Carving a turkey for the first time can be a truly imposing task. In the same way that little Cornish hens or poussins are like miniature versions of familiar roast chicken, a turkey looks like that chicken on steroids. All other considerations aside, most turkey is huge.
But the encouraging fact is, even though your Thanksgiving turkey is significantly bigger than a chicken, the process of taking it apart is largely the same.
- A large cutting board, preferably one with drainage grooves or a “well” around the outside to catch drippings
- A sharp knife — some like a long carving knife, others prefer a chef’s knife
- A carving fork
- A warm patter, to put the carved meat on
- A warm pot of turkey stock nearby, to moisten the meat before it goes out (optional)
First, don’t carve your bird at the table. It’s messy. Present the bird to the dining room table if you must (although before dinner, doesn’t everyone hang around in the kitchen anyway?) and then return to the kitchen to carve.
Second, let the bird rest for around 30 minutes before carving. (Longer is usually fine; just stick the platter in a warm oven when you’re done carving.) Resting time is important because it allows all those good juices to re-infuse the meat. Carve too soon and you’ll have a dry bird (and also a very hot one, which makes it harder to carve).
These are just the basics, based on how we carve. Refer to the pros (see video below) for other methods, all of which work. For a photo step-by-step, check out this post on The Huffington Post.
1. Remove the drumsticks. My husband sometimes removes the thigh and leg pieces together, separating them after they’re off the bird. Holding the drumstick vertically, cut the meat off in bite-size pieces.
2. Remove the wings.
3. Separate the breast halves. Cut the breast meat horizontally, creating slices at whatever thickness you like.
4. With the large pieces you have, cut as much good meat off as you can. If you like, save the bones for stock and the drippings for gravy.
Watch and Learn
Alton Brown at the Food Network presents How to Carve a Turkey
How to Carve a Turkey at Martha Stewart Living‘s “Everything Thanksgiving”
Cook’s Illustrated video: Carving a turkey
“The Butcher Carves a Turkey” by Craig Duff, The New York Times
With the right tools and your new knowledge, carving your Thanksgiving turkey should be both straightforward and easy to manage. All the best for a very happy Thanksgiving!
The gThankYou! Team
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