Thanksgiving basics: How to carve a turkey

Carving a turkey is a holiday right of passage. Russ Parsons offers a few quick tricks.

Carving the Thanksgiving turkey is a very big deal -- especially the first time you do it. Just remember that it’s only a little different than carving your Sunday dinner roast chicken. Take your time and work carefully and you’ll be fine.

Follow these easy steps:

Use a carving knife that is stiff and sharp enough to cut through the bird’s many joints. Work on a cutting board that’s large enough to hold everything comfortably, preferably one with a groove around the outside to catch the juices.

And remember that even expert carvers need a well-cooked turkey to do their best. A bird that has been overcooked will be dry and will crumble under the knife. An undercooked turkey will be a wrestling match as you try to flex its joints.


Also, be sure to allow at least a half hour of “resting” after removing the turkey from the oven, to allow the meat to reabsorb the juices. Cover the bird loosely with aluminum foil to keep it warm.

Start with the wings. Cut a deep slit through the base of the breast just above the wing’s “shoulder” joint. Flex the wing backward and cut through the joint. Hold the wing upright and cut straight down through the “elbow” joint to divide the wing in half. Repeat with the other side.

Now remove the legs. Cut through the skin between the breast and the leg. Flex the leg down to pop free the “hip” joint and then cut around it to separate the leg completely. Hold the leg upright by the drumstick and cut straight down through the “knee” joint to divide the leg in half. Use a carving fork to pin the thigh to the carving board and cut away as much of the dark meat as you can in long clean slices. Repeat with the other side.

Carve the breasts. Feel for the keel bone, the long, sharp bone that runs down the center of the breast. Cut straight down on one side until you feel the ribs underneath. Use the carving knife and fork to follow the bones, lifting the breast off in one piece. Now carve the breast in cross-wise slices. Repeat with the other side.