turkey on farm at sunset

How to Debone a Turkey

Debone and Bone both Mean to Remove the Bones

Walt cutting meat along side of ribcage

Yes, how to debone a turkey and how to bone a turkey both mean removing the bones from the turkey.

This technique isn't used as much as it once was partly because few people know how to do it and partly because it is time consuming and takes a bit of work.But, the additional work put into the preparation will be partly offset by the fact that carving is easy.

Knowing this technique gives an additional technique to add flavor to a turkey. And, it is the foundation for many interesting and unusual recipes including "turducken" where a turkey is stuffed with a chicken and a duck, and other stuffed turkey recipes.

And since the anatomy of birds is similar, once you master this technique you can use it to create a Royal Roast also known as a "three bird roast" which usually consists of a goose stuffed with chicken, stuffed with pheasant.

When the wings and legs are also removed, the boned turkey can be used for a "galantine" of turkey (stuffed with forcemeat, wrapped in cheesecloth, simmered in stock, chilled and glazed with aspic of its own stock).

Once you have mastered how to debone a turkey, we are sure you will come up with interesting ideas of your own and we hope you will share them with us.

So how do you get the bones out of a turkey? Well, the easiest way is to have a good butcher do it for you. And that is what we did. We went to The Natural Link in Lewiston New York and asked Walter Fuller if he would show us how this is done. He graciously agreed to show us how to debone a turkey, and he allowed us to photograph the process so that we could share it with you.

This is how you debone a turkey:

You know that we stress starting with a good turkey, and Walter only deals in high quality meat.

Starting with humanely raised, vegetarian fed, all natural turkey is a good first step.

Fresh Home Dressed All Grain Fed Turkey

Place the turkey on its breast with its legs toward you. Use a thin sharp boning knife and carefully cut along one side of the backbone.

Throughout the process you are not going to cut bone. You are cutting flesh and muscle only, until you feel resistance from the bone.

Cut along backbone - start to bone turkey

As the knife meets resistance by touching bone, angle the knife so that it rides close to the bone but follows the contour of the bone.

You want to remove as much meat as possible.

Here the turkey has been scored on each side of the backbone, and the meat is unfolded where it was cut from the bone.

Cut meat away from turkey back
As the process continues, more of the back meat is cut from the bone.
Continuing to cut back meat from bone

As the back and side meat are cut from the skeleton, the meat is folded away from the bone, exposing the area where the meat is still connected.


Walt cutting meat along side of ribcage

After one side is done, the other side is boned in the same manner.

The turkey is still lying on its breast bone. If you want to see a diagram of the turkey bones you can see them here but remember this turkey is on its breast so the diagram is upside down.

Both sides of back on boned turkey are open
This give a good view of how little meat is left on the bones as the meat is cut away.
Ribs showing where meat was cut from boned turkey
As the knife follows the ribs, the back and sides fall away from the bone.
Back and side meat fall away from bones

Here the rib cage is cut and pulled away from the breast meat.

The thigh bone is separated from the body at the joint.

Here is an important how to debone a turkey tip. The bone is never cut.

The meat is cut away exposing the joint, and the knife cuts between the joint as the leg is pulled from the body.

This will leave the turkey flattened.

ribs are cut and pulled away from breast meat as turkey is boned
Next the meat is cut away from the turkey thigh bone.
Meat is cut away from thigh bone

Here the other leg joint is separated so that the thigh bone is removed from the drumstick bone.

Usually the drumstick bones are left in the boned bird just to give it a better form.

Thigh separated from drumstick
And here is the boned turkey. It is laying flat and open ready to be stuffed.
Boned turkey flat and open to be stuffed

And here is the boned turkey closed up again.

It has the same shape as before it was boned, and it will have the volume, now missing, restored when it is stuffed.


Boned turkey closed

Again we with to thank Walter Fuller of The Natural Link Butcher Shop in Lewiston New York for sharing this technique.

You have now graduated from your how to debone a turkey class. And remember, you can practice with chickens!

The Natural Link Butcher Shop

Related Link

How to Debone a Turkey Leg

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