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How to Debone a Whole Turkey (to make Turducken)

A de-boned turkey sitting next to its bones

Use this guide to debone a whole turkey to prepare it for turducken. The wings and legs remain bone-in so that the turkey looks more like a turkey for the final presentation. If you are looking to completely debone a turkey in order to stuff and roast it, follow the instructions for deboning a chicken on this website to debone the legs and wings. Make sure you save the bones for making stock. Simply roast them at 400°F until they’re dark golden and then gently simmer them for several hours to make a tasty turkey broth!

    Materials

    • 1 whole turkey
    • 1 boning knife
    • 1 cutting board

    Instructions

    1

    You’ll want a decent boning knife to do this job. Alternatively, you could use a paring knife for cutting through joints and a fish fillet knife for the de-boning.

    2

    Start with the turkey breast side down, with the neck pointing towards you. 

    For the turkey, we’ll leave the wingtips on for presentation’s sake. 

    Find the spine by running your finger down the back. 

    Make an incision down the entire spine, from tail to neck. 

    3

    Make long shallow slices down the side of the spine and under the left side of the incision. 

    Use your fingers to peel back the flesh from the bone as you continue to make slices along the ribs, being careful not to slice through the actual meat and skin.

    4

    Keep slicing until you run into the wing joint and the thigh joint on the front and back of the bird. 

    5

    Run your finger along the thigh to ascertain where exactly the thigh bone is. 

    Make a deep incision down the length of the thigh bone.

    Dig your fingers in to grasp the thigh bone, separating it from the meat. This can mostly be done by force, but feel free to use the knife instead. 

    Find the joint that connects the thigh bone to the leg bone and pierce it with the knife. 

    Cut away the tendons holding the joint together until they become completely separated. 

    ***See step 8 for more photos of this process

    6

    Now move up towards the wing and dig around to find the wing joint that connects the wing to the shoulder. 

    Employing the same technique as the thigh, use your knife to pierce and separate the wing joint from the shoulder. 

    Pull down and back on the wing to make it easier to pop the joint out. 

    7

    Start peeling back the meat from the other side of the bird. Pulling back the flap of meat and slicing away until you reach the wing and thigh joints again. 

    At this point you’ll run into the wishbone. Run your knife along the front and back of the wishbone while pulling up on the ribcage to free it from any meat, then cut the wishbone at the base of the ‘V’ to remove it completely. 

    8

    Now separate the thigh bone from the leg bone on the other side. 

    9

    Once the thigh bone has been separated from the leg bone, begin making incisions down the hip and rib cage to free the meat from the bone structure. 

    10

    Now pop out the wing joint from the shoulder on this side. 

    11

    Move to the back of the turkey and separate the tail or “pope’s nose”, from the bird. I like to leave mine attached to the meat for roasting. 

    12

    Make any necessary incisions to free the main bone structure from the meat, rolling the bones to the left and right to make shallow incisions underneath until you reach the keel or breast bone which is the ridge of bone between the two breasts. 

    13

    Now grasp the main bone structure of the bird and lift it up, while making incisions along the keel bone and anywhere else the meat is still attached in order to free the bones. 

    Keep pulling the bones up higher as you do this. Until the main bone structure is completely detached from the meat. 

    Feel along the keel bone and around the rest of the bird with your fingertips. If there is any cartilage or bone leftover (other than the wings, legs, and tail), make sure you trim it away. 

    14

    Gently flip the bird over and rearrange it so it resembles a turkey again. 

    You’ve done it, you’ve deboned a turkey! 

    Photo credit goes to Tyler Robinson who was compensated with turducken. 

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