Do the stretchy chicken!

James stretchy 900By James Shepherd, Let’s Get Cooking food adviser

When it comes to showing people how to do the “stretchy chicken” there’s no holding me back. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about a terrible party song from the 80s, the stretchy chicken is a brilliant way for keeping your family’s bellies, and your purse, lovely and full.

The average supermarket chicken costs just a few pounds and it’s a perfect starting point for so many delicious meals. Whether you chop it into portions or cook it whole, the chicken is just about the most versatile of ingredients you can buy.

Once armed with the skills there will be no looking back…it may take a bit of practice but we’re not asking you to be a champion butcher and there are no prizes for the prettiest chicken leg. Here goes…..

You will need: 

  • one large chicken
  • a sharp cooks knife
  • a chopping board
  • plastic bags or containers
  • a marker pen and labels

5 easy steps to cutting your chicken into pieces

  1. Start with your bird breast side up. Remove the legs by pulling out to the side and slice into the skin between the leg and the body to reveal the leg joint.
  2. Now pull the leg back to dislocate the leg joint. You should hear a popping sound when this has happened.
  3. Use your knife to remove any meat or skin remaining that is still attaching the leg to the body. Repeat with the other leg.
  4. Remove the wings by pulling them away from the body and slicing where the joint meets the chicken breast.
  5. To remove the breast run your knife along the backbone of the bird. Use the length of the knife not just the tip and slice just to the side of the backbone until you have removed the breast. Repeat on the other side.

Now to sort the pieces…

Legs and thighs

I like to keep the legs for a dish that will require some slower cooking such as Paprika Chicken Stew with Herby Dumplings   (pictured above) or North African Chicken Tagine. Thighs can be popped into a bag on their own and frozen until you need them.

North African Chicken Tagine


The breasts are great for stir fries or quicker cooking dishes like our Thai Green Curry.  These are prime pieces so we want these to go furthest. I freeze these separately as one breast will easily make dinner for two people. But you will need both to feed a family of four.



Two chicken wings, however, aren’t going to feed a ravenous hoard but keep them in the freezer, clearly labelled, and add to them each time you do the stretchy chicken.  Before long you’ll have enough to rustle up some tasty baked barbecue wings simply substitute the wings for the ribs in this recipe.

Barbecue Pork Ribs


The same applies to the carcass; this is perfect as the basis of stocks, soups and sauces. You can either make a stock each time you do the stretchy chicken or pop the carcass into a clearly labelled freezer bag and once you have two or three you’ll be all set for creating a big batch of liquid gold.

IMPORTANT Please do make sure that you defrost uncooked chicken, properly covered, in the fridge overnight before cooking. Never cook chicken or poultry from frozen unless the pack says it’s okay to do so.

Using up a cooked chook

Of course doing the stretchy chicken doesn’t just apply to an uncooked bird. If you’ve made Lemon Roast Chicken on a Sunday and are lucky enough to have leftovers,  then remember the spare meat can be so much more than just Monday lunchtime’s sandwich filling. My favourite is a risotto.


My top tip is to add cooked chicken at the end of cooking rather than at the beginning to avoid it drying out or going stringy (it’s not called the rubber chicken after all!) but do make sure that it is nice and hot all the way through.