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"Food Innovator Brings
Creativity to Chicken Cutting"
featured on Lancaster Farming.com
Allen & Renninger LLC
March 14, 2015 - Cochranville,
Gene Gagliardi was telling a chef a while ago that he was thinking
about inventing some new cuts of chicken.
That was a dumb idea, the chef said. There’s nothing more to be done
To Gagliardi, the Chester County-based creator of Steak-umm and
popcorn chicken, that sounded like a challenge.
“I went home and came up with three different things ... in a week,”
Soon, Gagliardi had created more than two dozen novel chicken cuts
and was thinking about marketing the cuts, which currently cannot be
To help start that process, he presented many of his patented and
patent-pending cuts during a demonstration and tasting Monday at his
One of Gagliardi’s culinary coups is turning chicken wings into a
no-mess treat that could be served at formal events like weddings.
The key with Chick’n Pops and Drumettes, Gagliardi said, is to end
up with a little of the bone exposed to use as a handle.
Dumettes are slightly bigger than Chick’n Pops and are designed to
stand upright on a serving plate, but both cuts can be eaten in two
“I’m constantly looking for hors d’oeuvres that aren’t
pastry-based,” said Aliza Green, a Philadelphia-area chef,
consultant and writer who attended the tasting.
Cuteness is a big factor in finger food too, she said.
Buffalo Billy’s is another fun wing cut, so named because it
resembles a cowboy in chaps. “Kids love it,” Gagliardi said, and
“you’re selling the complete piece.”
To make Shrimp Wings, Gagliardi cut the joints to straighten out the
wing and make it easy to dip. In Clipt Wings, he cut the joints so
the bones can pull right out.
Gagliardi’s genius is in turning byproducts and low-value cuts into
value-added products, said Ron Allen, a meat processing consultant
who is working with Gagliardi to market the products.
Naturally, then, Gagliardi has even created a deep-fried cut from
the meat of the chicken back, which he called “the most
underutilized part” of the chicken.
The back has more meat than the wing, and “you can’t get a cheaper
cut than that,” Gagliardi said.
He also made a fancy cut from what he called “the scourge of the
Leaving the bone in, Gagliardi cut off the top inch and a half of a
drumstick to make osso buco. Italian for “hollow bone,” osso buco is
a specialty cut that can be made from any species of meat, he said,
though it usually is associated with veal.
The chicken osso buco was a good size for a buffet line item, Green
With the rest of the drumsticks left over from the osso buco,
Gagliardi made HalfLegs, which look like larger Drumettes with the
meat pushed down to expose the bone for a handle.
Gagliardi might be at his most versatile in cutting thighs, a part
of the chicken that he has turned into eight novel cuts.
To make the Thigh Swatter, he deboned the thigh from the hip end and
left a squarish piece of meat with the bone sticking up, looking
aptly like a fly swatter.
“You can throw that on the grill,” Gagliardi said.
Despite its fun name, the Thigh Swatter actually makes an
elegant-looking offering when seasoned with a dry rub.
For the Coscia Divina — “divine thigh” — Gagliardi took the joints
off and deboned from the hip end. A couple of steps later, he had a
piece of chicken filled with stuffing and wrapped in bacon.
From its frozen state, Coscia Divina takes one hour to bake at 400
degrees F, he said.
Two of Gagliardi’s chicken breast creations are cut to have thin,
fingerlike strips on the sides, a style of cut Gagliardi said was
inspired by Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion.
One of those, Fing’r Pick’n Chick’n, is breaded and fried. The raw,
finger-cut meat looks like an octopus, but when it is marinated in
Old Bay, breaded and fried, it becomes — and tastes like — Crabby
Crabby Chicken works as a sandwich-size portion or as a standalone
entree, Gagliardi said.
Gagliardi has also created a chicken burger. The secret is to use
minced, not ground, meat, he said.
When poultry is ground, it turns into an undesirable paste. When the
meat is cut, it keeps its muscle characteristics. “It has texture.
It has bite,” he said.
Gagliardi’s chicken chips are 100 percent chicken and are cured like
bacon. They taste like bacon, too. Perdue and Herr’s are looking at
the chips, Gagliardi said.
His patented Griller is designed to eliminate grilled chicken that
is done outside but raw inside.
Gagliardi cut off the tips that will burn anyway and took out the
backbone, keel bone and excess fat.
Perhaps most importantly, he loosened the hip joint and split the
breast open. “It flattens it out” to allow even cooking, Gagliardi
Cutting meat, at least in the way Gagliardi practices it, is “a lost
art,” Allen, the consultant, said.
It’s an art that Gagliardi got an early start in.
His father owned a meat market in Philadelphia and would cut muscles
from the meat for his son to identify. Gagliardi said he later
learned chicken cutting from Colonel Harland Sanders, the KFC
Gagliardi demurred when asked how he comes up with so many different
products, saying only that he is constantly coming up with ideas.
Once, Gagliardi was serving at a tasting and the product was getting
a lukewarm reception. He remembered he had two bags of quarter-inch
thigh strips that were left over from making another cut.
He sent a helper to the kitchen to marinate, batter and bread the
strips. “They ate the whole bag,” Gagliardi said of the taste
Though KFC makes the product differently today, “that was the
beginning of popcorn chicken,” he said.
Gagliardi and his team are still working on ways to market his new
products. Gagliardi said he hopes to start small, making all the
cuts at his business until he can gauge market interest.
“To me, these are all finger foods. These are bar foods,” Allen
said, pointing out products like Crabby Chicken and the wing cuts.
Other selections, like Drumettes, might be better suited to catering
“The sleeper is HalfLegs,” and making them would also create osso
buco, Gagliardi said.
He said he has offered HalfLegs to Church’s Chicken, a Southern
Given the intricacy of some of the cuts, “the product itself is
somewhat labor-intensive,” and the company will focus on just a few
products at first, Allen said.
No matter which cuts he chooses to market, Gagliardi will likely not
be limited by his imagination.
Allen & Renninger, LLC is an exclusive advisor to privately-owned
business owners, specializing in the Meat Processing Business.
For further information contact Ron Allen at
or visit their website at