Clueless about how to carve a turkey? This guide is for you!
Let the Bird Rest
Trying to carve a turkey right out of the oven is a big no-no. All large pieces of meat or poultry need some resting time. Not a two hour nap, but at least 15 minutes to allow the juices to settle in.
It’s best to remove the turkey from the oven, let it rest for 15 minutes, and then place on a cutting board. Make sure the board is large enough to hold the bird with some extra room on the sides – it makes carving a lot easier. Set a serving plate near so your slices can be transferred easily.
Use the Right Turkey Tools
You don’t need the biggest knife ever, or even an electric knife. But a good carving set will make a world of difference, with the two-pronged fork being the biggest game changer. Look for sturdy, balanced handles with a grippy feel to prevent slipping.
Carving the Bird
Your goal is a serving platter full of nice pieces. Think of an eye-appealing selection of both white and dark meat, not a messy pile of chunks.
Instead of tackling the breast first, leave it be. The white meat of a turkey dries out faster, so the longer it’s kept protected under that skin, the more moist it will be.
First, use that carving set to slice off the legs, making sure to get rid of the ugly joint pieces or fat. You can use the same method for the wings. Place these dark limb pieces on the outer sides of the serving platter — they’ll probably get grabbed up first by the dark-meat lovers at the table. Now it’s time for the breast.
Start at the top of the breast and cut as near to the bone as you can from top to bottom. Do this on both sides. The closer you get to the breastbone, the more meat you’ll have for the serving platter.
Once you have your two large breast pieces on your cutting board skin side up, set the turkey carcass aside, but don’t throw it away. Carve the breast against the grain sort of like a roast. Make the slices thick or thin, whatever your preference.
If you do this right, you can easily place the slices (with skin on) in the middle of your serving platter, sort of like a turkey puzzle — meaning the slices will indeed look like an entire breast, just sliced.
Now that the turkey is carved off, it’s time to deal with the carcass. If you have a LARGE slow cooker, place the carcass in the pot and fill it halfway with water or chicken broth. Cook on low overnight for a delicious turkey stock you can use for soup or skillet sauces.
Leftover turkey is great for recipes of all kinds. Try turkey cranberry pinwheels or turkey soup. Want something heartier? How about an easy turkey pot pie, turkey tacos or turkey and biscuit casserole? There are plenty of ways to enjoy turkey in delicious and creative recipes – try a search here on Tablespoon for more ideas.
Wait, you don't have a turkey yet?
Here's How to Cook a Turkey.