How to Debone a Chicken Leg The Japanese Way

In yakitori, the Japanese art of grilling chicken, process is as important as ingredients. Like with sushi, the art of cutting is the foundation of flavor—how you portion a chicken determines its taste and texture. “It all starts with detailed and specific knife work,” says yakitori expert Chef Atsushi Kono.

We caught up with Chef Atsushi for a primer on the unique Japanese approach to boning a chicken leg. Now chef at Chikarashi Isso, an elegant Japanese kappo (chef-driven) restaurant in New York, the Saitama, Japan, native cooked for 14 years at the Michelin-starred Yakitori Torishin, also in New York.

With a chicken leg, Chef Atsushi slices six distinct cuts for yakitori: tender chicken “oyster”, the round muscle from the back of the thigh; rich uchi momo, “filet,” an active inner muscle that helps a chicken hop; crunchy genkotsu, chicken “knee,” the cartilage between the thigh and leg bones; suji, shin muscle; momo, thigh muscle, and kawa, skin.  Each cut expresses its own sensory experience.

To get to these cuts, Chef Atsushi applies a fast, efficient—and incredibly precise—approach to boning a chicken leg. Let’s watch as he explains his method:

Here are Chef Atsushi’s key moves:

  1. open meat on both sides of bone
  2. cut joint between bones
  3. pull out thigh bone
  4. break leg bone
  5. pull out leg bone
  6. cut off foot joint

Let’s see that again, this time studying his actions in slow motion:

Definitely worth adding Chef Atsushi’s method to your arsenal.

Give this technique a try, and email us let us know your results.

Chef's Corner