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How To Carve a Turkey Like an Award-Winning Chef

hand holding a knife and a serving fork carving a turkey.
LOVE_LIFE/Getty Images

It’s that time of year again. Temperatures are dropping, pumpkin-spice-everything is all around, and the decorative gourds are being hung. Maybe so far you have lucked out and only needed to bring a Thanksgiving side dish to this year’s gathering. Or perhaps this year you stepped up and decided you’re going to cook the turkey for this year’s Thanksgiving feast — and that means knowing how to carve the turkey.

Prep and Cook the Turkey

No matter how you slice it, you’ll need to prep the turkey. How do you prep the turkey for cooking? Well, you could learn how to brine a turkeysmoke a turkey, or even deep-fry a turkey, all of which are fine alternatives to traditional roast turkey.

Now, your bird is cooked. The table is set. It’s time to carve. So, where to start?

Don’t worry! We have you covered. We asked Chef Timothy Hollingsworth to walk us through the turkey-carving process. 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. With his instructions, this bird will be your masterpiece.

Prep Your Tools

Here are some items you’re going to need:

  • Meat fork
  • Small paring knife
  • Pair of kitchen scissors, and
    • a 10-inch carving knife

Make sure you sharpen the kitchen knife before you begin or maybe you’re opting to use an electric carving knife. No matter which knife you chose, make sure it’s the right tool for the job.

Let the Turkey Rest

After the turkey comes out of the oven, wait about 20 to 30 minutes for it to cool down. This will keep your turkey moist and prevent finger burns.

So, Hollingsworth, the turkey’s ready — now what?

How to Carve a Turkey In 5 Easy Steps

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Slice the breasts into half-inch strips and serve.

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