How to debone specific cuts of meat - leg of lamb, chicken, and fish
If you read our recent post on the basics of de-boning meat, you should now be pretty up-to-speed on the essentials - and that includes, of course, having the right butchers knives and equipment to hand. So, having given you a bit of a crash course in our previous post, let’s take things apart in a little more detail. Are you ready to begin?
Useful tips for starting out
Make sure that your knife is sharp. We can’t stress this one enough. A dull knife not only makes the task longer and more arduous, but it can require you to use more force to make the same cut, which opens you up to the risk of injury.
Take your time. It’s far better to do it slowly but effectively first time, rather than rush the job and end up with wastage or a sub-standard product.
Use your non-cutting hand to stabilise the cut at all times. And by the same token, make sure that it’s nowhere near your cutting hand, minimising the risk of injury.
When you’re making large cuts in meat and poultry, you’ll need to use a sawing motion to get through the meat effectively.
Actively pulling the meat away from the bone as you’re cutting can help speed up the process
How to debone a leg of lamb
Like most cuts of beef, a leg of lamb is typically tougher than cuts from smaller animals, like chicken or fish. You might therefore find that it requires particular care from you to effectively make the cut. When you’re doing so, make sure to keep your knife as close to the bone as possible, as this will minimise wastage. So, let’s go through it step-by-step.
After you’ve positioned the leg of lamb in the middle of your cutting board, start by locating both ends of the bone, feeling how it runs through the meat
Then use the tip of your knife to make a long, smooth incision down the length of the leg, until you hit the bone
From there, you’ll want to trim around the bone with small cuts. The moment you can see the top of the bone, grasp the exposed portion
This will make it easier for you to start trimming it underneath, keeping the focus on the tip of your knife. Make sure to cut towards the end joint as you’re doing so
Once you’ve reached the end joint, you can now slice it entirely away from the bone
Now that you’ve got a free end to firmly grip onto, you can trim all the way to the opposite side joint, removing the bone entirely
After that, you’re good to go!
How to debone a chicken
Most of the time, the most efficient way to process a chicken is by buying the entire bird, rather than purchasing all the different bits and pieces separately. So technically, what we’re about to describe isn’t so much deboning a chicken as breaking it down into its various separate parts. With that in mind, this isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all technique for deboning chicken - it’s just one of the many methods you can try.
Begin by removing any remaining gizzards and organs from the chicken cavity, and focus on one bone at a time.
Then, place the chicken on the cutting board, breast side-up.
The first things you’ll want to remove from the carcass are the wings. Happily, that’s not too tricky - you can do it simply by finding the joint and feeling where it connects to the body cavity. You’ll normally be able to cut through it in one easy slice.
Next up are the legs and thighs. Grasp one leg and slice through the skin - this will enable you to find the joint much more easily.
Once you’ve made the initial cut, continue slicing a little further, and then bend the leg back until the joint pops. That should make it a lot easier to remove the leg and the thigh.
Now that’s done, you can move onto the breasts. Remove these by making a smooth cut between them until you feel the edge of your knife hit the keel bone.
With the knife against the rib cage, make a series of small, even, sliding cuts on a horizontal axis. It shouldn’t be long before you successfully free the breast. That’s the job largely done!
How to debone a fish
Deboning a fish again takes a particular level of care, this time because of the delicate and tender quality of the meat. That makes it especially important to use a specialised filleting knife, as we outlined in our previous post. We have a wide range of fishmonger knives available here at Butchers Equipment Warehouse, including several specially designed for specific types of fish. Whatever type of fish you’re planning on filleting though, the same basic process generally applies.
If the fish hasn’t already been scaled and gutted, make sure to do that first
You can choose to make an incision at the fish’s neck, and then follow the groove of its gills until your filleting knife hits the bone. Alternatively, if you want an even simpler way to do it, you can just remove its head entirely.
Place a guiding hand on top of the fish, and ensure that its backbone is closest to you. Next, make a small cut at the top of its backbone, right where you made your first incision a few moments ago.
Insert the tip of your knife into this small cut, and then glide it down the full length of the fish. It should be a single smooth, horizontal cut all the way down to the end of its tail. Make sure that you're holding the knife as closely as possible to its backbone throughout.
Then do the same thing on the other side. After that, the only thing left to do is have a quick probe for any pin bones left in the fillet, and remove them if you can.
And that's all there is to it! As we’ve touched on above, these are a few of the most widely used techniques for deboning each cut, but experienced butchers may well have adopted some alternative tried-and-trusted methods over time. Who knows, you may even develop one or two of your own!
In the meantime, if you need to get yourself equipped with the right tools for the job, you’re in exactly the right place. Here at Butchers Equipment Warehouse we have a huge range of boning knives and filleting knives from a variety of world-leading manufacturers, including Victorinox, Swibo, and F. Dick. If you need any advice or you’re looking for anything in particular, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 01254 427761. We’re here to help!