Deboning the Bones

The first time I roasted asparagus, the browned bits at the tips made my heart thump. Surely, it must be ruined, I thought. Heck, I almost didn’t serve it … what a mistake that would have been.

As much as I love to cook, some aspects of cooking frighten me. It’s a classic case of fear of the unknown. This is most acute when it comes to meats with bones. For as long as I’ve been cooking, I have been avoiding bones. Bones worry me. With bones, meats cook differently. Bones add inedible weight …

I have the market cornered on excuses. Seriously.

It’s not something I am proud of either. I actually believe that if we, as a family, are going to eat animals, then we should be willing to do the work necessary – touching the bones, separating the breastplate from the flesh, butchering—to eat it.

So, even though it frightens me, I am slowly beginning to cook with proteins that have been handled less … whole chickens, bone-in chops, unbutchered portions of steaks. In the process, I am finding that I can do it.

Recently, I bought a split chicken breast from Ox Hollow Farm, knowing that it had a bone. The farmer said it was just one little bone that I would need to remove.

Little is a relative term.

When I cut open the package this evening, I found that the one little bone ran the length of the breast. And was L-shaped. In fact, it was more of a breast plate …

For a minute, I thought about abandoning the project, pulling out something else to cook and just worrying about it tomorrow (hello, inner Scarlett O’Hara). But I didn’t. That wonderful, local chicken was going to be dinner for my husband and children and I certainly wasn’t going to let a little thing like a bone (and some skin … ) get in my way.
So, I loosen the bone with my sharpest knife, then I slid it out. My first attempt was messy and I lost more flesh than I should have. But with my second breast, the bone slid free with nearly no lost flesh attached.

As I finished breaking down the two breasts into boneless, skinless beauties, I saw how pristine it was. The tenders (yes, chicken tenders are an actual part of the chicken breast) came off easily, the pink of the flesh was nothing like the golden color of chicken breasts in the grocery store. It was amazing.

Best of all, when I removed the skin, I was the first to actually touch these breasts. Not some machine, no one else. Just me.

And guess what? I will do it again, because I can.

Photo credit: peachyqueen from


  1. says

    Although I have no problem eating meat that has a bone in it, when it comes to handling it, particularly whole chickens, I get very squeamish about it. Reaching in to the cavity to remove the extra parts … blech. I’m slowly getting over it, and realize it’s mind over matter, but it ain’t easy!

  2. says

    I’ve got a bone to pick with you 😉

    Try cooking with the bone in–there’s lots of flavor in them bones!

    My favorite line from your post is:
    Best of all, when I removed the skin, I was the first to actually touch these breasts. Not some machine, no one else. Just me.

    Doncha just love real food?!

  3. says

    Congrats indeed! It’s great to conquer fears. :)

    Me, I’ve been butchering chickens since I was a kid. My grandparents ran a chicken farm that produced 20,000 chickens every 10 or 12 weeks (or something like that), and we regularly got boxes of whole chickens from them. I learned from my mother, grandmother, and aunts how to properly dismember a chicken.

    At 16, visiting relatives on the other side of the family, I helped out with killing the chickens, defeathering, gutting them, and so on. That was an interesting experience. I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but I’m glad I did it all the same.

    I have the philosophy that, if I’m going to eat meat, I better know where it comes from, how to kill it, and so on.

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