If the family gives you the responsibility to cook the turkey for Thanksgiving, you don’t want to burn it or undercook it. By the same token, if they ask you to carve a turkey, you don’t want to do a hack job.
Practice makes perfect when you carve a turkey (or most other things, for that matter). But if this is your debut as the turkey carver, you’re going to need some tips.
Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place if you the responsibility to carve a turkey falls to you.
Best Knife to Carve a Turkey
You wouldn’t pick the wrong knife to handle any other job, and you certainly don’t want to do that now, in front of friends and family.
An expert turkey carver will say that you’re going to want two knives. The slicing knife should be 9 to 11 inches long, with a razor-sharp blade that you just sharpened the night before. The steps for using that are coming up.
The other knife is a boning knife, a small, flexible knife that is used to separate the meat from the carcass.
How to Carve a Turkey
The knives are sharp. The bird is cooked. You have a cutting board to put the turkey on. It’s time to get to carving. Just remember – take it slow and steady. There’s no reason to hurry things. Uncle Bob is not going to die of starvation while you carve a turkey.
Remove the String
There will be a string tying the legs together. Use the tip of the knife to cut it, and then take it off.
First, cut through the skin that connects the drumstick to the breast. Then, use the slicing knife to cut through the joints connecting the thigh and leg to the breast while at the same time applying pressure to the thigh and legs with your other hand. Place the drumstick on one plate and the thigh meat (which you’ll carve later) on another.
Remove the Wings
Next, simply slice through the joint that connects the wings to the breast. Set the wings aside.
Slicing the Breast
There are different approaches here. One that’s usually successful is to find the breastbone (running along the entire length of the breast) and then cut through the skin so you can see it. Then, using either the boning knife or slicing knife, cut straight down from the breastbone, just as close as you can to the bone. At the same time, use your other hand to pull away the breast meat.
Repeat this move on the other side of the breast.
Using your boning knife, separate the thigh meat from the bone. Then cut the thigh meat into slices across the shortest distance (another way of saying this is to cut against the grain).
Take care here, as this is the meat most people want. Take the large piece of breast meat from one side and cut it into slices. Again, cut across the shortest distance, or “against the grain.” Don’t cut the pieces too thick and make sure to keep the skin on. Do the same with the other breast.
Now, you have sliced thigh and breast meat, as well as drumsticks and wings. Place them all on a platter or serve separately, whatever you like (or, more likely, whatever someone tells you to do).
That’s it! You have successfully carved a turkey and not made a mess of it. That’s old-school cool, and it will earn you the respect of everyone around the table.