Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cooking Basics: Boning a Chicken Breast

In our household, we have clearly assigned duties. I don't think there ever was any discussion about these assignments, they just sort of naturally happened. The monkey does most (read: all) of the chopping. And he takes out the trash. He makes the pasta, I assemble it into tortelloni or lasagne. One of my jobs is to bone the chicken breasts. Although either of us can acceptably accomplish any of these tasks, it seems like reversing the roles would risk upsetting the delicate balance of the universe. And we can't have that. Not on our watch..

Since several of my friends have indicated that they don't know how to bone a chicken breast, I thought it might be a good thing to share. Because I simply abhor waste and inefficiency of any sort, I find that buying a bone-in breast, then using the meat one night and the bones to make stock for another night satisfying in some way.

All you need is a sharp knife and a cutting board. And, of course, the chicken breast. It takes me less than a minute to do both halves of a whole breast - a lot less time than it is going to take to even read this post.

Here's the deal: - note, these instructions are written for a lefty - you might need to reverse them if you are right-handed.

Holding right half firmly, make an incision along the length of the breast just to the left of the breastbone. Continue to deepen this cut, pulling the meat away from the bone so that you can see what you're doing. until you reach the rib bones below.

Once you reach the ribs, angle your knife and slice parallel to these bones, continuing to gently lift the meat away to keep it clear. If that big tendon is visible on the underside, slice it off too. There's really no need to try to get every bit of meat off the bone, especially if you are going to save the bones for stock.

Now repeat for the other side if you bought a whole breast. Done! really simple.

One the meat and bone is separated, I add the bone to a gallon-sized ziploc bag and freeze it. When the bag is full, I make chicken stock:

  • heat the oven to 425 degrees
  • spread the bones, a carrot or two, an onion cut in quarters (leave the skin on!) and one or 2 celery stalks on a baking sheet. If the bones are frozen, I just put them on the try as a block, then periodically check on them and pry them apart as they bake.
  • once everything is browned, I then transfer to a stockpot and cover with water.
  • add a bayleaf, salt and peppercorns and simmer gently for an hour or two
  • strain into a bowl and store.

Depending on how you're using the stock, you might want it more or less concentrated. For risotto, stock should be pretty weak or it'll come out too strong-tasting on the end. For gravy, you'll want it relatively strong.

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