The Best Way to Carve a Thanksgiving Turkey

We all know that preparing a Thanksgiving meal is stressful business, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. Take carving the Thanksgiving turkey, for instance. It can seem like a quite the difficult task when the hot bird is laid out on the counter.

Luckily, there is a sure-fire way to get it cut and on your guests’ plates in no time at all! Just grab a couple of sharp knives and follow these simple steps courtesy of master butcher Ray Venezia via The New York Times.

Allow your turkey to cool

How To Cut A Thanksgiving Turkey
Source: Flickr

After taken out of the oven, it’s very important to allow your turkey time to sit and cool before you get to the cutting. When you can comfortably set your hand on the surface of the poultry, then you know that it is ready for the butchering process. Don’t burn yourself on the turkey before you cut it!

Grab your tools

For this job, it’s best to begin with a 5-6” mid-size knife. You will also need a 10-12” knife for a later step. It is also possible to use an electric turkey carver (think of it like a turkey chainsaw), but we will not be covering that. And no, we will not be covering turkey carving with a real chainsaw either (man, we take the fun out of everything!).

“Score” the legs

man cutting turkey leg
The New York Times

Start by cutting away at the turkey’s legs, just where they meet up with the body. Cut down to the joint, then give the bone a small pull. When done properly, the meat should peel away easily.

Next, separate the thigh from the drum by focusing on cutting away at the joint, just like you did when you made your first slice. Add the drum to the plate, then separate the thigh and the remaining meat from the bone by making simultaneous twisting and cutting motions.

To make cuts to the thigh meat, it’s best to grab a larger, 10-12” knife. Chop these slices by pointing the sharp end of your knife and slicing at a diagonal angle.

Separate the wings

man cutting turkey wing
The New York Times

Now it’s time to separate the wings from the body of the turkey. To do this, start off by pulling the wing in a horizontal direction, until the joint is visible. Next make your cut, getting as close to the bone as possible.

Make the perfect Thanksgiving turkey breast slice

man cutting turkey breast
The New York Times

For this step, Venezia says that it’s best to start by peeling the skin of the turkey back first—this will ensure that your knife doesn’t become dulled in the carving process. Next, start cutting away at the center of the turkey gingerly. Once you get down to the center, the rest is quite simple. Our host says that if you “… follow along the curve of the bone, the breast will roll right off.”

Focus on presentation

Once the bird is properly butchered, focus on the finishing touches. Grab your long knife once again and make thick cuts to the breast, slicing against the grain of the meat. This will ensure that your guests will get the juiciest pieces of the meat available.

After following these easy steps, your Thanksgiving turkey is ready to plate and enjoy!