How to CookFrench

10 Important Things We Learned Watching Jacques Pépin Debone a Chicken

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Jacques Pépin was digging through our staff kitchen yesterday with a glass of white wine nearby. He was looking for something to stuff a chicken with (tortillas, pancetta, and Swiss cheese won), and he was wearing an apron with a chicken on it.

Jacques surrounded by chickens.
Jacques surrounded by chickens. Photo by James Ransom

He drew that apron's chicken—because he needed to be even more lovable—along with all the chicks and vegetables in his new book, Poulets & Legumes, available at Sur La Table.

Jacques went on Facebook Live to teach us how to debone a chicken—a dull but necessary skill he manages to make soothing and fascinating and funny to learn about. While he was at it, though, he couldn't not share some life wisdom. Watch the full Facebook Live for a feel—and borrow a couple of our takeaways, below.

1. Use the weight of the chicken to break it apart: Keep the body on the cutting board and let gravity help you separate the wings and legs.

2. You debone an uncooked and cooked chicken the same way.

3. Debone with any sharp knife. He mostly used a paring knife, instead of what you might expect: a chef’s knife.

4. Remove the sinew in a chicken fillet by holding down the end of the sinew and scraping the fillet off the sinew with your knife.

Compendio Carving & Serving Set with White Lucite Handles

Compendio Carving & Serving Set with White Lucite Handles

Berti White-Handled Italian Kitchen Knives

Berti White-Handled Italian Kitchen Knives


5. His favorite way to prepare chicken is… a classic roast chicken! (Did you guess correctly?)

6. Drizzle chicken juices on a salad. The mix of fat and juices with fresh lettuces is one of his favorites.

7. For his 50th wedding anniversary next week, he’ll be making his wife’s favorite: bread and butter pudding.

8. Use what you have. Jacques saw tortillas and said, I can stuff a turkey with that!

9. Always make a recipe as it’s written first. The next time, and the next time, continue to rework it as you like. This is how new dishes are born—and how he likes to be creative in the kitchen.

10. Jacques can debone a chicken without looking. Basically. Also, he can draw. Also, we could listen to him for hours.

Tell us about your roast chicken rituals in the comments below.

Tags: Chicken, Videos, Books