Good Question: How To Cut Up a Turkey Before Roasting?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Here’s a good question from Anne (in Reno) on that Thanksgiving turkey.

Hi, I’m doing a pre-Thanksgiving turkey this weekend since there are never enough leftovers. I have been recipe surfing and found one that recommended cutting the turkey up before roasting it.

It looks good to me, but how do I cut up the turkey? Is there a standard way or should I just hack at it and hope? I have done turkeys before but usually they have been whole and someone else carves them. When I search online all the instructionals are for carving a cooked turkey. Can you give me any advice?


First off, here’s the recipe that Anne’s looking at:

Roast Turkey with Apple-Sourdough Bread Stuffing, by Robin Miller at Food Network

The recipe only gives this direction: “1 (8 to 10-pound) turkey, cut into 5 parts (breast, legs, wings), giblets removed and discarded.”

It does add a note that you can ask a butcher to do this for you.

If you don’t have that option, then we would suggest going ahead and using those tutorials for cooked turkey; it’s not going to be much different cutting up the bird in its pre-cooked state. But here is also one more that we found that is illustrated with photos of non-cooked turkey.

Cutting Up a Whole Turkey at Recipe Tips

The main thing here is to separate the white meat from the dark meat, so you need to focus on the main body parts the recipe calls for. Start by making a clean cut between the legs and the main body, then do the same with the wings. Flip the breast upside down and make a clean cut between the two halves.

We echo the linked tutorial, too, and say that this is much easier to do when the bird is chilled and even partially frozen.

Good luck! Those of us who want to braise a turkey in pieces this Thanksgiving will be right behind you, cutting up our big birds. Is anyone else trying Mark Bittman’s braised-in-pieces recipe?

Braised Turkey by The Minimalist at The New York Times

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