A series of 32 picture with descriptions of how I break down a whole rabbit into 9 - 12 parts.
Fully gutted rabbit that's been aged for 3 days in the refrigerator, allowing the muscle meat to come out of rigor, making it that much easier to break the body down.
Removing the belly flaps: I like to find the last rib (the shortest one) and feel it with my finger. I tend to run into this rib with my knife when cutting the belly meat otherwise. Once I've got it between my fingers I make the first cut at the top of the rib cage.
This is where I make the first cut to release the belly meat, at the top of the rib cage. I take the knife from this point, following the end of the rib bones down to the loin.
This is what that looks like. Do the same thing on the other side.
This is what it looks like when both sides are done.
Next, go to where the belly meat is attached at the inside of the rear leg. My finger is pointing at the spot you're looking for.
Cut along the inside of the leg muscle, freeing the belly meat, and then do the same thing on the other side.
This is what that looks like when both sides are done.
Next, you want to cut the belly meat off the loin which will remove it from the body completely. Start your cut at the edge my finger is pointing to.
As you make your cut the belly meat will be released from the body. Do the same thing on both sides.
The body with the belly flaps removed.
Removing the front legs: The front legs are not attached to the body with a bone.. odd as that sounds. They are very easy to cut off with a single knife stroke. First, I pinch the shoulder bone between my thumb and forefinger and pull it upwards so the space between the front leg and the ribs is obvious.
Then I make the cut between the shoulder bone and the ribs. You won't hit any bones, it'll be an easy. smooth cut.
Continue cutting all the way through between the front leg and the ribs and the front leg comes right off.
Do the same thing on the other side, removing the other front leg.
This is what it looks like when both front legs have been removed.
Removing the back legs: I make my first cut in the meat between the thigh and the tail bone. You wont' run into any bones in that narrow area. I start where my finger is pointing.
Cut along the narrow, boneless strip between the thigh and the lower part of the spine until you get to the top of the thigh. At the top of the tight you may run into a bit of bone. It's possible to miss the bone, but running into happens. If you run into it, you're at the joint and it's easy to cut through a joint. Move the leg back and forth a little at the joint and cut where it moves.
Once through the joint, cut around the top of the tight to release the leg.
Leg released from the body. Do the same thing on the other side, removing the other hind leg.
This is what it looks like when both hind legs have been removed.
Removing the loins: You can cut the loins off the spine for a boneless loin, or you can leave them with the bones. I'm going to show you both ways.
To debone the loins I cut along the full length of the spine, from just below the neck to where the thighs started, I start the cut where my finger is pointing.
I've cut on both sides of the spine, making sure my knife went deep enough to hit the bones underneath, from the neck down to the thigh area. This is what that looks like.
Rabbits have odd spines, almost star shaped. After your first cut along the spine, get under the loin meat with your knife to remove it, you're going to hit what will seem like a 2nd spine right next to the first one. Just use your knife to get under the loin meat and cut the meat away, always from under the meat, from all bones. Use your thumb to pull the loin away from bones to get a better view of where to cut.
Pulling the meat away from the 2nd part of the spine. This is where the chunky part of the loin is and you can easily remove it in a large mass with a long, smooth cut.
Keeping your knife under the loin meat, cut it away from the remaining spine bone, which is fairly flat at this point.
Once that part of the loin has been released from the body, I continue to cut from under the meat all the way to the neck. It should cut away in a single strip with ease at this point.
Do the same thing on the other side, removing the 2nd loin.
This is what it looks like when both loins have been removed.
Flip the rabbit over and you'll find two small loins under the spine. It is possible to remove these bits when you remove the larger loin on top, and with practice it'll become clear to you how to do that. For now, you can remove these smaller loins separately.
It's the same process as the larger loins from the top of the spine, only easier. I make my first cut, getting under the meat with my knife, at the base of the ribs, where my finger is pointing. You won't run into any bones here, it's easy to remove these small piece with a single cut, if you keep your knife under the meat as you cut.
This is what it looks like when the small loins have been removed.
This is what you're left with. Sparsely meaty bones. You can use these bones for stock, bone broth, dog or livestock food, burn them for ash to add back into the garden, cook them for rillettes. If I plan on freezing the bones until I can do something with them, I like to break them down a little more for the sake of conserving space in a container or the freezer. It's easy to do and you don't need a knife.
Breaking down the bones by hand:
Bend the spine below the rib cage up, toward the neck, it'll bend with ease. Bending it is going to crack the spine making it easy to pull the lower part of the spine off the body.
This is what that looks like.
Removing a bone-in loin:
Using the same bending / cracking of the spine, you can remove the whole intact loin without using a knife. Bend and pull at the base of the ribs, then do the same thing just below the loin to remove the small, tail bone piece. You now have a full bone-in loin.
The undersides of the loin can have a bit of fat on then (if you're lucky!) which makes them a great option for the bbq.
Your fully butchered rabbit.
From left to right: 2 hind legs, 2 front legs, 2 belly flaps, 2 small loins, 2 large loins, the spine, the rib cage.