How to Carve a Turkey

Way back in the day before the Food Network, my husband and I were invited to a friend's house for Thanksgiving dinner. That morning, he came across a cooking show on PBS that included a segment on how to efficiently carve a turkey, yielding the most meat off the bone with the least trouble. He volunteered to carve the turkey that night—this is how he does it now, photos Thanksgiving 2011:

Turkey 101

How to Carve a Turkey

Keep Sliced Turkey Warm and Moist

Safely Thaw a Frozen Turkey

Roasting TImes and Other Basics

Storing Leftover Turkey

Leftover Turkey Recipes


perfect roast turkey

To get started, you need a perfectly roasted bird. (Let it rest at least 20 minutes after removing from the oven.) This one is on the smallish side—12 pounds plus a little—but this technique is the one to use on almost any fowl. 


You need the proper utensils. A sharp carving knife, a sharpening steel, and a big fork. A big cutting board is helpful. 

sharpen knife

Using your sharpening steel, put the edge back on your knife and remove nicks. Remember: a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife. 
twine and skewers Untruss your bird, and remove any skewers you might have holding various bits of skin in place. Get rid of the twine and skewers—don't leave them cluttering up your cutting board.
remove stuffing Remove any stuffing from the bird. We used onions and celery in this example, but now is the time to remove traditional stuffing as well. 
remove leg Grasp the leg in one hand and slice down into the bird with your knife pulling the drumstick slightly down and away as shown.
leg and thigh The goal is to remove the turkey leg AND the thigh in one piece.
separate thigh Then separate the thigh from the drumstick by finding the socket joint and manipulating your knife to separate the two pieces. Keep at least one drumstick whole as in any group you'll find someone who just loves that part of the turkey.
 debone the thigh Then remove the thigh bone by slicing along both sides of the bone; pull out to remove. This should leave you with a whole deboned piece of thigh suitable for slicing.
breast Next, we want to remove the breast from half of the turkey. Using your fingers, locate the breast bone that runs down the length of the bird and carve down as close to the center bone as you can get.
breast You're going to cut almost through the bird- use your non-knife-wielding hand to pull the breast back as you cut so you can see to keep your knife close to the bone.
remove breast  You'll have half the breast off the bird when you are done-
whole breast that looks like this. Clean, and perfect for slicing onto your platter.
sliced breast Remove the breast to a separate cutting board and slice across the grain. A sharpened knife is key here as you will want to try to keep a thin strip of skin with each slice of turkey.
slice thigh  Do the same with the de-boned thighs.
platter of turkey Repeat the process on the other side of the bird and you should have a platter full of perfectly carved turkey—
carcass  and a carcass that has just enough meat left on it to make a nice stock for turkey soup.


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