Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Break Down or Just Cut It Up


weinoo
 Share

Recommended Posts

BTW, if anyone wants to "break down" chickens, they should go work in a professional kitchen and do a few cases a day...that's breaking down.

So is the use of "break down" as opposed to "cut up" based on quantity? Is it only appropriate to use it if you are paid to break down the chicken?

We are becoming "Chefs" of our own domain as more and more people are getting into home cooking and food in general no doubt due to the FN. Is that a bad thing?

Personally I fabricate a chicken :biggrin::rolleyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now that I think about it, I guess I have some terminology that's pretty consistent. If I'm taking out most of the bones of something, but leaving the meat as intact as possible, I refer to that as "boning a chicken/chicken thigh/ duck/ etc. out." If I'm cutting a chicken into 6 or 8 parts, I'm "cutting the chicken up." I don't really see how "breaking down" is more specific than "cutting up" a chicken into discrete parts. They're synonymous to my mind, but one has the flavor of jargon and the other doesn't. It doesn't really matter what you use here because either way you're getting your point across. So to me, when I hear someone talk about breaking down chickens, because that phrase is pro jargon, I'm thinking that person's doing a massive amount of chickens. You break down chickens on a big scale, but when you're breaking them down, you're cutting each individual one up. To my ears, breaking down a chicken to sautee for the family is like excavating the earth to plant a little flower bed or something. It just sounds incongruous to me, but then again I have some very idiosyncratic views when it comes to word choice. And in the end, it's not that big of a deal.

nunc est bibendum...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Break down to me means "break down into the component parts of breast, wing, thigh, leg, and backbone." Cut up means "cut into whatever pieces."

Agreed on "fabricate" though. I hope I never used that word myself.... :unsure:

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

'Fabricate' doesn't seem offensive, but since it's simply a more formal way of saying 'make', why is it used? (Not a rhetorical question, just curious, since professional terms usually seem aimed at being more precise, or more concise.)

Edited by Mjx (log)

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Break down to me means "break down into the component parts of breast, wing, thigh, leg, and backbone." Cut up means "cut into whatever pieces."

Agreed on "fabricate" though. I hope I never used that word myself.... :unsure:

What other pieces are you cutting a chicken into when you're cutting it into whatever? I mean, you can butterfly, you can spatchcock, you can debone, you can cut up or break down but the parts remain the same, right?

nunc est bibendum...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Break down to me means "break down into the component parts of breast, wing, thigh, leg, and backbone." Cut up means "cut into whatever pieces."

Agreed on "fabricate" though. I hope I never used that word myself.... :unsure:

What other pieces are you cutting a chicken into when you're cutting it into whatever? I mean, you can butterfly, you can spatchcock, you can debone, you can cut up or break down but the parts remain the same, right?

No. You can cut up roughly for stock; cut up wings into drumettes & tips; cut legs, thighs, breasts in half each. Lots of different ways to cut up; break down means those specific component parts.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Break down to me means "break down into the component parts of breast, wing, thigh, leg, and backbone." Cut up means "cut into whatever pieces."

Agreed on "fabricate" though. I hope I never used that word myself.... :unsure:

What other pieces are you cutting a chicken into when you're cutting it into whatever? I mean, you can butterfly, you can spatchcock, you can debone, you can cut up or break down but the parts remain the same, right?

I think the point he is making is that "breaking down" is a very specific way of cutting it up. Namely, cutting into the component 8 pieces while leaving skin on and bone in.

"Cutting up" can mean any number of things like the ones you listed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

when I "cut up" a whole chicken, I have a specific way of doing it.

Remove wings where they attach to carcass

remove entire leg where they attach to carcass

remove breast meat from carcass (yields boneless chicken breasts)

cut leg pieces into a thigh and a drumstick.

Now, the chicken is "broken down" into distinct components. I think using the term "butcher" can apply here, too.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

BTW, if anyone wants to "break down" chickens, they should go work in a professional kitchen and do a few cases a day...that's breaking down.

So is the use of "break down" as opposed to "cut up" based on quantity? Is it only appropriate to use it if you are paid to break down the chicken?

We are becoming "Chefs" of our own domain as more and more people are getting into home cooking and food in general no doubt due to the FN. Is that a bad thing?

Personally I fabricate a chicken :biggrin::rolleyes:

Please...if you fabricate a chicken, it means you're making one out of something else.

And no, I don't believe we're chefs of our own domain. Chefs run professional kitchens. We're cooks.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What other pieces are you cutting a chicken into when you're cutting it into whatever? I mean, you can butterfly, you can spatchcock, you can debone, you can cut up or break down but the parts remain the same, right?

Exactly.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Break down to me means "break down into the component parts of breast, wing, thigh, leg, and backbone." Cut up means "cut into whatever pieces."

Agreed on "fabricate" though. I hope I never used that word myself.... :unsure:

What other pieces are you cutting a chicken into when you're cutting it into whatever? I mean, you can butterfly, you can spatchcock, you can debone, you can cut up or break down but the parts remain the same, right?

I think the point he is making is that "breaking down" is a very specific way of cutting it up. Namely, cutting into the component 8 pieces while leaving skin on and bone in.

"Cutting up" can mean any number of things like the ones you listed.

Interesting. I don't think of it that way. For the most part, cutting up, butchering, and breaking down mean for the most part the same thing. If you showed me a whole chicken and said you were going to cut it up, butcher it, or break it down, I would understand those things to mean you were going to separate it into component parts, which might mean something different depending on how you did it or wanted it. Break down doesn't really tell me any more than cut up whether you're going to do 4 parts, 6 parts, or 8 parts. And it doesn't tell me if you're going to cut the breast in half lengthwise (leaving the wing on two otherwise mostly boneless supremes with another piece, cut in half or no, that preserves two pieces of breast meat still attached to the breastbone) or across. There are a lot of specifics here that no terminology covers.

Of course each word is colored and has certain associations. Butcher calls to mind a shop, and possibly the dispatching of an animal's life. Break down calls to mind professional kitchens. Fabricate calls to mind a textbook method, learned and practiced. Cut up, to me at least, is what you do when you do these things and since I do this in my own kitchen with a method I learned from somebody else not a book, I cut up my chickens. Again though it doesn't really matter, since I'm not a lexicographer or culinary school teacher (and a good thing too, parsing all these shades of meaning and jargon is a pretty tough job!). If you hold up a chicken and say you're going to cut it up/break it down, I'm going to know mostly what you mean, even though we all have our own private definitions of all these things.

nunc est bibendum...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think one can unconsciously absorb a jargon without ever meaning to be pretentious. I don't think I have ever said aloud that I am going to "plate" something but it is definitely how I word it mentally. I cut up a chicken but that's perhaps because I haven't heard the phrase "break down" often enough to absorb it into my vocabulary. I am a home cook not an amateur chef but as soon as I can hire a sous chef or two I might easily adapt to the idea of being an amateur chef. :biggrin:

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting. I don't think of it that way. For the most part, cutting up, butchering, and breaking down mean for the most part the same thing. If you showed me a whole chicken and said you were going to cut it up, butcher it, or break it down, I would understand those things to mean you were going to separate it into component parts, which might mean something different depending on how you did it or wanted it.

I think the difference I see between "cut up" and "break down" is well illustrated if you move away from the chickens; if I say I'm going to "cut up" a carrot, it could mean anything. If I say I'm going to slice it, or cut it into brunoise, you know what I'm talking about. I see the same thing with a chicken: if I'm going to cut it up, I could well be boning it and slicing the meat for a stir-fry, whereas if I say I'm going to break it down, it's going to end up in 4, 6 or 8 serving pieces.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Interesting. I don't think of it that way. For the most part, cutting up, butchering, and breaking down mean for the most part the same thing. If you showed me a whole chicken and said you were going to cut it up, butcher it, or break it down, I would understand those things to mean you were going to separate it into component parts, which might mean something different depending on how you did it or wanted it.

I think the difference I see between "cut up" and "break down" is well illustrated if you move away from the chickens; if I say I'm going to "cut up" a carrot, it could mean anything. If I say I'm going to slice it, or cut it into brunoise, you know what I'm talking about. I see the same thing with a chicken: if I'm going to cut it up, I could well be boning it and slicing the meat for a stir-fry, whereas if I say I'm going to break it down, it's going to end up in 4, 6 or 8 serving pieces.

Now we're really getting down to some nitpicky specifics (which when it comes to language is a favorite pastime of mine). When you say you're going to cut a chicken, sure you can cut it in any number of ways, just like you can cut up a carrot into any number of ways. Cutting a vegetable into large dice, medium dice, small dice, and brunoise is not the same as cutting up a chicken. Personally, I don't refer to cutting vegetables as cutting them up. I might say that I chop them, or that I cut them, but I don't cut them up. That's reserved for animals that I'm breaking down!

So I was compelled to look this up in the OED. For "break: it gives definition 2b "To cut up (a deer); to tear in pieces (a fox), also with up; to carve (a fowl), also with out, up (obs.)." So for OED, break down and cut up are synonymous and have some pretty old attested uses with this meaning (back to 1330). For "to cut up" it gives definition 2 as "To cut in pieces; to divide into parts by cutting, to carve; to cut open." The earliest instance of this meaning is from a dictionary from 1580. So again, they're pretty much synonymous according to the OED.

Specialized meanings come and go and we all have our own vocabularies and slightly different meanings for the words we use too (unless we are following a textbook, a teacher, or some other guide). I don't really see how break down is inherently better than cut up (which I maintain is different than "cut") and I don't think I ever will. That's the beauty part, I guess.

nunc est bibendum...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For practical purposes cut up, break down and butcher a chicken are all the same. If more information is needed, say it.

There are times when a specific word or phrase is important but I don't think this is one of them. When Bill Clinton said, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" because he believed sex excluded receiving oral sex, for practical purposes it didn't make a difference to Hillary or the rest of the country. If he walked in on his daughter "not having sex" that way, for practical purposes it wouldn't have made a difference to him as a father. (I hope)

Edited to add: Picking up restaurant jargon we've heard repeatedly on tv is a good thing for those of us who cook well and prepare food while entertaining. For years people have been saying "D'oh!" after watching the Simpsons, so what's wrong with restaurant shorthand after watching countless food shows?

Edited by Mano (log)

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I use "plate", but only to my DH and in the context of "Honey, can you plate the broccoli?", as opposed to "Honey, can you take the broccoli out of the pan, grab a plate, and dump the broccoli on it?"

Wouldn't "serve" suffice?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When, every Thanksgiving, I get a few fresh turkeys, as I am cutting them up, I think butchering. When I attack one chicken, I may think dissembling. When giving someone a recipe I use cut up. Usually, I just do it without a name.

Plating and serving, in my opinion, are two separate activities. Usually, I serve food family style. But, sometimes I serve a plate with a layout, then the word plate comes to mind. Many times, I will serve an appetizer that is carefully "plated." Only rarely do I prepare individual servings of a main course.

Just my two cents.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I use "plate", but only to my DH and in the context of "Honey, can you plate the broccoli?", as opposed to "Honey, can you take the broccoli out of the pan, grab a plate, and dump the broccoli on it?"

Wouldn't "serve" suffice?

No, because "serve" means "give it to the person who will eat it." "Plate" means "put it on the plate." Two very different things.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We use plate all the time - half the time I serve family style, half the time put on plates in the kitchen depending on the dish. My wife needs to know how to set the table, so she asks me if I am going to plate or not. Seems like the most sensible way to describe it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...