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How to Carve a Turkey Like a Pro

Created November 8, 2019
TurkeyCutlets2
All that’s left before you dig in is carving up your masterpiece. We’ll show you how to take it apart, piece by piece.
You’re nearly to the table, you’ve successfully cooked a turkey—no small feat! All that’s left now is cutting it up. Before you do that, why not take a moment to bask in the glory—let the people admire that bird, take a selfie, bask in the oohs and ahhs. Then, whisk that bird right back to the kitchen and pull out your cutting board. If there’s one thing we feel strongly about on Thanksgiving it’s this: Don’t carve at the table. There’s less mess and less stress if you do this task in the kitchen and without an audience, plus you can bring out a beautifully arranged platter that’ll impress yet again.

Steps for Carving a Turkey

Let’s break it down—literally. Carving a turkey consists of four simple steps. But before you begin, make sure your turkey is ready to carve. That means it’s fully cooked to an internal temperature of 165F, that it’s had 15 minutes to rest (so the juices can redistribute themselves), and that it’s cool enough to handle (according to you). If that’s where you’re at, then you’re ready to follow the steps below. But first, a few words of encouragement from an experienced turkey tamer:

Be confident when carving a turkey. Put on some gloves, take a deep breath, and just get in there. Don’t whittle nervously at the thing—you’ll see the hesitation in the finished product. Decide where you’re going to cut and do it. Make firm, confident cuts. It’s more effective and looks better in the end.
Be confident when carving a turkey. Put on some gloves, take a deep breath, and just get in there. Don’t whittle nervously at the thing—you’ll see the hesitation in the finished product. Decide where you’re going to cut and do it. Make firm, confident cuts. It’s more effective and looks better in the end.
—Maggie Lyon, Chef and Betty Crocker Test Kitchens Consultant

What you’ll need for cutting a turkey:

  • 8- to 10-inch Chef’s knife
  • Large cutting board, preferably with a moat
  • Serving platter, warmed in advance
  • Clean hands (or slip on a pair of food-safe nitrile gloves)

1.  Remove the legs.

If you’ve trussed your bird, snip that string before you begin. Use your hands to pull one leg away from the body until the thigh bone pops. Then cut through the joint with your knife. Repeat on the other side. Then, set legs aside.

turkey leg being pulled away from the body

2.   Remove the breast meat.

Starting at the top, head end of the bird, slice along the breast bone to remove meat from one side. Cut off the wing. Then, repeat this step on the other side.

slicing the breast meat from the body of the cooked turkey

3.  Break down the legs.

To do this, you’ll want to separate the thigh from the drumstick and cut through the joint with your knife. Then, slice the meat off the thigh bone. Drumsticks can be served with meat still attached to the bone.

Separating the thigh from the drumstick in the turkey’s leg

4.  Slice breast meat.

Make horizontal cuts through the breast to cut it into slices. The skin will start to separate from the meat, so take your time with this step. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful slices of skin-on meat—the crowning glory of your platter.

slicing breast meat

Voila—you’ve done it! Don’t even think about second-guessing your handiwork. Instead, keep in mind this advice from Maggie:

Honestly, no matter how you badly you cut it up, if it’s in pieces that folks can put on their plates, then you have technically carved the turkey. People will eat it, even if it’s not winning any beauty pageants.”
Honestly, no matter how you badly you cut it up, if it’s in pieces that folks can put on their plates, then you have technically carved the turkey. People will eat it, even if it’s not winning any beauty pageants.”
—Maggie Lyon, Chef and Betty Crocker Test Kitchens Consultant

If you like, garnish your platter of turkey with fresh herbs, cut apples, lemon slices, orange slices, pomegranate seeds or other fresh ingredients. If you know your crowd has strong preferences for one type of meat over the other, sometimes it’s easier to serve dark meat on one platter and white meat on another.

Now it’s time to dig in. Happy Turkey Day everyone!



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