How to Carve a Turkey

So you've got the guests, you've got the sides, and you've got the bird. But after all the roasting and basting, how do you actually carve the sucker up? Here's how to keep your breasts and thighs beautiful tomorrow.

Step One: The Right Tools

This isn't the job for any namby pamby steak knife, and a chef's knife may be a bit too bulky. What you need is a carving knife, for the kind of precision bladework that the turkey demands. You'll also want a meat fork, that giant bi-pronged utensil, to steady the victim as you slice, and a jumbo-sized cutting board, for your counter's sake.

Step Two: Initial Approach

Turkey carving's not the most complicated enterprise in the world, but you can't go in hacking like you're in a Hostel remake. Your first move is to do nothing. Once you've pulled the bird out of the oven, give it a good 15 minutes, lightly wrapped under aluminum foil, to give a chance for the juices to spread around evenly.

Step Three: Thigh Time

Finally, time for the knife. You're going to want to separate the bird into manageable chucks: first identify the joint connecting the thigh with the body, then sever that sucker. Once you've created some separation, it should snap off easily. Repeat on the opposite side.

Now keep whittling down the big chunks. To get your drumstick, locate the joint that connects it to the thigh (not the bone, unless you brought a hacksaw), and separate, as you did the thigh from the breast. Repeat on the other side.

While your cousins argue over who actually gets to eat said drumsticks, run your knife along the thigh bone to separate the meat in as large a chunk as possible (it's easier to slice off the bone). Cut into slices of your preferred thickness, laying the meat skin-side up. You could, of course, do the same with the drumsticks, but everyone knows those are best eaten whole, by hand, no napkins.

Step Four: Wing It

Remember how you just separated out the thighs? We're going to do that again, except this time with the wings. And unless you're a masochist who likes little shreds of dark meat, congrats! The wings are officially done.

Step Five: Address the Breast

What was once a awkward jumble of meat and bones is now a single lumpy carcass of juicy white meat! Using your meat fork to hold the breast steady, cut into the turkey as close to the breastbone as possible. Cut away from the carcass all the way down, so that you've got one big slab of breast meat. Repeat on the opposite side. It's much easier to cut slices of uniform thickness (skin-side up) off the bone.

Why save the breast for last? Because it takes the longest, and because white meat dries out faster than dark.

Step Six: Eat

Okay, this isn't technically a carving step. But what's the point of deconstructing a turkey if you're not going to down a pound or two yourself? Enjoy, Happy Thanksgiving, and please do try to keep your thumbs clear of any/all sharp utensils. [eHow, Wikihow; Photo credit: Nayashkova Olga/Shutterstock]