There are a lot of ways to separate a chicken, but this is the way we have found most appropriate to enjoy a half chicken without having to use surgical skills at the dinner table to remove inedible bones. We do leave some bones in for presentation, however they are fairly easy to nibble around. The remainder of the pieces can be used for stock or sauce.
Lay your chicken out on a clean cutting board. We place a damp towel under ours to keep it from sliding around the table. You will need a sharp knife, and a medium sized pot if you plan to make stock with the bones.
Remove the wings by cutting a slit toward the top of the wing joint. Once you hit the joint, snap it by folding it the opposite direction from the direction it normally bends. Once the joint is broken, continue to cut through the remaining skin to remove the wing.
Remove both chicken wings using this method.
With the chicken on its back, find the breast bone. It will be a ridge that runs top to bottom along the center of the bird. Using your knife, make an incision to one side of the bone and carefully cut straight down along the bone until you hit the ribs. Once you come to the ribs, pull the chicken breast back and run your knife along the rib cage until you reach the back of the chicken.
Once you have reached the back of the chicken, continue to the bottom of the bird and cut around the outside of the hip bones. To find the hip bone, feel for where the legs attach to the body and cut between them.
At this point the top wing joint, and the leg joint should be exposed on one half of the chicken.
Repeat the process on the other side of the chicken. Leaving the first half still attached will help the chicken to stay upright while you separate the other side.
Once the wing and leg joints are exposed on both sides of the chicken, break the joints by bending them the opposite direction that they normally bend.
Remove both sides of the chicken by cutting the remaining skin that is keeping them attached to the body.
Clean up any excess skin that might be attached to the top of the breast.
Lay one half of the chicken meat side down on the cutting board, and grasp it by the leg. Point the end of the leg upward, place your knife between the leg and the thigh. You should be able to cut straight down through the leg joint with your knife.
Separate the leg and thigh like this.
Place on half of the chicken skin side down on the cutting board and remove thigh bones carefully by cutting them out with your knife to avoid damaging the thigh meat. You can use these for stock.
Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the remaining half of the chicken.
The finished product will look like this.
At the restaurant we roast our chicken halves, legs, and wings skin side down in a cast iron skillet in a wood fired oven. The bones can be placed in a medium sized pot and simmered to make stock.