for most other cooking methods they are cut up into pieces, unless they are small birds such as poussins or quail. The number of pieces depends on the size of the bird. Some small birds like pheasant, for example, may be spatchcocked or cut in half. Others are jointed into four, six or eight pieces.


Small birds such as the poussins used here are perfect for barbecuing or grilling. To make them the same thickness throughout so that they cook quickly and evenly, the backbone is removed, then the birds are flattened and secured with metal skewers - called en crapaudine in French.

1. Tuck under the wings and remove the wishbone. Turn the bird over, cut along each side of the backbone with poultry shears and remove it.


2. Push down on the bird to break the breastbone, flattening it against the cutting board.


3. Keeping the bird flat, push a metal skewer through the wings and breast. Push another metal skewer through the thighs.




Ducks are less economical than chickens, because they have less meat in proportion to their weight, and more fat stored under the skin. They are also a different, more awkward shape for jointing, and are therefore best cut into four pieces so that each portion contains a good amount of meat to bone. The joints can be roasted or casseroled.

1. Trim wing tips and remove wishbone. Cut breast in half from tail to neck, splitting the breastbone with poultry shears.

2. Separate the bird into two halves by cutting along each side of the backbone and removing it.


3. Cut each piece of duck diagonally in half with poultry shears. The duck is now ready for cooking.




The derivation of this very strange-sounding culinary term is slightly obscure. An old word dating back to the 16th century, most likely of Irish origin, it is said to have come from the habit of catering for unexpected guests by speedily killing a bird and roasting it over the fire - "despatching the cock'' - hence spatchcock. The word has now come to mean the cutting and removing of the backbone so that the bird can be cooked flat - and therefore more quickly.



A medium-sized or large bird can be jointed into four, six or eight pieces. For some dishes you may wish to keep the breasts and/or the legs intact, but to ensure there is some white and dark meat for each serving, breasts are cut in half with the wings attached and the legs are split into thighs and drumsticks.

1. Place the bird breast-side up and cut one leg away from the bird. Cut through the thigh joint, to separate the leg from the body. Repeat.

2. Holding the wing, cut the breast in half, splitting the breastbone. Turn over and cut alongside the backbone to separate the body.


3. Cut out the backbone with the poultry shears - it can be used to make stock. Leave the wing joints attached.

4. Cut each breast in half diagonally with the shears, so that one piece of breast has the wing attached.

5. Cut each leg in half through the knee joint, following the line of white fat on the underside. Cut off wing tip at first joint.



Rabbits can be roasted whole, but it is more usual to joint them for slow-cooking in casseroles and stews. It is only wild rabbit that you may need to joint, since domestic rabbit is mainly sold ready jointed. A whole rabbit, depending on size, can be jointed into six to nine pieces which will feed three to five people. Boneless rabbit meat is a good choice for pâtés and terrines.

1.Cut the back legs from the carcass with a large chef's knife. Cut down the centre to separate. Cut each leg in two.

2.Cut the body crosswise into three or four pieces with the knife, making one cut below the ribcage.

3.Cut the rib section in half through the breastbone and backbone with the knife or kitchen scissors.



Professional chefs joint poultry with a large knife, but for cutting the breastbone and backbone, you may find poultry shears easier.

Poultry shears have strong upward-curving blades, one with a straight edge and one with a serrated edge. Some have a notch in the lower blade which helps get a grip on bones. The handles are strongly sprung and are closed with a loop that holds the blades shut when not in use.