Most chickens are now purchased already cleaned (RTC, or ready-to-cook), but it remains important for a cook to know how to clean them. With the rise in free-range and hand-raised chickens, it is now possible to buy a freshly killed chicken that has not been processed commercially. In this case, the cook must be prepared to fully clean the bird.
- If the chicken still has pinfeathers or follicles — tiny under-feathers or the feather base — that have not been cleaned off, hold the chicken high over a flame to singe off the pinfeathers and use a paring knife or a kitchen tweezer to pull out the follicles.
- Using a chef’s knife, cut off the feet and wing tips.
- Using a chef’s knife, slit the skin on the back of the neck lengthwise, and pull it away. Cut off the neck at the body, then cut off the head. Reserve the neck for stock or sauce making.
- Wearing latex gloves, insert one finger into the neck opening and detach and discard the two red lungs from the thorax.
- In a neat, clean motion, cut off and slightly enlarge the circular anal opening.
- Using your fingers, clean out the interior cavity, removing the liver, heart, windpipe, and other organs, but keeping them intact. Separate the organs on a cutting board. Trim the gizzard, cut it open horizontally, and rinse out the contents. Carefully separate the liver from the bitter gallbladder.
- Rinse the chicken under cold running water and pat dry.