Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

Removing bones is called “deboning”

I wince to hear some people, including a lot of people who should know better, use the term “deboning” to refer to removing the bones from a fish, chicken, or whatever. Do you “depeel” a banana, “descale” a fish, or “dehusk” a coconut? No, duh. The correct term is simply “boning” – the “de” prefix is an unneeded and incorrect prefix. This may sound like “grammar nanny” crap, but why speak like an ignoramus if you don’t have to?

2 responses to “Removing bones is called “deboning”

  1. Eric Troy January 15, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Well there is another use of the term deboned.

    The term debone or deboning is used in commercial operations to mean removing meat from bones, via a mechanical process, that would normally be very thought to get at. An example would be removing meat from vertebra. So, “deboning” does not mean removing bone, but removing fragments of bone from meat and bone that has been ground up. Not exactly the same thing you had in mind here, I don’t think. This is why, if you buy something like turkey sausage, you’ll invariably find little bits of bone or gristle in it…it is very difficult to remove all the little bits. It is not completely ‘deboned.’ I have seen the term defined to be the same as boning, and I don’t think its a very big deal, although I don’t blame you being annoyed by it. But if the prefix de- in the commercial operations is used in the sense of separating, then I think it’s quite legitimate. Maybe this term has found its way into general cooking and prep.

    • Chicken Chopper February 1, 2016 at 12:02 am

      This is very true. Spending 25 years in poultry processing has taught me that colloquial terms can be as confusing as ever. That being said, deboning actually refers to a process inventing in Japan in the late 1950s where scientists were trying to figure out ways to remove the cartilage, sinew, and bone material from fish that had been filleted. The process involved some particle reduction, but mostly removed the bones from what they termed “flesh” (still used in seafood processing today) by creating a pressure chamber and extruding the protein through 1mm holes while the bone mass was discharged out of the center auger. This was technology imported first into Canada in the 1960s and eventually applied to chicken carcasses that had the breast, ternderloin, and wings removed. So since the process of removing the primal cuts of the chicken was considered a “boning” process, the further removal of meat from the rest of the carcass (termed “cage” referring to a ribcage) became known as a “deboning” process.

      Sounds strange? It’s true. Joe Yarem was the catalyst that helped make all this happen. Check out the University of Guelph website sometime.

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