You’ve spent hours planning, brining, basting and roasting the turkey, so when the big moment comes — the bird’s resting on the cutting board, moist meat hidden under a crackly, perfectly browned skin; eager, hungry friends and family gathered all around the table — don’t flub it.
Delicate readers beware; graphic images are ahead!
To put together this step-by-step tutorial, I shadowed one of our in-house chefs as she carved a turkey after testing our Classic Herb-Roasted Turkey recipe.
Before you begin, don’t reach for your chef’s knife. This job calls for the long, narrow blade of a slicing or carving knife. A carving fork will come in handy here, too, since it helps you steady the bird as you work. You can read more about these two here. And naturally, be sure you’re working on a sturdy cutting board. Ready? Let’s go!
Start with the Legs
Cut the skin that connects the leg and the body. Continue to cut until you reach the joint where the thigh attaches to the body. Now use your hand to pull the drumstick and thigh away from the bird.
Locate and cut that joint. If you feel any resistance, stop right away. You’re probably cutting through bone. Poke around until you find the joint and begin again. Cutting through the joint should feel really easy.
With the leg on the cutting board, cut between the drumstick and thigh. Find and cut the joint to separate them.
You can now carve the thigh across the grain or leave it whole on your platter.
The Breasts Are Next
If you’re carving at the table, you’ll cut slices off the breastbone directly. To start, cut along the top of the breastbone. Work your way down the bone, cutting the breast away from the carcass.
Make a deep cut into the bottom of the breast, very close to the wing and parallel to the cutting board. This cut at the bottom allows slices to be removed easily.
At the top of the breast, carve thin slices parallel to the breastbone, ending at the bottom cut.
If you’re carving in the kitchen, you’ll remove the breast half and carve it on your cutting board. These slices will be more moist and tender because they are cut against the grain.
Begin by cutting along the top of the breastbone. Work your way down the bone, cutting the breast away from the carcass. Similar to the process for carving at the table, you’ll make a deep cut into the bottom of the breast, very close to the wing and parallel to the cutting board. (See photos above for reference.) These two long cuts should allow you to pull the entire breast away from the carcass.
Set the breast down on the board and slice it across the grain.
Finally, the Wings
Cut the joint where the wing attaches to the backbone. Set each wing on your platter.
That’s it! You’re ready to serve and dig in. Do you have any stories of turkey carvings gone horribly wrong? Let us know!