Thanksgiving dinner: How to carve turkey, step-by-step, plus illustrations (1970)
Well, the dinner you’ve been waiting for (and smelling all morning) is just about ready. Potatoes are boiling, cranberry salad is chilling in the refrigerator, pumpkin pies are cooling on the counter, and your turkey has just come out of the oven — a beautiful golden creation.
You may think you’re done, but there’s one important step left to do: the carving. The art and science of carving, according to cookbooks, has been an important part of food traditions around the world for centuries. In Elizabethan times, the mistress of the household was elevated to a position of prestige when she was seated “above the salt” at the table to carve the meat.
Today, good carving is rarely found, and home carvers, good or bad, have nearly disappeared. Nowadays, few people will risk carving in public, preferring to operate out of sight, in the kitchen.
How to carve turkey: Before you begin
Regardless of your prowess as a carver, here are some simple hints to keep in mind this Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday.
There are at least two methods of carving a turkey: the standard style, and the side style. No matter which you choose:
- Allow the roasted bird to stand out of the oven for 15 to 30 minutes so the meat can absorb the juices, which makes for firmer, easier carving.
- Be prepared: Items you will need include a warmed platter, a cutting board for the actual carving, a very sharp, thin carving knife, and a long-tined fork.
How to carve turkey: Traditional turkey carving method
To carve the turkey standard-style, stand behind the bird. Carve the left side first.
How to carve turkey in the traditional style, step 1. Remove drumstick and thigh: To remove drumstick and thigh, press leg away from body. Joint connecting leg to backbone will oftentimes snap free, or may be severed easily with knife point. Cut dark meat completely from body by following body contour carefully with knife.
2. Slicing dark meat: Place drumstick and thigh on a separate plate and cut through connecting joint. Both pieces may be individually sliced. Hold drumstick with a napkin and tilt to convenient angle, slicing towards plate, as shown in illustration.
3. Slicing thigh: To slice the thigh meat, hold it firmly on the cutting board with a fork. Cut even slices parallel to the bone. This will cut across the grain of the meat, exposing the maximum flavor surface. (Never carve parallel to meet fibers, as slices will be dry and stringy.) Repeat this process with the other leg.
4. Preparing breast: In preparing breast for easy slicing, place knife parallel and as close to wing as possible. Make deep cut into breast, cutting right to bone. This is your base cut. All breast slices will stop at this vertical cut.
5. Carving breasts: After base cut, begin to slice breast. Carve downward, ending at base cut. Keep slices thin and even. Slice with straight, even strokes. When the knife reaches the incision, the slices will fall freely. Start each new slice slightly higher up on the breast, until the crest of the bone has been reached. Slice only as needed.
How to carve turkey: Side turkey carving method
How to carve turkey from the side, step 1. Carving position: Place turkey on its side. breast away from carver. Remove wing tip and first joint. Hold tip firmly, lift up, and sever at joint. Set this aside for other dishes and leave second joint of wing attached to turkey.
2. Remove drumstick: Slice dark meat off drumstick and thigh until thigh bone is exposed. Lift drumstick and cut off at thigh joint. Slice meat from drumstick.
3. Cut away thigh bone: Steady turkey with fork. Run knife point completely around thigh bone, loosening it. Pry one end up, grasp and pull free. With thigh bone gone, generous portions of dark meat can be sliced from turkey.
4. Slicing dark meat: Slice dark meat away from turkey just above removed thigh bone. As you work deeper into the meat, you will discover the “oyster.” This choice piece may be lifted whole from spoon-shaped section of backbone.
5. Slicing white meat: Breast meat, like dark meat, is much easier to carve if turkey stands 20 to 30 minutes after roasting. Make deep vertical cut in breast just in front of wing joint to serve as base for all breast meat slices.
6. Breast slices: Start from center of breast and cut toward you, making large, even slices. When more slices are needed, turn turkey and repeat process. Remove stuffing from a hole out under thigh.