How to Break down a Rabbit

The other day, we bought a Rabbit from one of our local grocery stores, and since the various cuts can be used in a lot of very different ways, we figured we’d put up a post on how to break down a rabbit. In some ways, it’s a little trickier than Turkey/Chicken, Duck, or Goose…but it’s also not at all greasy or slippery, so it feels less risky!

Back to a little note on the different ways to use the cuts…The legs are great for marinating and grilling, braising, roasting, or even slow cooking (with added fat to keep them moist). The saddle is terrific for stuffing. If you wind up making a little mistake on the saddle and having a puncture or two in the skin, just stuff it, and wrap it in bacon to fix the issue (that’s what we do) to keep all of your stuffing in. Lastly, the internal organs can be fried up, and the bones can be boiled into a stock for soup, risotto, or paella!

As with our other whole animal processing posts, we will caption each picture with what we do. If you’re squeamish, this is your warning to not scroll any further.

Time: 15-20 Minutes

What you need:

  • A Rabbit (obviously)
  • A large cutting board
  • Some Paper Towels
  • A Large Bowl
  • A Fillet Knife
  • A Chef’s Knife

Let’s get started!

Remove your rabbit from its packaging, pull the bottom legs out of the rib cage (if it’s packed that way), and pat the inside and outside of the carcass dry with paper towels.
Open the main body cavity, and remove the heart, kidneys, and liver. You may need to use a couple of fillet knife strokes to do this. Then, place the organs into your bowl.

Remove the rear legs:

Place your rabbit so its back is facing down on your cutting board, and make an incision around the hip bone. This part is fairly intuitive, and you’ll figure out where to cut pretty easily. After you make the cut, pull back the leg to pop the thigh/hip joint. Then, work your knife through that joint, and the leg should come right off.
Repeat on the other side to remove the other rear leg. Place your rabbit legs in your large bowl, and proceed.

Removing the rib meat and forelegs:

Work your knife slowly and carefully down the side of the ribs to remove the very thin bit of meat along them. Once you’ve done that, it should be intuitive to see where to cut to find the foreleg joint. Pop it out of the socket, and cut through the joint like you did with the rear legs. They should come off easily again.
Repeat on the other side to remove the other leg. Place the forelegs in your bowl, and keep going.

Removing the Saddle (aka the tricky part):

Find the last rib on each side of the cage, and slice downward towards the spine on the outside of that last rib. Then, open your saddle up (should look a little like a squid at this point).
Use a heavy knife to cut through the backbone at the base of the ribs. If you break the back a little (like popping the joints for the legs), it will be much easier to work the knife through, as you won’t be attempting to cut through bone.

The bone with the saddle has what I can only describe as upward facing fins, so this next part is a little tricky. There’s a picture of the bone below, so I’d suggest scrolling down to see it before embarking on this part.

Slice down the middle of the saddle until you hit bone. Then, use the end of your knife to scrape upwards along the “fins” until you get to the top of each.
Turn your knife, and work it back down the sides of each fin towards the backbone again. Use the same scraping motion as above to do this to get all of the meat separated. Then, work your knife under the backbone to separate it from the skin. Be very careful here, and work slowly…the top of the backbone is ridged, so you’ll need to work along the ridges to avoid cutting through the skin. **Again, if you do cut a hole or two in the skin, that’s okay…just wrap your stuffed saddle in bacon, and problem solved!
Finish separating the backbone from your saddle by working around the hip bones that remain attached to the rear of the backbone, and feel around for any residual bone bits in the saddle.


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