How to Carve the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

How to Carve the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
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How to Carve the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Ready to find out how to carve the absolute perfect turkey? Click through our slideshow and follow these simple, easy steps.

Mise en Place

While it may be an impressive piece of showmanship to carve the turkey at the table, Kari Underly, master butcher and author of The Art of Beef Cutting, recommends performing the magic in the kitchen instead. It's just awkward to do it on a platter at a table, she says. Besides, if anything goes wrong, nobody will be the wiser.

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At a bare minimum, you'll need a carving knife and a carving fork, although in a pinch, a chef's knife and a pair of tongs would work, too. A boning knife, which is smaller and slimmer than a chef's knife and can go around corners easily, can make separating the joints easier. To catch the juices, work on a cutting board that has grooves or one that can fit snugly into a sheet pan.

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No Flying Birds

We don't want any pseudo Julia Child-esque moments here (Child never really dropped a chicken on the floor), especially after all that hard work you've put into roasting a perfect turkey, so Underly recommends placing the bird on a kitchen towel on a cutting board so it doesn't slip around.

Credit: flickr/TJ Gehling

Let It Rest

Underly says that the bird should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, and that it should rest for at least 20 minutes before carving so that the juices won't leak all over the place when you cut into it.

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Legs First

Position the turkey with the breast facing up and the legs toward you. Grab one of the legs in one hand and pull on it; you'll see some skin that connects the leg and thigh to the breast. Take a knife in the other hand and slice close to the body where the breast is and come down. This should be easy if the turkey is cooked through properly. Locate the joint and slice through (this is where a boning knife would come in handy).

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Then, locate the joint separating the drumstick from the thigh and cut through (try pulling it apart slightly with your hands if you're having trouble locating the joint).

Lastly, debone the thigh. Feel around the thigh for the femur bone, which runs straight through the center. Carefully, using the point of your knife, slice the meat away from both sides of the bone.
Repeat all of these steps with the other side.

Wings Next

Turn the bird around so that the wings are facing you. Look for the shoulder joint; use your hands to wiggle the wings to find the joint and then slice the wings off using your knife.

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Good Luck!

If you like, you can now remove the wishbone. It's located right next to where the wings were and almost hangs out of the shoulder. You should be able to just pull it straight out with your fingers.

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Breasts Last

Locate the breastbone, which runs straight through the middle of the two breasts on the bird. To help guide your knife, make a small incision along the bone. To carve off one of the breasts, position the knife on one side of that cut, and keeping the knife as close as possible to the bone, come down on the breastbone, then out and away from the cavity, slicing underneath the breast near the joint.

Credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

It's important to keep the knife as close as possible to the rib cage when slicing underneath the breast to preserve the tenderloins. Repeat with the other side.

Then, slice up the breasts, making sure to cut across the grain of the breast meat, or it will fall apart, says Underly.

Recreate the Bird

For presentation purposes, Underly likes to recreate the bird as much as possible, placing the drumsticks and thighs at one end of the platter, the breast meat in the center, and the wings just off the breasts.

Credit: Hemera/Thinkstock


By: Will Budiaman

Nobody really pays much attention to the humble turkey until the few crucial weeks before Thanksgiving, when Americans start thinking about all of the preparations they have to undertake for the much-anticipated holiday, and start running around like, well, headless turkeys.

The Daily Meal's Fast-Food Thanksgiving

But there's no need to fret, because The Daily Meal has once again teamed up with Kari Underly, master butcher and author of the James Beard Award-nominated book The Art of Beef Cutting, to help take the headache out of cooking for your family and friends. The last time The Daily Meal worked with Underly, she taught us How to Save Money at the Meat Counter, and this time around, she's here to show us how to carve a turkey the safe and easy way, whether you're an experienced cook or a first-timer who hasn't touched the big bird before.

And that's basically all it is, says Underly. A turkey is basically a big bird. There's no need to feel intimidated by it; after all, most of us don't really have to chase the poor thing around the yard to get dinner on the table, so half the battle is already won. Practice on a store-bought rotisserie chicken in the few weeks before Thanksgiving and you'll be all set to go once the big moment comes.

Check out the slideshow above for the best turkey carving instructions!

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