Are you a beginner in the world of chicken butchering and have no clue how to gut a chicken?
It can be a daunting process, and while butchering and gutting a chicken is rarely an enjoyable process, it’s far easier than you might think.
In this post, we will break down the process into easy-to-follow steps that will leave you feeling confident and ready to take on your poultry with newfound expertise.
Put on some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty—and let’s get started!
How to Gut a Chicken: Supplies You Need
First and foremost, you’ll need a sharp knife.
It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, just sharp enough to make quick, clean cuts.
You’ll be using the knife to cut through the neck bone, remove the head and feet, and split the chicken open.
If your knife is dull, you’ll end up hacking through the chicken, which is not only unsightly but can also lead to contamination.
Next, you’ll need a pair of poultry shears.
These are designed to cut through bones and will make the job of removing the spine and ribcage much easier.
They’re also handy for trimming any excess fat or skin.
You can find poultry shears at most kitchen supply stores or online retailers.
Make sure they’re sharp and sturdy enough to handle the job.
A good cutting board is also essential.
You don’t want to be using your nice wooden cutting board for this job, as chicken guts can be tough to clean off.
A plastic or rubber cutting board is a good option. It needs to be large enough for the chicken and have a groove to catch any juices.
Disposable gloves and aprons will keep you and your workspace sanitary.
Chicken guts can be messy and carry bacteria, so it’s important to protect yourself.
You might also want to wear old clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, as we mentioned earlier.
Finally, you’ll need trash cans, bowls, or bags to collect the guts in.
This should be a big enough bowl or bag so that you don’t run into any accidental messes.
How To Eviscerate a Chicken: Step-by-Step
Eviscerating a chicken may sound daunting, but it’s an essential skill to have if you plan on raising your own meat birds. Here’s how to do it!
1. Kill the Chicken
This may sound like the most intimidating part, but it’s so important to know how to do it right for the most humane process possible.
You don’t want your chickens to suffer, but you also want to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
There are a few ways to do it, but the most widely recommended is to use a sharp knife and sever the jugular vein and carotid artery.
Aim for the base of the neck and cut quickly. If you can put your chicken in a kill cone, this will be the most effective method.
If not, you can always use the stump and hatchet method, severing the chicken’s head, but this will produce a lot more blood and mess, as the chicken will flop around quite a bit as it’s bleeding out.
You’ll need to wait a few minutes after the chicken has been killed to do anything.
Once the chicken’s movements have slowed or stopped, you know it’s done.
2. Pluck the Bird
Now that the chicken is dead, it’s time to remove its feathers.
There are a couple of ways to do this, but the first step will be to immerse the chicken in hot water for a minute or two.
This will soften the feathers and make them easier to remove.
Then, use a commercial plucker or your fingers to gently pull the feathers out, starting from the wings and moving toward the tail.
Take care not to tear the skin and remove as much of the fine down as possible.
If you’re having trouble getting all of the feathers right away, don’t panic.
You can always pull them out individually later on after you’ve removed the guts from the chicken and rinsed it a few times.
Pro tip: Add a few drops of dish soap to your scalding water. This will make the feathers easier to remove.
Be sure to check the temperature of the water before you scald, too.
It should be between 130 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit for best results, and you’ll need to scald for about 30 seconds to two minutes.
Don’t get the chicken too hot. Otherwise, you’ll have issues with the skin tearing, or you’ll end up cooking the meat!
3. Rinse it Out
Rinse the chicken out under cold water, making sure to remove any feathers or debris that may be present.
You’ll rinse the bird a few times during the evisceration process but try to be as thorough as possible each time you do it.
4. Remove the Head and the Feet
The next step is to remove the head and the feet.
This is best done by cutting through the skin and flesh at the base of the neck.
Hold the chicken firmly with one hand and use the other hand to cut through the skin with a sharp knife.
Once you’ve severed the head and the feet, set them aside for later use or discard them.
Some people like to make stock out of the feet—this is totally up to you.
5. Cut Out the Crop and Oil Gland
The crop and oil glands are located at the base of the neck and must be removed.
First, locate the crop (a sac-like structure that stores food) and cut it out.
Then, locate the oil gland (a small, oval-shaped gland that secretes oil) and remove it by gently pulling it out with your fingers or using scissors.
6. Remove the Neck
The next step is to remove the neck.
This can be done by inserting your fingers under the skin at the base of the neck and gently pulling it away from the body.
Once you’ve separated the neck from the body, you can discard it or use it for making chicken broth.
7. Open the Cavity Above the Cloaca
Now it’s time to open up the cavity above the cloaca.
Using your fingers, gently lift the skin to expose the cavity. Be careful not to puncture the organs below or the gallbladder.
Because you’ll be putting some pressure on the intestines, it’s not uncommon for some chicken manure to leak out.
If this happens, wash the bird immediately to remove any bacteria.
8. Remove the Guts
Keep the chicken on its back and place one hand on the breast to steady it.
Use your other hand to reach into the cavity you created over the top of the internal organs.
Close your hand around the guts and pull them outward. Repeat until all the guts have been removed.
This process should be done slowly and carefully.
9. Be Extra Careful That You Remove the Heart and Lungs
After removing the guts, you need to remove the heart and lungs.
These are located around the spine, and it can be a bit tricky to get them out.
Use your index finger to push the lungs out of the way and cut them free from the heart.
There’s a special lung remover tool you can buy to do this job, too, but with practice, you’ll likely find that you can remove the lungs with your fingers fairly easily and don’t need this tool.
Once you’ve removed them, give the cavity a quick check and make sure there are no remaining organs.
10. Rinse the Chicken Again
Now that the chicken is gutted and cleaned, rinse it thoroughly again with cold water inside and out.
This helps to remove any remaining blood, feathers, or debris. Again, be as thorough as possible during this process.
11. Cut it Up into Parts and Pieces (or Package Whole)
You can now cut the chicken into parts or leave it whole.
If you choose to cut it up, use a sharp knife to separate the legs, thighs, breasts, and wings. Or you can leave it whole if you intend to roast it.
Store the chicken in a plastic bag or airtight container.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more money, you might want to consider investing in vacuum-sealed bags or shrink bags that remove excess air when you dip them in scalding hot water.
This can prevent your chickens from getting freezer-burned.
12. Consider Aging the Chicken Before Freezing It
Aging the chicken for a couple of days in the refrigerator can improve the texture and flavor.
This concept is called dry aging, and it involves letting the natural enzymes in the meat break it down (the chicken will have to go through rigor mortis).
How Long Does it Take to Eviscerate a Chicken?
So, how long does it take to eviscerate a chicken? Well, it really depends on a few factors.
First and foremost, it depends on your experience level.
For someone who’s never done it before, it could take anywhere from 20-30 minutes.
However, for someone who’s been eviscerating chickens for years, it could be done in as little as five to ten minutes.
Another factor that can impact the time it takes is the size of the chicken.
Obviously, a larger chicken will take longer to eviscerate than a smaller chicken. The freshness of the chicken can also play a role.
A fresher chicken will have more delicate organs and tissue, making it easier to remove the parts cleanly, while one that’s older might be tougher and harder to process.
The Best Chicken Breeds to Raise for Meat
Let’s talk about which chickens are best to raise for meat in this section.
First up, we have the Cornish Cross. This popular breed is so delicious that even the big fast-food chains use them.
This is the most popular breed of chicken raised for meat in the United States and for a good reason.
Cornish Cross chickens are known for their fast growth rate, reaching maturity in just six to eight weeks.
Be warned, though, since they don’t do well in hot temperatures and can have leg problems due to their rapid growth.
Next, we have the Plymouth Rock. This breed has been a staple in American farms since the early 1900s, and for a good reason.
Plymouth Rocks have a large breast size and a meaty frame, making them ideal for the dinner table.
They’re also docile and friendly, making them great for families with kids.
However, they take a bit longer to reach maturity, at around 12-16 weeks.
Another great breed for meat is the Jersey Giant. This breed can grow up to 20 pounds and has a reputation for being a great roasting bird.
Jersey Giants also take a bit longer to reach maturity, at around 16-20 weeks.
That said, their rich and flavorful meat is worth the wait.
This breed is also known for being friendly, docile, and low maintenance, and you can also raise them for eggs.
Last but not least, there’s the Freedom Ranger. This breed is a cross between a broiler and a heritage breed, resulting in a hardy bird with great taste.
Freedom Rangers take around 12-14 weeks to reach maturity and have a great foraging ability, making them perfect for free-range farms.
Their meat is said to have a rich flavor and a tender texture. Plus, they’re also great for egg-laying, so you get a dual-purpose bird.
How to Gut a Chicken: Final Thoughts
Congratulations, you have successfully learned how to gut a chicken!
While it may seem intimidating at first, with a little practice, you will soon become a pro.
Remember to always handle poultry with care and be as clean as possible to keep everyone safe.
Now, go out there and impress your friends with your newfound butchering skills! There’s nothing better than homegrown chicken, after all.