Breaking down the rabbit

Breaking down the rabbit

Nuovo Mondo
Alan Benson

Jim: I first learnt how to break down whole animals by practising on rabbit and hare – once you’ve mastered the technique, the basic mechanics are the same for lamb, pork and beef. This step-by-step guide will give you a good indication of the basic cuts or portions of most animals you are likely to cook. You will need a sharp boning knife, and a pair of kitchen scissors.


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  1. Remove the front and back legs of the rabbit.
  2. At the first rib closest to the back legs, make an incision and cut all the way up through the belly, following the rib. Repeat on the other side.
  3. Snap the saddle off the rib cage and twist to remove. You may have to do a bit of cutting, but the saddle should come off easily. In some recipes you may leave this whole or may need to break it down into smaller portions for cooking – be guided by individual recipes and use your common sense.
  4. Using a meat cleaver, cut the tail piece off the saddle.
  5. Halve the rib cage by cutting along the spine using a pair of kitchen scissors.
  6. On the inside of the separated ribs, scrape your knife against the membrane holding the ribs to the belly, so that all the connective tissue is removed. Do this thoroughly on all the ribs.
  7. Using your right hand, hold on to the flap that is on the opposite side of the loin at the end of the ribs, and hold the loin end with your left hand (do the opposite if you are left-handed). Peel the belly backwards off the ribs and the ribs should pop out. Peel all the way down to the loin and remove the belly using your knife – you will be left with a perfect rabbit rack.
  8. On the saddle, make a long incision on either side of the spine and carefully cut along the bone to remove each loin.
  9. Remove the belly from the loins.
  10. You should now have two back legs, two front legs, two loins, two racks, some belly trim and a tail piece.
  11. There is very little wastage when breaking down a rabbit in this way. If you do have bits that are not required (the tail piece, for example), use them in a stock (wild rabbit especially makes exceptional stock). If your recipe doesn’t use the belly, it is delicious pan-fried until cooked and then sliced and fried in oil as a crispy accompaniment to a dish. Some chefs even make layered terrines out of them. The belly can also be left on the loin and stuffed, rolled and then poached.
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