Boneless chicken breasts can be very expensive at the grocery store, but with a little practice, you can debone them yourself at home! Whether you need to make boneless skinless chicken breasts, debone skin-on breasts, or debone an already-cooked chicken breast, you can quickly and easily learn this skill in your own kitchen.
EditRemoving the Bone and Skin
- Thaw the chicken. Deboning a frozen or partially-frozen chicken breast is very difficult. Make sure your chicken breast is entirely thawed before beginning to de-bone. You can thaw your chicken by putting it in the refrigerator overnight, putting it in a bowl of water, or using your microwave’s defrost setting.
- Put the chicken on a cutting board skin side up. Make sure the cutting board is clean and that the chicken breast doesn’t have wings or leg meat attached to it. If it does, cut it off.
- Cut lengthwise into the thickest part of the chicken. This will prepare it for splitting and help you find the breastbone quickly. Use a chef’s knife to get the cleanest cuts.
- Peel the skin from the breast. Slide your fingers into the cut you made and pull the skin off the entire chicken breast. You should be able to simply pull it off by hand, but cutting is okay too.
- Find the bone. Look inside the cut to locate the breastbone. Most chicken breasts will have only one bone, which runs lengthwise down the middle of the chicken breast. Sometimes the ribs will still be attached, but you can ignore them–the chicken will come right off the ribs when you cut it away from the bone.
- Cut along one side of the breastbone. Slide your knife into the cut you already made so it’s between the meat and the breastbone. Using a scraping motion with the knife, cut along the bone so that the meat separates from it.
- Cut along the other side and pull the meat off. Repeat the same scraping motion along the other side of the breastbone. If any part of the chicken is still attached to the breast, pull or cut it off. You now have two boneless, skinless chicken breast halves!
- Remove extra skin, fat, and other unwanted parts. If there is any extra skin, fat, tendons, or cartilage remaining on your chicken breast, cut it off. You can throw them away, or keep them along with the bones for homemade chicken stock.
EditKeeping the Skin On
- Put the thawed chicken on a cutting board, skin side up. Check to make sure the skin doesn’t have quills or tears. You can pull quills out using tweezers or pliers. If the skin is torn, be careful as you work so you don’t enlarge the tear.
- Locate the bone. If you are keeping the skin on, you need to find the bone by turning the chicken over, skin side down, rather than by cutting through it. Find the ends of the breastbone. You can start deboning from either end–whichever end has more bone visible from the outside.
- Slice horizontally between the bone and the chicken. Slide your knife above the breastbone, between the bone and the meat. Work your knife as deeply along the bone as you can, pulling up on the meat with your other hand. Be careful not to slice through the meat!
- Pull the meat off the bone. Use your hands to pull the entire breast off the bone. You can use the knife to help, but pulling will prevent you from cutting through the skin. You should have an entire single breast with the skin on.
- Remove any unwanted parts. Cut off any gristle, tendons, or excess folds of skin.
EditDeboning a Cooked Chicken Breast
- Allow the chicken to cool. Don’t start deboning until your chicken is cool enough to be handled. You can be burned by fat or grease if the chicken is too hot.
- Cut the breast in half lengthwise. Cooked chicken doesn’t stick to the bone as much as raw chicken, so simply cutting the breast in half is sufficient to locate the breastbone. It may simply fall off the bone as you cut!
- Trace the knife along each side of the bone. If there is still meat along either side of the breastbone, cut lightly along each side. Don’t cut too hard–if your knife is sharp enough, it could cut right through the bone.
- Pull the meat off each side of the bone. You can use your hands to pull the chicken off in most cases–you’ll get more meat. Using a knife is fine if you need it.
- Be careful how much meat you throw away with the bone. If you are throwing too much meat away, then buying deboned chicken breasts may be just as economical.
- Save the bones, skin, and other waste products in a plastic resealable bag in the freezer. You can boil them to make homemade chicken stock.
- Debone raw chicken breast as soon as you get home from the grocery store. Then, you can freeze the breast portions or refrigerate them if you plan to use them immediately.
- Always wash your hands after handling raw chicken.