Carving the Thanksgiving turkey is a scary prospect. It is a big bird and the web gives a lot of tutorials with conflicting instructions. The good news is you don not have to carve the centerpiece of the meal at the table in front of guests. In fact, since it is a messy prospect—carve it in the kitchen, on a large cutting board and arrange the meat on a platter.
Step 1: Before you start, gather your equipment.
- Large cutting board—bigger than the turkey with room on each side, preferably one with grooves to catch any juices.
- Large chef’s knife—one with a long blade so you can glide through the meat rather than have to saw.
- Boning knife—or a smaller knife with a thin blade and sharp point to help cut through the joints if needed.
- Warm turkey stock—to splash over the meat after it is carved to reheat it.
- Pretty platter with garnishes—these can be fresh herbs like sprigs of thyme, rosemary or sage or slices of oranges, or even sprigs of parsley to dress up the main event of the meal.
Step 2: Rest the turkey for 30-45 minutes before carving!
Remove the bird from the roasting pan and reclaim the fond on the bottom of the pan. Transfer it to the cutting board and tent with foil. Set the timer and leave it alone. This will allow the juices to seep back into the meat.
Step 3: Cut the trussing twine and arrange the turkey.
Place the turkey with the breast up and the large cavity facing you. Remove any aromatics that were cooked in the turkey.
Step 4: Remove the leg and thigh from the turkey.
Slice through the skin between the breast and the drumstick. Hold onto the drumstick end and push the leg down towards the cutting board. This should expose the joint (the white hard cap and the bone end), using the boning knife to find the path of least resistance between the bones and remove the leg and thigh piece. Repeat with the other side.
Step 5: Remove the turkey breast.
Find the breast bone on the top of the turkey and make a cut following the bone from the large cavity to the back. The wishbone is in the part of the turkey facing away from you so you will need to angle the blade down the to skim the side of the wishbone.
Transfer the blade to make a horizontal cut near the wing to cut from the bottom of the wishbone cut to the front of the large cavity.
With the chef’s knife glide through the meat as close to the bones as possible to remove the breast in one piece. Repeat with the other side.
Step 6: Remove the wings.
There is a large cache of meat under and behind the wing. To remove the wing, firmly grasp the “elbow” and pull out slightly while twisting to expose the joint. Using the boning knife repeat the process in step 4 to cut through the joint. Remove the wingtip and save for stock. Separate the wing joints and place the two pieces on the platter. Repeat on the other side.
Step 7: Separate the drumstick and the thigh, remove the bone from the thigh
Slice to expose the joint Using the tip of the knife cut through the joint
Cut through the joint between the drumstick and the thigh. Place the drumstick on the platter.
Turn the thigh so the skin side is down, cut through the meat on each side of the thigh bone to expose the bone. Using the tip of the knife, cut under the bone to expose one end and continue slicing with short stroke to free the bone from the meat.
Set the bone aside for stock and roll the meat into a bundle. Slice the dark meat bundle into strips and arrange on the platter near the drumsticks. Repeat with the other leg and thigh.
Step 8: Slice the breast meat.
Cut the breast meat against the grain by cutting slices from the short tapered end to the fat end. Nestle the breast meat in the center of the platter and repeat with the other breast.
Step 9: Clean any remaining meat from the carcass.
Using your hands and the smaller knife, cut any large pieces of meat still on the carcass. Nestle these scraps under the prettier slices. Rotate the carcass on end with the large cavity facing up, with the chef’s knife remove the backbone (the bottom bony piece) from the ribs. This will allow the carcass to fit in a gallon-size zip-close bag, Place the carcass in the bag and add the thigh bones and wingtips. Label the bag and put it in the refrigerator or freezer for making stock. Clean the cutting board.
Step 10: Garnish the platter
Using fresh herbs, parsley, apple slices or orange slices as desired and sprinkle warm turkey stock on the meat to heat it. Bring the platter to the table and graciously accept the praise of your family and friends. Enjoy your Thanksgiving feast!