If you want to look like a rock star (or even like a competent adult) when you carve your turkey, you’ll need to start before the bird ever goes in the oven. While fighting over the wishbone might be a time-honored tradition, it’s actually better for you to get this bone out of the way before cooking ever starts. Get in the bird, and make a series of vertical cuts parallel to each side of the top of the wishbone, and then one horizontal cut where they meet. One quick pull later, and you’ll not only have a bird that’s free of its wishbone, but a turkey that’s infinitely easier for you to carve up when it hits the table.
Pick the Right Knife
When it comes time to do battle with the turkey, there’s nothing more important than having the right weapon. Knives are poor, neglected pieces of equipment in most kitchens, with most people dealing only with a few tiny steak knives during the year. When Thanksgiving hits, though, it’s time to break out one of the centerpieces. If you’re prepared, you’ve got a carver – a big, long, well-balanced knife that’s actually designed for cutting meat, but that most people now think of as the turkey carving knife. You might have one in your knife block, but it’s just as likely it’s hanging out with all of the other fancy kitchen gear you might have gotten when you got married. This is the perfect piece of equipment for carving, so make sure you take it out this year. If you’ve failed to get a carver in time, you can always use a typical chef’s knife – it’ll work, if not as well, and you should probably feel a little bit of shame for using it. As with any other projects, your end results are only going to be as good as the tools that you choose to use.
Get Rid of the Legs
While you’ve probably seen a million movies that feature a happy dad cutting apart a turkey that’s still got the legs on it (as well as those weird little white boots), this isn’t the best solution for anyone looking for how to carve a turkey and get the most meat out of the noble fowl. Instead, you’re going to want to get the legs out of the way as soon as possible so you can get on with your life. This part’s deceptively easy – just take your knife and cut through the skin connecting the breast with the legs, and then cut right through the hip joints. A quick pull later and you’ll have nicely separated turkey legs. Next, you’ll separate the thigh and the drumstick with another quick cut through the joint, freeing up a good bit of meat and separating out the drumsticks.
Reward yourself by keeping these for yourself, or magnanimously gift them to someone suitable at the table.
Play With the Wings
Yes, you’re going to look weird doing this – but it works. You’ll need to remove the wings, and that means finding the joints again. The best way to do this is by moving the wings a little bit – once you figure out where they’re hinged, you’ve found the joint and you can remove them with a quick bit of cutting. You’ll actually separate these pieces again (drummettes and flats), but there’s not any real skill to that part. What you’ll have is a few more bits of meat for the table, as well as the great feeling that comes with knowing that you got to play with the turkey before you started slicing it up.
The Easy Part
Now that you’ve done all the surgical work, you can do the part that makes you look like a turkey master. When carving the breast, just carve along the contour of the breastbone. There’s no art here, and the meat should come away fairly easily. Your most difficult work should come when you separate the meat away, but this shouldn’t be too tough if you can remember to cut it away at the bottom. This kind of carving is not only easy, but it’s what gets you to most of the meat.
Perhaps the worst part of carving a turkey is that it won’t net you any applause. If you follow the guide above, you’ll learn how to carve a turkey and how to get the most meat from your bird. At the end of the day, isn’t getting the most meat what Thanksgiving is really about?