First, make sure you have a sharp knife. This will make your task a lot easier. If you have one, a slender, pointed boning knife works best, allowing you to go around corners with the tip of the knife.
How to Do It
1. Remove the Wings
Place the chicken on its back, breast-side up. Remove the wings at the second joint (counting from the wing tip) using your knife. Pop the joint out of the socket, and use your knife to continue cutting through the gap.
2. Remove the Wishbone
The wishbone is shaped like an upside-down “V” and holds the breasts onto the carcass. This part can get tricky, so you need to be careful. Turn the chicken around so that the head is facing you. Push back the skin surrounding the top of the breast and feel for the wishbone. You will need to make four incisions around the wishbone. Using the point of your knife, make two incisions on one side of the “V” to free the bone. Do the same on the other side. Now, with your fingers, reach in near the top of the breasts and carefully separate the wishbone. Often it will crack in half — just make sure to get all the fragments out.
3. Separate the Thighs
There will be a dimple in the skin between the drumstick and the breast. This is where you will want to make your cut. Keeping your knife as close as possible to the breast, using long smooth strokes, make gentle slicing motions to cut only through the skin. Now the thigh bone should be exposed; use your hands to pop it out of its socket. Next, starting at the tailbone, keeping your knife as close to the tailbone as possible, make long smooth strokes between the tail and the thigh joint to separate the thigh and drumstick from the body. Bonus points if you include the “oyster,” an extra chunk of meat near the center on the back of the chicken. Do the same for the other side.
4. Carve off the Breasts
Mark the skin gently with your knife along the breastbone. On either side of the mark, insert the knife, keeping it close to the breastbone; angle it inward slightly — you should hear a slight scraping sound when you wiggle your knife side-to-side. Follow the bone downward with several strokes to carve off the breast. Stay as close to the bone as possible to get all the meat, and use long smooth strokes to keep the meat from getting ragged. Work your way from the center towards the wing. When you get to the wing, go between the joints with the tip of your knife to sever the breast from the body. Do the same for the other side.
5. Chop up the Rest
Lastly, chop the rest of the chicken with the heel of your chef's knife, keeping your other hand well away from the cutting board. You can use this, along with the giblets and other organs, to make stock.
Quick Note: Depending on whether you're left- or right-handed, you'll need to turn the chicken around one way or the other on the board to get the other side — whether it's the other breast, wing, or thigh. But it should always stay on its back.
Last Words: It will take awhile the first few times, but with practice, you should be able to quarter a chicken in about 10-15 minutes.