How to Butcher a Turkey at Home

Breaking down a turkey

Bored of plain ol’ chicken? It’s time to shift the spotlight to the other bird. Yes, I am talking about the famous Thanksgiving turkey, which has now made its way into Headbanger’s Kitchen. And in this blog, you’ll learn how to butcher a turkey at home.

As I introduce you to the first of my Turkey Recipe series, the HK way, I wanted to make it authentic. And that means starting from the butchering of the turkey. But before I get to it, here’s an interesting trivia about turkey: people make wishes on turkey wishbones. On Thanksgiving, people remove the turkey wishbone, let it dry, and then two people pull at it from either end while making a wish. Let me know if you made a wish while trying this recipe out!

Nutritionally, the turkey is valued for its leanness and low-fat saturation. Needless to say, it’s an excellent source of protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. So keep the guilt aside while trying out my turkey recipes.


What Do You Need Before Attempting to Butcher a Turkey?

The reason I choose to not cook a whole turkey is because, for starters, my oven can barely fit the bird. Most Indian folk don’t own an oven, let alone use it. If you notice there are hardly any bakes or casseroles or any oven dishes in Indian cooking. If there are it’s mostly giant clay ovens like the tandoor. So for starters it’s not a common appliance to own. Those who do own it, like myself will generally have at best a small one or in my case a 52 liter one which still isn’t big enough. That’s because most of us living in cities live in apartments which aren’t built with massive kitchens. 

Now technical and cooking apparatus aside, the cooking time. White meat and dark meat, the two sides of any poultry. When you roast a whole bird, it’s inevitable to not have perfect cooking. How is it possible? Dark meat, legs and thighs cook differently than the breast (the white meat). Breaking down the bird allows us to cook them separately resulting in a better final cooked product. And that is why I’m butchering this turkey before cooking it. 

Before we start on how to butcher a turkey at home, you need to grab the following:

  • A sharp butchering knife
  • Sharp kitchen scissors
  • Roasting tray with a wire rack

I sourced my turkey online from Sweet Stuff, weighing 5 kg.

You can also try the local supermarket to grab yours.

Nutrition Info (Per 100 grams)

  • Calories: 141
  • Protein: 22g
  • Fat: 15g
  • Carbs: 0g
  • Vitamin B6: 30%

This recipe makes 1 serving. Get this recipe on myfitnesspal.com.

Tips—How to Defrost a Turkey Safely Before Butchering It

It’s best to thaw your frozen turkey and defrost it before attempting to butcher the turkey at home. To defrost a turkey safely, you can stick it in the fridge and set the temperature at 4-5 degree Celsius. Now let it defrost at a constant temperature for at least 24 hours, and your turkey is ready for butchering.

Another quick method to thaw a turkey safely is by submerging it with the packaging intact in a big container full of cold water. Remember, if your turkey packaging is torn, it can lead to contamination. Keep checking the temperature of the water and change it if it doesn’t feel cold. Rotate sides every 30 minutes to thaw both sides evenly. This method can take up to 5 hours, depending on the weight of the turkey.

Tired after all that butchering? Here’s a Keto Iced Tea recipe from the Headbanger’s Kitchen.

Stay tuned to this space for more turkey recipes to try at home.

How to Butcher a Turkey at Home

A step by step on how to butcher your turkey to make multiple dishes
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Indian
Servings 1 bird


  • 1 whole turkey
  • Salt as required


  • Remove the defrosted bird from the packet. Pat it dry to make it easier to handle. If your turkey comes with a red pin in the breast then remove that. If it comes with giblets in the cavity remove those as well.
  • Start by splitting the skin at the legs.
  • We start by removing both the wings of our turkey.
  • Now we split the legs and cut through the center to separate the legs from the crown.
  • After you’ve separated the legs from the crown, you need to get the individual leg off. You will now be left with two legs and half a spine.
  • Now cut the breasts off the crown. Just cut along the center of the breastbone, and they should come right off.
  • Next you need to cut the wingtips from the wings. Take the turkey carcass and carefully break it down with scissors. You can use the whole carcass for stock later on.
  • It’s time to take the separated turkey legs, wings and breasts and put them on a roasting tray with a wire rack for resting in the fridge. Don’t forget to season with salt on both sides.
  • Pop your broken-down turkey in the fridge and let it rest for 24 to 48 hours for dry brine.
  • Once your turkey parts are rested, it’s time to butcher the turkey again. Now the reason I did this is because I didn't have enough wire racks in my house but you can do this before dry brining if you have the space.
  • Gently take the breast and separate the turkey drum from it. Then separate the legs from the thigh. (Hint: Since turkey bones are big, simply cut along the joints).
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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