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What part of the turkey is turkey cutlets?

Turkey cutlets are thin, boneless slices of meat that are cut from the breast of a turkey. The breast is the large, white meaty portion of the turkey that makes up the front half of the bird. Turkey cutlets are versatile, quick-cooking pieces of meat that can be used in a variety of dishes.

Where on the turkey is the breast meat?

The breast is located on the front of the turkey and runs from the neck down to the bottom of the ribcage. It consists of two halves, the right and left breast. These two halves are separated by the breastbone, which runs vertically down the center of the breast. Each breast half has a tenderloin muscle on the inner side and a larger muscle on the outer side. Turkey cutlets are sliced from these larger breast muscles.

Anatomy of the turkey breast

Here are the key anatomical features of the turkey breast:

  • Breastbone – This is the long, central bone that divides the breast in half. The breast muscles attach to each side of the breastbone.
  • Breast muscles – There are two main muscles, the larger pectoralis major muscle on the outer side and the smaller pectoralis minor or tenderloin on the inner side.
  • Skin – The skin covers the entire breast. It needs to be removed to expose the breast meat.
  • Rib cage – The breast muscles sit on top of the rib cage on each side of the bird.
  • Wishbone – This V-shaped bone is embedded at the top of the breastbone.

The two sides of the breast are essentially mirror images of each other. Turkey cutlets come specifically from the large pectoralis major muscles on either side.

How are turkey cutlets sliced from the breast?

Turkey cutlets are carefully sliced from the thickest part of each breast half. Here is the process for slicing turkey cutlets:

  1. The raw whole turkey breast is skinned and any excess fat is trimmed off.
  2. The tenderloin muscle is removed from the inner side of each breast half.
  3. The breast half is placed on a cutting board skin-side down.
  4. Using a very sharp knife, thin slices are cut horizontally across the thickest part of the breast, perpendicular to the breastbone.
  5. The slices are cut about 1/4 inch thick. Uniform, thin slices are key for quick cooking.
  6. The slices are then commonly pounded to an even thinner cutlet thickness of 1/8 inch.

This slicing method concentrates on the thickest part of the breast muscle where nice broad cutlets can be cut. Multiple thin, uniform cutlets can be obtained from each breast half this way.

Why pound turkey cutlets thin?

There are two main reasons turkey cutlets are pounded to a thinner 1/8 inch thickness after slicing:

  • For fast cooking – Thinner cutlets will cook faster and more evenly. Turkey breast meat can dry out if overcooked.
  • For tender texture – Pounding helps break down the muscle fibers so the cooked cutlet is more tender.

The thinness is key for dishes like turkey schnitzel or turkey piccata where the cutlet is breaded or sautéed quickly over high heat.

Common uses for turkey cutlets

Turkey cutlets are prized for their tender, mild flavor and versatility. Here are some of the most popular ways to use turkey cutlets:

  • Turkey schnitzel – The cutlets are breaded and pan-fried resulting in a crispy exterior and juicy interior.
  • Turkey piccata – The cutlets are sautéed and served with a lemon-caper sauce.
  • Turkey marsala – Sautéed cutlets are paired with a marsala wine mushroom sauce.
  • Turkey parmesan – Breaded cutlets are topped with tomato sauce and melted cheese.
  • Turkey sandwiches – Grilled or breaded cutlets work great on sandwiches and wraps.
  • Turkey stir fry – Thinly sliced cutlets are perfect for fast, high-heat stir frying.

Turkey cutlets provide a neutral canvas for all kinds of sauces, breadings, marinades and other creative flavors.

Nutrition of turkey cutlets

Turkey cutlets are a nutritious choice as part of a healthy diet. Here is the nutrition profile of a 3 ounce serving of roasted turkey cutlet according to the USDA:

Calories 140
Fat 2.7 g
Saturated fat 0.7 g
Protein 26 g
Cholesterol 70 mg
Sodium 65 mg

Turkey cutlets are lean with less than 3 grams of total fat per serving. They are an excellent source of protein and low in sodium.

Benefits of turkey cutlets

Here are some of the top health benefits that make turkey cutlets a smart choice:

  • High in protein – Each serving provides over 25 grams of satisfying protein for only 140 calories. This supports muscle growth and maintenance.
  • Low in fat – Turkey cutlets have less fat than many other protein choices like beef or pork.
  • Rich in B vitamins – Turkey contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6 which support energy metabolism.
  • Provides selenium – Turkey is a good source of the essential mineral selenium which has antioxidant properties.

Overall, turkey cutlets make an excellent low fat, high quality protein option as part of a balanced diet. They can be part of meal plans for weight loss, building muscle, athletic performance or simply overall health.

Purchasing and storage tips for turkey cutlets

Follow these simple guidelines when selecting and storing fresh or frozen turkey cutlets:

  • Look for cutlets that are uniformly thin, around 1/4 inch or less.
  • The cutlets should be pale pink with a fresh look and no discoloration.
  • For fresh cutlets, use within 2 days or freeze for longer storage.
  • Frozen cutlets can be stored for 3-4 months in the freezer.
  • Defrost frozen cutlets in the refrigerator before using.
  • Cook or freeze fresh cutlets within 2 days of thawing.

Proper handling and storage helps ensure turkey cutlets stay fresh and ready to use in your favorite recipes.


Turkey cutlets are versatile and nutritious sliced meat from the breast of the turkey. They provide a lean, protein-rich option for quick cooking in a variety of dishes. Cutlets are sliced from the thick pectoralis major breast muscle then pounded thin for tenderness. They can be breaded, sautéed, grilled or used in sandwiches and stir fries. Turkey cutlets are low in fat and calories while providing a good amount of protein, B vitamins and selenium. Purchasing fresh, uniformly thin cutlets and storing properly helps maintain quality and flavor.