How To Break Down A Rabbit

Rabbit is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with. However many people get intimidated by them since they are usually sold whole. This means a little bit of know how since you’ll have to break down a rabbit at home. Well, unless you have a very nice butcher who will do it for you.

When buying a rabbit they are usually served skinless and gutted, sometimes without the head. Other than that, it’s entirely up to you to break it down. But never fear, this easy guide will show you in a few simple steps how to break down a rabbit into segments of all the delicious rabbit pieces.

What? You Need To Chop Up An Entire Rabbit?

whole skinless rabbit

Usually rabbit is sold skinned and gutted, but not broken down. This means if you want to cook the leg meat differently than the rib meat you’re going to have to do some knife work. Luckily this guide will show you exactly where to cut to make the most of your rabbit.

Removing The Rabbit’s Two Hind Legs

cutting the hind legs off the rabbit body

Let us start with the back legs. These are the most delicious part of the rabbit (in my opinion) and one of the easiest parts to segment. Simply cut along the dotted line until you get to the joint.

separating the leg from the body

When you make this cut you will notice that you cant go all the way through as there is a bone in the way. There are two steps you need to do to get around this. First, find where the leg bone connects to the body. See the picture below as reference.

picture showing how to break down a rabbit with a knife

It sort of looks like a thin bar that’s made of bone. Next, dig the knife behind it as much as possible. Then, using your hands grip onto the leg and the body right where the joint is, and twist. The leg should pop right off and be an extremely clean segment. Repeat for both hind legs.

Removing The Rabbit’s Two Front Legs

how to break down a rabbit using a knife for the front legs

If you found that removing the rabbit’s back legs was easy, then you should have no problem with the front. Place the rabbit on its back. Use the picture above as reference and cut along the dotted line.

detaching the front leg from the rabbit's body

The joint here is very weak so after you cut around as much as possible, just smash that knife down breaking the leg off. Repeat this step for the other front leg as well.

Removing The Rabbit Head

Chopping the neck off of the rabbit body

If your rabbit was sold without the head attached you really don’t have much work to do. If it was sold with the head this step is the same. Find the joint where the neck meets the body and whack it hard with a knife. As you can see above I just had to chop off the neck, as the head had been previously removed.

Breaking Down The Rabbit Body

cutting the spine from the ribcage

After removing the front and back legs you need to separate the upper body from the lower body. This is because the lower body needs two more steps to segment, and the upper body (ribcage) can be set aside for stock. Remember, you’re butchering the animal to make the most of it, don’t let pieces go to waste.

cutting the flaps off the rabbit spine

The lower body (spine) has two thin flaps that need to be cut off. Simply find the point where the flap meets the thicker meat and cut them off. The flaps are of course still edible and can be cooked in a few different ways.

cutting the meat off the rabbit spine

Woah same image? Sort of. Pay attention to the different cut lines. After removing the flaps you’ll need to remove the body. This long strip of meat is best cooked cubed, browned, and then braised in a stewpot…very delicious. Here you may notice some difficulty as the spine has little pin bones going into the meat. Just cut right through them.

removing the rabbit pin bones

Feel around the meat for the sharp protrusions and use a pair of tweezers to remove the bones. Just grab on and twist as you pull out and the little bones should come easily.

How To Break Down A Rabbit

A fully broken down segmented rabbit

Well there you have it. The picture above shows all the pieces fully removed from the whole rabbit. Now you know how to break down a rabbit and can do this in less than 5 minutes. Not to mention the fact it is quite a bit more fun than breaking down a chicken.

Some Rabbit Recipes So That Nothing Goes To Waste

This list will continue to be updated as I cook more recipes with rabbit in a variety of ways.

Rabbit Ragu with Mafaldine Pasta – Legs, flaps, and body meat should be browned and braised while the spine, ribcage, and neck/head can be boiled with veggies and herbs for stock. I serve this ragu tossed with mafaldine pasta.

Rabbit Risotto – Spine, Ribcage, and Neck/head should be boiled with veggies and herbs to make stock for the rice. Then shred off the meat and fry a bit before adding to the finished risotto.

Rabbit Leg In Cream Sauce – One of the best ways to use the segmented legs is to brown in a pan, then braise for 45 minutes in a flavorful garlicky, mustardy, cream sauce.

Rabbit With Polenta – Similar to the rabbit ragu, just stew the rabbit until it just falls apart and serve atop creamy, buttery polenta.

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