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Techniques - Meat

DK Publishing logoDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks

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Cut up a chicken

Poultry is often left whole for roasting, poaching, and slow-cooking in a pot. For other cooking methods, cut into 4 or 8 pieces

Remove the wishbone

Using a small, sharp knife, scrape the flesh away from the wishbone, then use your fingers to twist and lift it free.

Place the bird breast-side up on a cutting board. Using a chef’s knife, cut down and through the skin between one of the legs and the carcass to separate the leg from the rest of the body.

Bend the leg back as far as you can to break the leg joint. When the ball is free from the socket, you will hear a pop.

Cut the leg away from the backbone, then repeat with the other leg. You can divide the leg into thigh and drumstick if you like.

Fully extend one wing, then use sharp poultry shears to cut off the wing tip at the second joint. Repeat to remove the other wing tip.

Using your hands, firmly grasp the backbone, and break it away from the breast section.

Using poultry shears, remove the lower end of the backbone (which has no flesh attached to it) from the remaining breast section.

Use poultry shears to cut along the breastbone from top to bottom. Trim unwanted sections of breastbone.

The chicken is now cut into 4 pieces: 2 breasts and 2 legs. Any leftover bones (such as the backbone) can be used to flavor chicken stock.

Use poultry shears to cut through the ribs two-thirds of the way along each breast diagonally, producing two breast pieces, one with a wing. Repeat with the other whole breast.

Cut each leg through the joint above the drumstick that connects it to the thigh, and cut through to separate. Repeat with the other leg.

The chicken is now cut into 8 pieces ready for cooking: 2 breast pieces with wings attached, 2 breast pieces, 2 thighs, and 2 drumsticks.

Bone poultry

For quickly cooked dishes, there is an advantage to boning poultry

Detach the breast

Using poultry shears, cut away the ribs and backbone. Work from the thickest wing end of the breast toward the narrowest end.

Using a boning knife, separate the flesh from the bone by following the contours of the breastbone to cut the fillet off. Use the breastbone in stock, if you wish.

Poultry tools

A boning knife is essential for removing the flesh from the bones. The blade is thin and short, which gives most of its control to the tip as it works all angles, and cuts through flesh and ligaments. Choose one with a slightly flexible blade. Never cut onto the bone or you will blunt the tip. Poultry shears are also an invaluable tool when cutting and boning poultry pieces. The curved blades and long handles give the shears more power to cut through ribcages and backbones. Use poultry shears to cut through, rather than around, bones. Choose a pair that are comfortable to hold and easy to clean.

Bone a thigh

Place the thigh skin-side down on a cutting board. Use a small, sharp boning or paring knife to locate the bone at one end.

Cut an incision through the flesh, following the contour of the exposed bone. Cut around the bone to cut it completely free from the flesh, and discard or use for stock.

Bone a leg

Place the leg skin-side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut halfway through the flesh at the beginning of the thigh bone. Cut along the bone to the knuckle. Scrape to expose the bone, then ease it from the flesh.

With the same technique, start from the knuckle, and cut down the length of the drumstick. The bones will be exposed, but will be joined at the central knuckle joint.

Lift the bones up and away from the central knuckle joint. Using short strokes with the tip of your knife, remove the 2 bones from the flesh. Use in stock or discard.

Bone a drumstick

Starting in the middle of the drumstick, insert the tip of your knife until you locate the bone. Slice along the bone in both directions to expose it fully.

Open the flesh and neatly cut around the bone to free it completely from the flesh, and discard, or use to flavor stock.

Butterfly a bird

Ideal for grilling or broiling, this preparation for small poultry such as Cornish hens, flattens the bird to ensure even cooking

Place the bird breast-side down on a sturdy cutting board. Using poultry shears, cut along both sides of the backbone, remove it completely, and discard or use for stock. Open the bird and turn it over.

Using the heel of one hand and the other hand to stabilize, press down firmly to crush the breastbone. Once flattened, use a sharp knife to cut slits into the legs and thighs to ensure even cooking.

Carefully push a metal skewer diagonally through the left leg to the right wing, then a second skewer through the right leg to the left wing. The skewers are optional.

The bird can now be brushed with a marinade if desired, then grilled, broiled, or roasted in the oven.

Marinate chicken

Using a marinade will produce tender and flavorful chicken

Mix the ingredients of your marinade in a bowl. In a separate bowl, large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer, coat the chicken with the marinade, turning the pieces to coat it all over. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for an hour or more, depending on the marinade, and the time available.


Marinating poultry can serve two purposes. If using an acid-based marinade (such as red wine or vinegar), it will break down tough proteins, and tenderize the meat. Leave poultry to marinate in an acid-based marinade for no longer than 1 hour.

Oil-based marinades, mixed with aromatics (such as garlic, chile, or ginger), are used for the sole purpose of flavoring the meat. Marinating time for an oil-based mixture can be 4 hours or more.

Stuff a boneless chicken breast

Avoid the temptation to overstuff the chicken breasts. The more stuffing, the more likelihood of leakage during cooking

Using a sharp knife, cut a pocket about 11/2in (4cm) deep into the side of the breast fillet. Make your cut so that both sides of the pocket are the same thickness, which will ensure even cooking.

Gently press the stuffing into the pocket, and roll back the flesh to enclose it. Secure with a toothpick. Rolling the stuffed fillet in a crumb coating before cooking will help seal the pocket, and keep the stuffing inside.

Breading chicken or meat

This technique is used most commonly for frying chicken, but also works nicely for pork or veal

Place each fillet between 2 pieces of plastic wrap, then pound with a rolling pin until the fillets have spread out, and flattened to the size of a cutlet.

Remove the plastic wrap and season the fillets to taste with salt, pepper, and freshly chopped herbs. Dip the seasoned fillets into beaten egg, coating each side evenly.

Roll the fillets in bread crumbs, pressing an even coat to both sides. Repeat the process with the remaining fillets.

Frying Heat 1/2in ( 1cm) of oil in a frying pan until hot, and fry the fillets for 4–5 minutes on each side until cooked through and golden. Drain on paper towels.

Carve poultry

All white-fleshed poultry, including turkey and chicken, can be carved using this technique

Let the roasted bird rest on a platter for 10–20 minutes. Collect the juices and add to the sauce or gravy. Place the bird breast side up on a cutting board. Staying close to the body of the bird, cut down through each leg at the joint, then cut to separate the drumstick from the thigh. Repeat with the other leg.

Using a carving fork, hold the bird steady against the surface of the cutting board. Keeping the carving knife as close to the breastbone as possible, slice downward and lengthwise along one side of the bone to release the breast. Repeat on the other side.

Cut the breast pieces in half on a slight diagonal, leaving a good portion of breast meat attached to the wing. Repeat, separating the breast and wing of the other side.

Carve the breast meat

To slice the breast meat from the body, hold the bird steady with a fork and make a horizontal cut under the breast meat above the wing. Cut all the way to the breastbone. Carve neat, even slices from the breast, keeping your knife parallel to the rib cage. Repeat, slicing on the other side.

Butterfly a leg of lamb

The leg consists of 3 bones: the pelvic, which is the broadest, then the thigh, and shank

Place the lamb on a cutting board, fleshiest-side down. Locate the pelvis at the widest end of the leg, and hold it firmly while using a sharp, long-bladed knife to cut around and expose the leg bone.

Make an incision from the pelvis to the bottom of the leg, cutting through the flesh just to the bone. Using short strokes (to prevent tearing the meat), work your knife closely around the leg bone, releasing it from the flesh.

Keeping close to the bone, continue using short strokes down the length of the leg. Cut away the flesh from around the ball and socket joint, and down the length of the shank bone.

When you reach the bottom of the leg, cut through the sinew and tendons to release the bone completely from the flesh. All 3 bones (the pelvis, thigh, and shank) should come away in one piece.

Open out the leg so that the meat lies flat on the cutting board. With short strokes, make cuts downward through the thick meaty pieces on either side.

Open out the flesh of the butterflied leg. If there are areas that are thicker than others, cut thin fillets from the thick piece and fold it over a thin area. This is helpful for even cooking.

Bone a saddle of lamb

Once the bones are removed, the whole saddle of meat is perfect for stuffing

Using a sharp knife, cut away the membrane covering the fatty side of the saddle, then turn it over onto a clean cutting board. Working from the center, use short strokes to cut off the 2 fillets from either side of the backbone, and reserve, to cook alongside the saddle.

Loosen the outside edge of one side of the backbone using short, slicing strokes. Working from the side edge toward the center, release the side of the backbone. Repeat with the other side.

Starting at one end, use short, slicing strokes to cut under and around the backbone so that it comes free, taking care not to pierce through the skin. As the bone is released from the flesh, lift it away and cut beneath it.

Work from the center outwards, to cut away the meat and fat from the outer flaps. When the flaps are clean, square off the edges. Turn the saddle over, lightly score through the fat on the other side, and stuff and cook as desired.

Roast a rib of beef

This classic takes little effort to prepare, but leaves a lasting impression when cooked to perfection

Remove the meat from the refrigerator about 1 hour in advance to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Brush with oil and scatter with fresh herbs, such as thyme or rosemary. Alternatively, make multiple cuts into the fat and stick slivers of garlic and herbs inside. Position the meat rib-side down, in a roasting pan and place in the oven.

After 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C), then continue roasting for the calculated amount of time (approximately 75-90 minutes or more, depending on the size), basting occasionally. The most accurate way to test for doneness is to insert a meat thermometer (120°F /50°C for rare.) Before carving, leave the roast to stand for 15–30 minutes, covered with aluminum foil.

Carve roast beef

It is important to let your roast rest for 15–30 minutes so the meat relaxes, and retains its flavorful juices

Place the roast on a cutting board with the ends of the ribs facing up. Holding the meat steady with a carving fork, use a sawing action to cut downwards between the bones and the meat to separate them. Discard the bones.

Turn the boneless roast fat-side up on the cutting board. Holding it steady with the fork, cut downward, across the grain of the meat into thin slices, again using a sawing action with the knife. Reserve the pan juices to make gravy.

Grill steaks

Tender, prime cuts of meat are suitable for cooking under the broiler, on a barbecue, or on a ridged cast-iron grill pan

Preheat the grill pan over high heat for 4–5 minutes. (Alternatively, preheat the broiler or build a fire on an outside grill.) Use steaks about 1in (2.5cm) thick. Brush both sides of the steaks with oil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

When the grill pan is very hot, place the steaks diagonally across the ridges. Cook for 1 minute, then rotate the steaks 45 degrees and cook for another 1–2 minutes. Flip the steaks over and repeat on the other side, for a total of about 6 minutes for rare meat. Remove the steaks from the grill pan, and let rest before serving.

Make hamburgers

Ground round makes the juiciest burgers, but use leaner sirloin, if you prefer

Place the ground meat in a bowl, with chopped shallots, breadcrumbs, and herbs if you wish. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and mix together with your hands.

Divide the meat into patties about 4in (10cm) thick. If you have the time, chill for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Chilling firms the meat and helps it stay together while cooking.

Heat the grill pan over medium-high heat. Place the burgers on the pan and cook for about 6 minutes, turning once, for medium-rare burgers.

Better burgers

Make ordinary burgers into something exquisite by adding veal, pork, lamb, sausage meat, or even foie gras to your ground beef. Also try adding chopped onions, chopped fresh parsley, basil, chervil, or other herbs, or your favorite spice mix. Always season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remember, if you are adding other meats to the beef, that the burgers should be cooked through, rather than served rare.

Boil a ham hock and glaze a ham

Boiling a ham hock or ham roast will remove any extra saltiness left from the brine it was cured in

To boil

Place the ham hock in a large bowl, cover with cold water, and leave it to soak in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours to dilute the salty brine.

Remove the ham and rinse it under cold running water. Place it in a large saucepan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, or until the scum rises to the surface. Drain, rinse again, and return to a clean pan. Add the stock and other flavoring ingredients, pouring in enough stock to cover the meat. Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer over very low heat for 21/2 hours. After cooking, the meat will be very tender.

To glaze

Boil or roast the ham following your recipe. Using a sharp knife, score the fat into a diamond-shaped pattern, which will allow the glaze to penetrate, and flavor the meat.

Warm a glaze of brown sugar and mustard (or another glaze of your choice), until it is melted, then spread it evenly over the fat so that the glaze falls into the cuts. Bake the ham following your recipe, covered loosely with aluminum foil. Open out the foil for the last 30 minutes of roasting, to brown the top of the ham. Do not allow the glaze to burn.

Make crisp pork roast

Perfectly browned pork skin is a real treat; here’s how to do it

Using a very sharp knife, score the rind of a pork shoulder widthwise, working from the center outward. Repeat for the other end.

Massage the rind liberally with salt, then rub the entire shoulder with a little oil. Roast the meat, but do not baste.

When finished resting, hold the meat with a carving fork and cut just beneath the crisp skin. Lift away the skin in one piece.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, cut the skin crosswise in half. Serve it to accompany the roast pork.

Prepare kidneys

One whole veal kidney weighing approximately 1lb 2oz (500g) will serve 4 people

Using your hands, gently pull away and discard the fat (suet) that surrounds the whole kidney.

Lay the kidney upside down, with the fatty core facing up. With the point of a sharp knife, cut around the core, remove, and discard.

Now that the membrane is released, use your fingers to peel it from the kidney and discard.

Using a sharp knife, cut the kidney into pieces, following the natural curves of the lobes. Prepare the kidneys as desired.

Deglaze a roasting pan

The drippings and meat juices that remain on the bottom of your roasting pan provide rich flavor for making gravy

Pour all but about 2 tbsp of the fat from the roasting pan, leaving the juices and sediment. Bring the juices to a low simmer, then whisk in 2 tbsp of flour.

Using a dish towel, hold the pan at an angle so all the juices collect in one corner. Briskly whisk, being sure to scrape the bottom and the sides of the pan.

Gradually add 11/2 cups stock, whisking until smooth, and bring the gravy to a simmer. Season to taste.

The perfect gravy

To ensure smooth, lump-free gravy, it is important to whisk constantly. For thicker gravy, add less stock, and for a thinner one, add more. Add a splash of red wine before adding the stock, or flavor with a little Worcestershire sauce. Season to taste, although it probably will not need much salt, if any.

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