Step 8
Remove The Viscera

In the previous step I showed you how to open up the back end of the chicken. Now it’s time to remove the viscera, which is to say, the internal organs, which is to say, the guts.

It would be nice if, once the chicken was opened up, you could simply tip it up and shake everything out, sort of like dumping out the contents of a bag of potato chips. But it doesn’t work that way. Unless you happen to develop some sort of homemade Whizbang Vacuum Gut Sucker (and I want to see it when you do), you’re going to have to reach your hand into the body cavity of the bird and pull the guts out. It’s not nearly as fun as pulling potato chips out of the bag, but it’s something you must do and, trust me, you can do it!

In the above picture, I am about to plunge my hand into the body cavity of the bird. And you will notice that my plunging hand is bare. Gloves are for sissies.

Please note also that there is no bright yellow chicken fat on the flap of skin I am holding up in the top of the picture. There was a pad of the fat on that part of the chicken in the previous step, where I made a knife slice (go back and look). But I removed the fat from the upper flap of skin. I did not remove it by cutting it off. Instead, I simply inserted my little finger along one side of the cut, into the body cavity, up behind the pad of fat, and pulled it loose. That yellow fat seen in the picture above, in front of my fingertips, is the pad of fat that was on the flap. You don’t have to remove the fat before you eviscerate the chicken. You could do it afterwards too. Or, if you like chicken fat, you could just leave it there.

When I first started butchering chickens, I couldn’t imagine that my hand would ever fit into the small bird’s body cavity. But it does. My hands are not small and they are not large. They are average man’s hands, and they will, indeed, fit into the chicken. Even larger hands will too.

You want to insert your flat hand, fingertips first, up into the top of the bird (which is on its back) as shown in the pictures. Keep your fingertips tight to the bird’s breastbone (also called the keel). The objective here is to reach in slow, deep, over the top of the guts, towards the front end of the bird.

When you have reached in as far as you can go, gently curl your fingertips down, so you are grasping a good handful of guts. Then, pull out slow, straight, and steady. Don’t squish your fingertips around because you don’t want to break the gall bladder (more about this shortly). 

In the picture above, I am extracting a handful of guts. Here’s another, more graphic, angle on the handful of guts:

I understand there are people who can reach all the way into the chicken and pull all the innards out in a single, deft scooping movement. I’m not one of them. But I typically get most everything. The biggest organ in there is the gizzard. You can’t miss it. One of the smaller organs in there is the gall bladder. It is a little green-colored sac located between the two lobes of liver. 

As you are slowly and steadily extracting the handful of guts, you should be looking at what you’ve got in your hand. Yes, you must look. What you are looking for is the green gall bladder. You are looking for it to make sure it is not broken and that you do nothing to break it. Here’s some guts with the gall bladder:

I’m pointing at the gall baldder. It is a distinctive green color (the only green organ you’ll encounter) because it is full of green fluid. The fluid is bile. The liver makes bile and stores it in the gall bladder. If you break the gall bladder inside the bird, the thin green fluid will quickly run out and contaminate the meat. 

If you reach in far, and you are gentle and steady in your reaching, grasping, and gut-extracting, you are not likely to break the gall bladder. I’ve never broken a gall bladder inside the bird.

The above picture shows what you are faced with at the chicken carcass after you have extracted your handful of guts. The handful of guts is just out of sight on the left of the photo. 

That thing over my thumb in the picture is the crop which was loosened back in Step 4. The crop, you will remember, is connected to the gizzard, which is out of sight in my hand. The crop has pulled right down through the neck and out the back end. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, and that’s the way it will work if you loosen the crop before removing the viscera.

Also visible in the picture above is the bird’s large intestine. It is still connected to the vent, and that’s exactly where it should be. Once the guts are clear of the bird, and the intestine to the vent is clearly visible, you need to lay the gut pile down, away from the bird, and cut around the vent.

The picture above shows the gut pile separate from the body on the left. In my holding hand I have the intestine (out of sight) and am grasping above the vent. I have already used the knife to slice down to one side of the vent, being careful not to cut into the intestine (that’s why it’s in my hand). I am finishing by cutting down the other side of the vent, and underneath, to separate it from the body.

And there you have it... gut pile, intestine and cleanly detached vent. No FEMAT (Fecal Material) has escaped and contaminated the bird. 

Now we need to attend to the removal of the remaining internal organs…

With everything removed, there is now all kinds of room inside the body cavity. But everything really isn’t removed. The heart and lungs are still there.

Reach in and you will find the heart in the center of the bird’s chest. Pull it out. The heart is roughly the size of the end of a man’s thumb. My little finger in the picture above is pointing to a removed heart. The two darker organs by the heart are livers. In my hand I am holding a lung. Lungs are bright pink.

Lungs are not easily grasped because they are spongy and molded tight to the ribs of the bird on either side of its backbone. You can scrape lungs out with your fingertips or a lung removal tool. However, I have found that, instead of scraping to remove the lungs, they come out much better if I use my little finger to slide down under each lung and lift it out. That is easier said than done. But it can be done, and if you practice at doing this, you'll get the hang of it.

Regardless of how you remove the lungs, the task is a whole lot easier with a blast of fresh water.

A sink faucet comes in mighty handy for flushing out all the other little bits and pieces that cling to the inside of the bird. With the faucet in the neck opening, as shown above, I let the water blast and use my finger tips to scrape and swish and clean.

You can also run a flushing stream of water into the posterior opening, like shown above, but I don’t recommend it. The water does not flow out the neck as well as out the back end, and little pieces of viscera tend to cling to the skin around the neck, thus requiring more cleaning on your part.

That’s the gut bucket. It is positioned right next to where I am butchering the bird. I’ll tell you what to do with the contents in Step 9.

And there is a picture of the gutted chicken. Notice how the skin drapes down over the opening so nicely? If I had made my initial opening slice in the bird (Step 7) higher up (further away from the vent, that nice flap of skin would not be there. That’s why I make the cut where I do. Also, you’ll find that flap of skin makes a real nice handhold, as can be seen in the first picture in Step 9.

Before finishing this step, I want to show you the chicken’s gizzard. The picture above is of three gizzards. A whole gizzard is on the bottom. It comes out of the chicken with some fat stuck to it. I’ve cleaned it off for the picture. The middle gizzard has been cut open and you can see the contents. There is grass and stones in there. 

Sometimes you’ll find surprises in gizzards. Chickens peck and swallow all kinds of things. I’ve found small pieces of metal and rounded bits of glass. Whether you eat the gizzards or not, if you have kids, show them inside the gizzard and let them cut a few open. 

The top gizzard has been washed out. The yellow you see is the tough inner lining. You can peel the tough lining off and cook the gizzards. People also eat the livers and hearts. My family does not eat these organ meats. If times ever got hard, we would eat the organs (and probably the feet too), and we’d be glad to have them. But, until then, we just enjoy the body meat.

2017 Update: Back in 2010, my family did cook up some chicken gizzards. Click Here to read all about it.