How to Cut a Turkey

by Sandra Penn

Scott Miller/Demand Media

For many, cutting or carving a turkey is a rite of passage. At least once a year, at Thanksgiving, someone in your family must take the responsibility of carving the turkey. A poorly cut bird can result in unattractive and even chewy slices of turkey, so there is a lot of pressure to do it correctly. Even if you only carve a turkey once a year, the same skills can be applied to smaller game like chicken or game hens, so it is a useful technique to master and really not that hard.

Let the turkey sit for 20 to 30 minutes after taking it out of the oven. This allows the juices to settle, so you get a really tender, juicy bird.

Remove the legs. First, cut through the skin attaching the legs to the breast. Then pull the legs out and down and cut through the joint attaching the leg to the bird. If you meet resistance, adjust your angle.

Separate the thigh and drumstick by cutting through the joint with your knife. If you’d like, you can carve the dark meat off the drumstick by holding the smallest side at a 45-degree angle to your cutting board and slicing through meat in a downwards direction, parallel to the bone.

Remove the wings, following the same procedure as the legs. Slice with your knife downwards to separate the wings from the breast and pull the wings out as you cut through the joint.

Remove each breast. Begin with a horizontal cut into the bird, starting above the wing joint. This cut should be parallel with your chopping board and cut all the way into the rib cage. Then, make a perpendicular cut from the top of the bird, down against the ribcage, to meet the first cut. This should separate the breast from the bird. Repeat on the other side.

Carve the breasts on a separate cutting board. Slice across the grain for the most tender meat as slicing with the grain may result in a chewy texture.

Remove any remaining meat from the carcass.

Arrange the meat on a large serving platter and serve to your guests.

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