Deconstructing or cutting up a raw turkey into pieces is shown here, step by step. This is how to break down a whole turkey so you can cook each piece separately.
We shared our popular sheet pan turkey a few years ago but didn’t give a really detailed explanation of how we cut it up. We’re here with that information this year. Then you can cook pieces all together or each piece in different ways. A great way to change it up a bit for the holidays .(affiliate links present)
Cutting up a Raw Turkey
Why would you even do this you might ask? Well, for one if you cook it cut into pieces it takes closer to 1 hour vs. 3-5. That’s big for us. Another is that you might only have a few people in your home and you want to cook breasts one day and the extremities the other. It’s always better fresh right out of the oven, air fryer or cooking a Instant Pot turkey.
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We will share all different methods below as we talk about all parts of a turkey. But first we need to take it all apart. Let’s talk about the items you’re going to want to have on hand to get started;
How do you Dismantle a Turkey
Actually first you’re going to need to unwrap this baby, and remove the neck and baggie from the cavity. Use these for gravy or discard. If you look at the first cut above to remove the turkey wings, there are several joints you’ll want to find and disconnect. To find them you’ll want to pull the part out that you want to remove.
- You’ll want a sharp knife to slice the skin and meat
- A pair of heavy duty kitchen scissors to cut pieces apart, most convenient when removing the ribcage area to get at the 2 turkey breast pieces.
- Lay the whole bird on a very large cutting board, best if it is set next to the sink so the juices can drain right in
- Keep a large bowl next to you for items that you want to throw away.
- And a plate or 2nd bowl is handy to put your separated pieces
When removing the wings you’ll see there are 3 parts to them. Once you identify the joint attaching it to the main body you will want to cut the skin away and then twist where the joint is until it pops off. Then slice the skin attaching it.
To separate the drummette from the wingette, slice in the middle like this where the wing joint is located. Twist the two apart. The pointed wing can be sliced off and discarded. Then continue on to make your baked turkey wings.
How to Deconstruct a Raw Turkey
Now let’s move on to remove the turkey legs which will have the thigh attached. We will go over how to separate them in a minute, or leave whole if you prefer turkey quarters. Now the same goes for this one as above but there is more meat hiding that joint.
- You’ll need to slice along the side of the cavity as you see here to separate the thigh meat from the rib cage first.
- If you work it all the way around the only thing left attaching it will be another joint.
- Fold the piece down hard enough where it pops off, or you can use your kitchen scissors to assist you.
- Remove the leg away from the body
Then choose whether you want to keep these two pieces together or not. Personally I like them apart. Reason being is each piece does cook at a different rate so if you bake or air fry just your turkey thighs together instead of one of each they will turn out better.
Breaking Down a Whole Turkey
In order to split the two we’re right back where we started, find and cut through the joint! You can look at the quarter and see what the leg should look like, slice at the top there to reveal the bone as you see here. A sharp knife will do the trick to slice the skin, meat, and bone.
That is why you want to do this on a cutting board. Then you can cook them in different ways if you like. Honestly, using our dry rub or brine and using your oven to make baked turkey legs is pretty to die for.
Can you cut up turkey before cooking
Yes, and I would recommend it. Especially if you want to brine it the flavors will soak in a lot better if the pieces are smaller. It’s a great way to get bolder flavors over every inch too if you love coating with our smoked turkey rub. (you don’t have to smoke it to use that)
Now that we have all the extremities removed from cutting up a whole turkey we can move on to this big piece here. It might be a big intimidating but it’s not. You can see the pieces you want are on the top. The white meat most people want right?? The bottom can be thrown in the trash or used to make turkey carcass soup.
How to Cut a Raw Turkey
You can either cut them off with the bone-in (easiest) or later remove the rib meat to cook boneless turkey breasts. You will want your heavy duty kitchen scissors to separate the carcass from the white meat above it.
- Pull on the top and bottom like you see here above. Most of the bones will break off and then you can cut away the rest.
- What you will have remaining is what you see here on the bottom photo.
- There is a breastbone in between the two, slice your knife on both sides one at a time to release the protein from that bone.
- If you want boneless breast meat then continue cutting the breast meat off with your sharp knife. Slice all the way around so all you have is the flesh and skin.
I would leave the skin on all of your pieces because it lends more flavor no matter how you cook them.
Deconstructing a Whole Turkey
If leaving the rib meat attached, which is what we do, use your scissors to split the breasts apart. And there you have it y’all! Reading this whole post is the best so you can see step by step how to cut up a turkey raw. Here is another quick rundown though to go over what we just spoke about before you get started;
Time needed: 15 minutes
How to Deconstruct a Raw Turkey
Unwrap your package of fresh turkey (defrosted) and remove the neck, gizzard and other items from the baggie. Discard or save these to cook or make into gravy.
Use a sharp knife to cut the skin away from each joint holding that extremity on.
When joint is exposed fold the attached piece back until the connection pops off or loosens, then use heavy duty kitchen shears to separate.
To remove turkey breasts cut the ribcage off, then slice the meat off of the breastbone. Use kitchen scissors to cut the two apart.
Once you have this done you can brine them overnight, or bake on a sheet pan with some olive oil and seasonings on top.
How to Cook Turkey Parts
We have made them all, in a simple turkey brine or with a dry rub. I only share our favorites and have linked many of them throughout this post. They are linked in blue so if you are interested in that method just click on that and the recipe will pop up, others are listed below;
- We share here how to boil turkey necks so you can use the meat in your gravy.
- First off if you want to cut off the outer pieces and cook a turkey crown we have directions for that.
- We have made turkey tenderloin in Instant Pot before which was great.
- Slow cooker turkey breast turns out great with some citrus in the pot.
Want to see a few of my favorite things that I am totally obsessed with?? Take a peek and see how many you might already have…twinsies!