Rest Your Bird Before Carving
First things first: let your turkey rest for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on its size, before beginning to carve. This settles the juices, meaning they won’t spill everywhere when you carve the bird. Instead, the juice will be reabsorbed by the meat so it’s extra juicy. Resting your turkey will also allow it to cool down slightly so it’s easy for you to handle.
Here’s what you’ll need to carve your bird: a large and sharp chef’s knife (nope, you don’t need a specialty carving knife or a boning knife – all you need is a sharp knife), a big cutting board, a platter and paper towels. Place the turkey on the cutting board with the cavity facing towards you and remove any butcher’s twine that’s still trussing the legs together.
Slice off the Leg and Thigh
Slice the skin near the thigh to separate the leg from the body. Cut through the joint and along the body, angling the knife towards the bone as you cut. Once you hit the bone with your knife, it’s helpful to use your hands: grasp the thigh and bend it backwards until there’s a pop and the joint becomes visible. Clean off your hands (that’s why it’s helpful to have paper towels nearby!) and pick up the knife again. Slice through the joint and through the rest of the thigh meat to separate the leg and thigh from the backbone. Repeat with the second leg and thigh.
Next, remove the wings by pulling them back until you hear a pop (just as you did with the legs). Slice through the joints.
Then, make a long, deep cut along one side of the breastbone. Follow the curve of the bone, using long strokes with the tip of your knife and gently pulling the meat away as you go. Repeat along the second side of the breast. At this point, it’s helpful to pause and wipe down your cutting board to eliminate extra juice. Remove the turkey carcass from the board and transfer it to a pot if you plan on making turkey broth.
Place the breasts skin-side up on the cutting board and cut across the breast meat into 1/2-inch-thick slices for serving. For the neatest slices, try to use long cutting strokes instead of short sawing ones. Cut the wing in half. Transfer the white meat to your serving platter.
Separate the thigh from the drumstick by wiggling your knife in the joint until you feel the sweet spot. Place the drumsticks on the platter. Remove the bone from the thigh and place the boneless thigh skin-side-up to slice. Transfer to the platter.
Now your turkey is perfectly carved and sliced, consider garnishing the platter with some seasonal fruit, like small pears or a bunch of grapes or two. Then quickly whisk the platter to the table so your guests can dig in while the turkey is still warm (carving cools down the meat significantly).
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