How to carve a Thanksgiving turkey like a pro
It’s a role normally reserved for the family patriarch or the person of most significance at the holiday table. When it is finally time to begin the Thanksgiving dinner feast, someone has got to do the honors of carving up that bird. Whether you’re a seasoned surgeon with expertise in turkey anatomy or an animated amateur getting ready for your first adventure in bird butchery, ABC News provided some handy tips and animated GIFs to make you better suited to the most important task of America’s most meat-oriented holiday.
Prepare yourself with the right tools. Boston Market’s executive chef Rik Kiessling recommends equipping tongs, a carving knife and a carving fork.
Kiessling and many other chefs agree that letting the turkey rest is where many beginner turkey carvers drop the ball early in the process. There are few things more heart-rending than placing a bite of turkey into your mouth for which you’ve waited countless hours only to find it dry and flavorless. The chef says 30 to 40 minutes of resting time while covered in foil is essential to keeping your bird moist.
Begin the process of removing the legs by slicing the skin between the legs and body of the bird.
Get in there like a barbarian and pull the legs away from the body until the joints make a popping sound sure to horrify any vehement vegetarians gathered around the carving table.
Still working at those legs. Locate the center of the leg and separate the thigh from the drumstick. Place the drumsticks on platter. Eventually, a lucky member of your dining party will get to hold the turkey leg while pretending to be a medieval lord. If you have a lute or some mead handy, now would be the time to bust that out.
The chef recommends wrapping up the leg removal process by cutting the thigh meat along the bone on each side. Remove the meat and slice to preferred thickness.
Now, the Norman Rockwell moment comes where you carve the breast of the bird at tableside. The chef instructs those of you following along at home to find the center breastbone along the top of the body. Now use the carving knife to slice downward along the breastbone. It’s important to allow the knife to do the work here, allowing the natural contours of the turkey’s body to guide the blade in smooth slicing motions. In this respect, turkey carving is a lot like dysfunctional familial conversation dynamics: just go with the flow and you'll be alright as long you don't bring up politics.
You forgot the stuffing, didn't you? Your mother-in-law was right about you all along.
Cut slices 1/8-inch-thick parallel to the cutting board, inward toward the breastbone and place that succulent white meat on the platter. Thickness of slices is a matter of personal preference obviously, but 1/4-inch-thick to 1/8-inch-thick slices seem to signify the sweet spot.
Continue carving up that beautiful bird by cutting against the grain. Why against the grain? Well, it's complicated scientific stuff that someone loaded on L-Tryptophan could never comprehend. We’re talking about meat that’s muscle made of bundles of long muscle fibers. All you need to know is that slicing the meat against the grain will create a more tender result.
The wings are kind of like tiny turkey legs so remove them in similar fashion. Pull the wings away from the body of the turkey until you see the joint. Use the carving knife to slide in there and slice through the joint to free the wings. Place them on your increasingly attractive platter.
Carve the meat away from the wishbone until you can remove it from the carcass. You, your brother-in-law and your wacky Aunt Louise can now engage in a tradition as old as time and fight over who gets to pull on the wishbone and receive good luck. Once that’s done, the chef says it is simply a matter of using the blade to clean off the excess meat and add it to the platter.
You have successfully carved a turkey without looking like a complete jerk! Congratulations. You did it! High-five.
Should you still be at a loss for how to properly slice up a turkey, East Baton Rouge Coroner Dr. William "Beau" Clark is probably the next best person to ask as he showed up in scrubs and decimated the competition at last year's St. Vincent De Paul Turkey Carving Contest. If you’ve just recently arrived from a different planet or are confident in your general lack of comprehension of proper table manners, check out our guest etiquette expert's video guide to Thanksgiving dinner decorum. To ensure a happy Thanksgiving for all, practice caution with sharp objects like knives and never, ever place a non-defrosted turkey into a deep fryer.