My first deboning experience was at the Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town when I was a culinary student. Every day, I had to debone somewhere on the vicinity of 50 chickens, which we used mostly for making chicken rolls. It’s not something you ever forget, because apart from the sense of accomplishment, it opens up a whole new journey with poultry – one that uses every part of the chicken, is easy to portion (as there are no bones) and doesn’t compromise on flavour.
Remove the wings from the whole chicken. Don’t let them go to waste. You can turn these into chicken lollipops (see a recipe on page 27 of JAN the Journal Volume Six). Remove the wishbone (the triangle at the neck) and turn the chicken breast-side down. Next, you want to release the shoulders and thighs from the carcass, so cut a slit along the skin on the back from the top to the bottom. You don’t want to cut the chicken too much, so feel where the joints are and simply slide the knife through to release them.
Stick your fingers in between the flesh and the carcass and pull the flesh away. When you get to the thighs, feel for the joints and cut them loose with your knife. Proceed to pull the rest of the flesh off the carcass. All that should remain on the carcass are the fillets, which you should simply slide off with your finger. To remove the sinews, simply press down on the sinew with a kitchen towel and slide the knife over the sinew to release the flesh.
The thigh bones will still be attached to the flesh you’ve just removed. To remove them, slice into the flesh and push the joint out. Then, scrape (don’t slice) the flesh off the bone until it comes off. Break the bone at the ankle and cut out from the other side. And voilà! Your chicken is now completely deboned.