Video tip: How to cut up a chicken... and 14 recipes

Whenever I buy chicken to cook or grill, I always go for the whole bird and cut it up myself. Whole birds can be much cheaper than pre-cut pieces -- often a fraction of the price -- and they're so easy to break down when you know what you're doing.

If you're intimidated by the thought of cutting up a chicken, don't be. It will probably feel a little foreign at first, but once you start practicing, you'll soon get the hang of it.

A couple of quick tips: Make sure you have a sturdy, sharp chef's knife and scissors, and give yourself plenty of clean space and time (relax, your speed will build the more you do it). Don't hesitate to move the pieces around so you can learn to sense where the bones begin and end at the joints, and where the soft cartilage is to make your cuts when separating pieces.

Once you've got the hang of it, use your new-found skills -- and chicken -- to try out 14 of our favorite chicken recipes from the L.A. Times Test Kitchen, including the crispy flattened chicken from Los Angeles landmark restaurant Campanile (you can also find this recipe below).

Cooking is fun — at least it should be! No matter how long you’ve been in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn, whether it’s a simple twist on an old technique, or a handy tip to save time and energy. In this series of short videos, I demonstrate a variety of kitchen tips, ranging from how to hold a chef’s knife for maximum control to using a spoon to peel fresh ginger. If you have any gadgets, kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment or shoot me an email at


Total time: 35 minutes, plus chilling time | Serves 4

Note: Adapted from "The Food of Campanile." For super-moist chicken, brine the breasts a day ahead.

    4 whole boned chicken breasts with the skin on and the first wing bone in
    3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
    6 sage leaves
    Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Lift up the skin on the cut side of the chicken breasts and insert the garlic slices. Distribute them evenly under the skin, taking care not to break the skin. Rub the sage leaves between your hands to release their oils and insert the leaves under the skin with the garlic cloves. Pull the skin back over the breast. If the chicken has not been brined, salt and pepper liberally on both sides. Wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until hot. Add the olive oil and heat to just below smoking. Season the skin side of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and place skin-side down in the pan. Season the other side of the breasts. Turn the heat down to medium low and place another heavy pan on top of the breasts, so that they are pressed flat into the pan. If the second pan is not heavy, weight it with canned tomatoes. Make sure the weight is evenly distributed over both breasts. They must cook evenly and at the same time, because once you turn them over you can no longer weight them. Cook until very brown and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes.

3. Turn the breasts over and cook for 5 more minutes, or until cooked through. Remove from the heat, let stand 5 minutes, then slice and serve, or cut each breast in half and serve.

Each serving: Calories 509; Protein 59 grams; Carbohydrates 1 gram; Fiber 0; Fat 29 grams; Saturated fat 6 grams; Cholesterol 165 mg; Sugar 0; Sodium 140 mg

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