Hosting ‘The Big Feast’ this year? If it’s your first time or your tenth, Thanksgiving is the best time of year to reconnect with your loved ones. Here at F.N. Sharp, we’re already envisioning family tables overflowing with everyone’s favorite foods, and of course, the main attraction: the turkey.
How to Carve a Turkey Like a Pro
So much stress goes into the ‘prime poultry,’ but it doesn’t have to. Don’t get overwhelmed by the size of the bird or the scope of the task, dear chef – F.N. Sharp has the definitive guide to carving turkey like a pro – along with tips for how to season the turkey and how to cook it, too! Now let’s get started!
Prepare Your Workspace
Choose a cutting board that’s big enough to set the entire turkey on – and check out our guide to choosing the best cutting board here.
For plastic or acrylic cutting boards, place a damp towel underneath to prevent it from sliding around while you cut. You’ll be exerting some pressure here, so having a stable workspace is critical. It’s common knowledge that Thanksgiving Day is a busy day, not only in kitchens, but in emergency rooms. Avoid minor (and some major!) kitchen mishaps. Don’t be another statistic, but even more, don’t be next Thanksgiving’s big story (because you’ll never hear the end of it, right?).
Choose Your Weapons…uh, Tools!
It doesn’t matter if you carve your turkey in the kitchen or at the table ‘a la impress the in-laws style’, the key to carving a turkey safely and successfully always starts with the right tools. Electric knife? Don’t even think about it. It’s common sense to make sure your knives are freshly cleaned and sharpened.
If you’re an FN Sharp customer, you won’t even have to think about whether or not your knives are sharp enough for the job – all of our kitchen knives come with an exceptionally sharp edge and an effortless way to keep them that way so the only thing you have to think about on the big day is the food! Now, here’s what you’ll need to carve that bird:
A Chef’s Fork: Roughly between 11 and 13 inches long, a chef’s fork is used for securing meat while it is being carved. A chef’s fork has two long tines and a handle with a base for resting your forefinger and thumb on. Whether you’re left- or right-handed, a chef’s fork is absolutely necessary for holding the meat down while you slice with your other hand.
The Chef’s Knife: The all-star of the kitchen year-round, the chef’s knife is used for slicing, mincing, and chopping. If you’re a seasoned home cook, you probably use your chef knife a lot already. This kind of familiarity is helpful when you’re slicing into a turkey or any other large cut of meat. And if you want to wield the chef’s knife like a pro, then check out our guide for how to use it!
A Boning Knife: A solid boning knife will help you get to the pieces of meat between joints and bones. It’s also a good knife for cutting down the smaller bones to save for future stocks and broths. You can keep that knife handy for dessert, too! One of many uses for the boning knife is using the thin blade and pointed tip to cut fun shapes into pastry and cookie dough!
How to Carve a Turkey
Once the turkey has been roasted and rested (resting allows the bird to reabsorb all the flavorful juices back into the meat, keeping it moist), remove it from the roasting pan and place it on the cutting board, breast side up. Remove any strings that tie the legs together. If your bird is packed with stuffing (or dressing, depending on what your Grandmother calls it), remove it and place it in a serving dish.
Next, pierce the lower left portion of the bird between the leg and cavity to secure it with the chef’s fork. Using your chef knife, start slicing straight down along the inside of the right leg. It doesn’t matter if you’re left- or right- handed, just make sure you start your first cut between the inside of either leg. Once you reach the bone section, stop cutting and put down the knife.
With your hand, rotate the leg away from the body to expose the joint that connects the leg to the body. Now grab that boning knife and start cutting away between the thigh and hip socket. With this technique, you can remove the leg and thigh in one piece which makes for a very clean and attractive presentation for when ‘certain’ family members call ‘dibs’ and argue about who got it last year.
If you want to separate the drumstick and the thigh, find the space where they are connected and slice between the joint to separate the two pieces. Repeat the process on the other side.
Next, rotate the wings away from the body and use your boning knife to cut between the shoulder joint and the socket to cleanly cut the wing away. Repeat for the other side.
Using your chef knife, slice down one side of the breast at the top of the breastbone, making uniform slices while cutting down and outward to remove them. Repeat on the other side.
Get Ready to Feast
By this time, the best parts of your turkey will be ready to serve alongside the stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole and those weird Italian potato things your Nona makes. This means it’s time to give thanks and celebrate!
But, whatever you do, don’t throw out that carcass (and we mean the turkey here)! Many a mother, auntie, and grandmother will spend many happy hours picking off any leftover meat from the carcass to use in endless variations of turkey soup, turkey noodle casserole, and turkey tetrazzini.
This is also where a paring knife can really come in handy. With its small size and sharp tip, the paring knife is the weapon tool of choice for getting those tasty bits from the rib cage and the shoulder joints – and it even makes the kid-coveted wishbone easier to remove.
But, if you’re like most post-Thanksgiving dinner, post- pumpkin pie, and definitely post-patience people, you’ll probably put the leftover carcass in the fridge or freezer to deal with another day – and no judgements here! The nap calling your name will make the task a little easier – or just try sipping on one of these holiday pie-inspired cocktails!
That’s it! You’re now a turkey-carving master! Now go forth and be thankful for that delicious turkey you’re about to carve!