How to Carve a Turkey

Food and Nutrition, Holidays

You’ve bought the fixings and prepared the glorious bird, and all your hard work is about to come together in the apex of the Thanksgiving holiday—the eating of the turkey. Before that delicious creation of yours can be savored, it must first be carved as expertly as it was roasted. If you’ve wondered how to carve a turkey the right way, you’re about to find out.

A moment of rest. Before you begin to carve the turkey, let it rest while you enjoy a pre-meal aperitif with friends and family. The bird may be hot and smelling divine, but it’s not the best time for carving. The juices need time to redistribute, and the bird needs to cool off for best carving. Cutting a turkey too soon can result in stringy bits, broken slices, burned fingers and disappointment all around.

Prep your station. A carving station is the best spot for proper bird carving. Do not try to carve with a slippery platter, hot bird and sharp knife at the beautiful dining room table. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. A good grooved cutting board and sharp carving knife with hot platter at the ready and plenty of elbowroom is de rigueur.

Make the cut. The best way to carve a turkey—according to the professionals at Zwilling J.A. Henckels and co-authors of The Complete Book of Knife Skills: The Essential Guide to Use Techniques and Care—is off the bone. Follow these simple steps:

  • Place the cooled turkey on the cutting board breast side up, legs facing away from you.
  • Steady the bird with the carving fork in your non-dominant hand.
  • Cut from top down through leg joint on both sides, and pull leg away from the bird until it is removed from the socket.
  • Locate the separation of leg to thigh and slice into the joint removing the pieces. Place the legs on the serving platter, slice the sides across the grain and add to platter.
  • Remove both wings by placing knife tip in the joint and cutting to release the wing one at a time.
  • Place fork at the top of the turkey breast to steady it, and slice down along the center close to the breastbone. Push the meat away from the carcass to gently release it from the ribs.
  • Let the knife blade sit close to the rib cage and cut further down back through the wing area to release more of the breast meat.
  • Cut all along the bottom side of the breast to release the entire breast.
  • Lay breast skin side up and cut slices cross grain. Place them on your platter.
  • Repeat on the second side.

The carcass left over is great for making soup stock. Simply place it in a large pot with water and let it cook over medium to medium-low heat for about a half-hour or more. The stock can then be strained and frozen for later use.

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