How to Carve a Turkey
Use our step-by-step techniques for carving the bird at this year's holiday meal.
To carve a turkey easily, allow it to rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes after it’s cooked.
Place the turkey, breast side up on a cutting board. You’ll want to remove the legs first so it will be easier to get at the breast meat. Grasp the breast with one hand and with a chef’s knife in the other, cut through the skin and meat to separate the leg from where it attaches to the breast. Cut down along the tailbone, using the backbone as a guide. Fold the leg out and then, at he narrowest point, firmly cut through any remaining gristle or skin to remove the leg completely. Repeat with the other leg, cutting through the meat and skin along the tailbone and folding the leg out. If the meat is sufficiently tender, you may be able to simply pull the leg off with your hands. Now you have two legs.
To remove the breast meat from the back, turn the turkey around so the neck is facing you. Steady the bird with one hand, and with a chef’s knife, cut down one side of the breastbone, using the insides of the breastbone as a guide. Cut all the way down to the v-shaped wishbone and the wing joint. Repeat this on the other side of the breastbone, again using the breastbone as a guide and cutting all the way down to the wishbone and the wing joint. Grasp the breast filet and carve thoroughly along the breastbone as closely as possible in order to remove all the meat and keep the filet intact. Guide the knife all the way down to the wing joint and then cut the breast away from the wing.
Turn the turkey around and repeat with the other breast half.
To remove the wings, turn the turkey back around so the wings are closest to you. Grasp one of the wings and cut through the meat and joint where the wing joins the breast bone. Twist the wing and then pop it out of its socket to get a cleaner cut through the tendon. Turn the bird around and repeat with the other wing, twisting it and popping it out of its socket to help separate it from the breast before you cut through. Now you have two legs, two breast halves and two wings.
To carve up the meat to arrange it on a platter, begins with the breast halves. Cut each breast half against the grain into slices, making sure not to cut the slices too thinly so the meat remains juicy and doesn’t dry out. Arrange the sliced breast meat on the platter, and then repeat with the other breast half. Next, remove the meat from the legs. Turn one leg over on the cutting board, skin side down. There is a natural line that separates the drumstick from the thigh; cut through about a quarter inch below this line and remove the drumstick. Turn the thigh around and holding the meat steady with your fingers, run your knife along both sides of the thigh bone. Grasp the bone and run the knife underneath it to remove it completely from the thigh. Repeat with the other leg. Turn the deboned thighs over and cut into slices diagonally, then place on the platter with the sliced breast meat.
You can leave the drumsticks whole, but if you prefer the remove the meat from the bone, grasp one drumstick at the base, and balancing the meaty end at an angle on the cutting board, cut the meat away from the bone and tendons in downward slices, turning the drumstick as you go. Repeat with the other drumstick.