How to Carve a Turkey Without Maiming It

It’s Thanksgiving and it has finally happened. Maybe your doing it for the first time, or you’re the one in your friend group who was voted “most likely to not stab yourself.” Regardless, you’re handed the knife and asked to carve the Thanksgiving turkey. You’ve probably already had a Thanksgiving cocktail or two to prepare for the oncoming assault of family members you see once per year. It’s then you realize you can’t put off what’s about to happen by taking time to sharpen the knife or begging off to put the finishing touches on the weed-infused lobster mac and cheese you brought (after confirming you wouldn’t be kicked out for taking the Thanksgiving meal a little higher).

Timothy Hollingsworth’s restaurant, Otium, is located in the Broad Museum in Los Angeles. The menu shows American food at its best: a creative, thoughtful, delicious blend of tastes from the vast fabric of cultures that have made up the U.S. since the very first Thanksgiving. Falafel, mole sauce, and beef tartare all share a menu.

You can feel the hungry eyes of the guests and the panicked look of the cook (read: Mom, unless you’ve been given that honor, too) who spent hours ensuring poultry perfection as you look down at the beautifully plated bird — where the hell do you even start? Don’t worry! We have you covered. We asked chef Timothy Hollingsworth to explain how to carve a turkey. With his instructions, this bird will be your masterpiece. So, Hollingsworth, the turkey’s ready — now what?

How to Carve a Turkey

how to carve a turkey
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  1. Prep your tools. You’ll need a meat fork, a small paring knife, a pair of kitchen scissors, and a 10-inch carving knife — you can use the old school version or an electric carving knife. (More on each of those knives can be found here.)
  2. Let it rest. After the turkey comes out of the oven, wait about 20-30 minutes for it to cool down. This will keep your turkey moist and prevent finger burns.
  3. Start by removing the wishbone (which is at the front of your bird). It’s good to take it off first because it’s just hard to carve around. Take your small paring knife, and slice down both sides of the bone. Then, use your fingers to wiggle it out a bit, and cut it free with your kitchen scissors.
  4. Remove the legs. Using your knife, make a cut between the breast and each leg. Then, make a cut at the joint where the leg attaches to the thigh. Start to bend the legs towards the front of the turkey so they pop out of the joint. You can also use your kitchen shears to help this process along. Some people also prefer to keep the turkey legs whole when plating the turkey. Not only does it look cool, but someone from your family will inevitably want to eat a whole turkey leg. Go with it.
  5. Take off those thighs. Flip the turkey over. Cut alongside the joint to completely remove each thigh. You can stick the knife under the bone to make sure you’re maximizing this slice. Once the thighs are removed, start to scrape the thigh meat off from the bone. It should come off in one piece. Slice this up, and add to your serving plate.
  6. Flip the turkey back over and start on the breast. First, make an incision along the breastbone on the top of the bird. Then, make a horizontal slice just above the wings, from the neck to the back cavity.  This will ensure you have clean and tidy slices of breast meat. You should now be able to cleanly remove your two breasts.
  7. Slice the breasts into half-inch strips and serve.

If you’re feeling adventurous this year, we’ve also got tips on how to deep-fry your bird or some suggestions for alternatives to roast turkey.

Article originally published by Elizabeth Dahl on November 23, 2017. Last updated by Sam Slaughter.

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