Note: This story originally ran last year (along with a guide to trussing your bird), but we thought you might need a refresher course.
If you’re on carving duty this year, don’t psych yourself out. All you have to do is imagine everyone naked and…oh wait, that’s something else. Grandma’s here. Damn it!
To really learn how to carve like a champ, we stopped by Dickson’s Farmstand Meats to break down a bird with butcher Ted Rosen. Some things to keep in mind before you get started:
- Let the bird sit for 15-20 minutes after it comes out of the oven. This resting time will lock in the juiciness and also make the meat a lot easier to cut.
- Use a really, really sharp knife.
- Carve in the kitchen, not at the table in front of everyone. There’s no need to put that pressure on yourself.
- Work with clean hands—you can use tongs or a meat fork (especially i you foolishly decide to go the exhibitionist route), but Rosen says clean hands and a knife are just as good.
- Make sure your turkey is sitting on a sturdy cutting board—you can put a wet kitchen towels beneath the bird to prevent it from slipping.
Got it? Great. Now pour yourself a stiff glass of bourbon and let’s do this thing.
How to Carve a Turkey
Push your fingers into the top of the bird to find the keel bone, then begin to slice along one side of it.
Cut all the way down until you hit the wishbone and your knife can’t go any further.
Score along the bottom side of the breast.
Grab the breast and pull it out, using the knife if necessary to cut away any meat still connected to the carcass. (This should be done the same way on both sides so you have to two full, beautiful breasts.)
Cut your beasts into slices of whatever size you prefer. If you let your bird cool properly, the skin should stay on so that everyone gets that extra bit of flavor in their breast meat.
Next, score around the top side of the wing.
Pry it back to expose the joint connecting the wing to the body.
Cut through the joint and pull off the wing.
Cut the wing in half. You can serve these two pieces as they are.
To remove the legs, run the knife between each leg and the body to loosen it up.
Then pull back leg—it should just come right off pretty easily, but you can use your knife to cut through any bits that aren’t coming free.
You can serve the drumsticks whole, but why not get some of that dark meat for everyone? To do this, hold it upright on the cutting board. “If you go really far in there’s a lot of nasty tendons and stuff in the drumstick, so just carve down until all the meat is off,” says Rosen.
Next, work knife between body and thigh.
Pull off the thigh, using the knife if you need to.
Slice up the thigh—expect this meat to shred and fall apart pretty easily.
If the oyster didn’t come off with the thigh, pull it off now—it’s that dark piece of meat between the thigh and the back. “It’s a muscle that, especially on flightless birds, doesn’t get used that much,” says Rosen. “It’s dark meat and it’s really tender.”
At this point, simply use your hands to pull off any remaining meat on the carcass—and don’t forget the back meat!
And there you have it—perfectly carved and ready for action.
RELATED: How to Truss a Turkey