Carving the beast, a Thanksgiving how to

I recommend storing the skin in your stomach

Here is a quick rundown of how I carve a bird. If you prefer to cut it at the table as people request it then more power to you. In my opinion it is far less of a mess to cut the whole thing up before dinner and not have to do it after eating way too much food. Remember to let the meat rest for a half hour after cooking before carving it. This lets the juices work back into the meat and makes the turkey easier to cut up.

The original meat on a stick

Lift the leg at the joint and cut straight through the center separating the two bones. I leave the skin on the drumstick for an extra treat.

Work the knife into the joint

Slice down from the back of the spine as close to the body as possible until you uncover the hip joint. Work the knife in between the bone and then slice straight down to remove the thigh. Repeat for the other leg.

Cut the meat up into large chunks

Cut the bone away from the thigh meat. I like to chop the dark meat into large chunks for anyone who wants it. I will also use the dark meat before the white in most leftover turkey dishes later in the week.

Now for the wings

At the base of the breast cut in toward the body until you hit the wing joint. Cut through the joint and remove each wing.

That is one big hot wing

Cut the wing from the shoulder at the joint. Trim all the white meat from the shoulder blade and set aside for cooking. I like to leave the tip on the wing for those folks who like chewing on them.

Snap the back

Snap the back at the spot where the ribs meet the spine. You may need to use the knife to remove it completely. Pick over the back well removing all bits of turkey from the bone, which makes for excellent soup and stew meat.

Now for the hard part

At the bottom of the breast cut straight back from the base to the ribcage.

Slice away as thick as people want

Flip the bird right side up and slice the breast straight down in pieces as big as you want. Repeat for the other side. Take the bones and carcass and place in a large stock pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam and simmer on low for an hour to make some excellent stock.

About Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

This blog attempts to collect some of the things I try to create with food and booze. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My hope is to entertain and maybe help people think a little harder about what they decide to eat and drink.
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49 Responses to Carving the beast, a Thanksgiving how to

  1. TasteFood says:

    Great how-to. I can’t wait for Thursday!

  2. Looks great! You make it look so easy! Should have seen me trying to cut up a raw whole chicken earlier today… it was more like a bad wrestling match!

  3. An excellent tutorial!

  4. BrainRants says:

    You two are awesome. I didn’t need this info personally, but it’s great to know you can clearly document a seemingly-easy skill. Rock on!!!!

  5. I am now officially read for Turkey Day! This looks amazing and delicious. : )

  6. A_Boleyn says:

    I took and later was a teaching assistant of a university course in comparative vertebrate anatomy which gave me a great background in carving various critters from various birds (chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, quail) to rabbits and leg of lamb. And people don’t think you learn anything useful in school. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve dissected the Thanksgiving/Christmas beast for ages and prefer doing it in the privacy of the kitchen after presenting the perfect roast to the table for oohs and aahs.

  7. ChgoJohn says:

    Great step-by-step guide, Greg. This will be a big help to quite a few people. All that’s missing is Max’s nose, just barely in sight on the right of the last 3 shots.

  8. Wow, I don’t celebrate thanksgiving, so we don’t do this turkey business, so I’m really amazed to see how it’s done! I’ve never carved a bird before: I must say, you make it look easy! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. I agree.. we always cut the turkey and roast chicken before dinner is served. It’s just so much better that way in my opinion. Love your techniques. This reminded me of your filet skills ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. wok with ray says:

    This is a great step by step instruction. Next stop — Video, Greg. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy thanksgiving!

  11. InCucinaDaME says:

    Great minds think alike ๐Ÿ™‚ Did you see my posts on “Get Ready for Thanksgiving”
    Cheers mate

  12. Holly says:

    Now I never knew it could be so complex. I bet this ensures yet get all the meat possible! Did you have to cook a test turkey to get those pictures?xx

  13. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for giving a good demonstration of turkey carving with Christmas just around the corner .

  14. So you still have my spot saved at the table for Thursday, right? Happy Turkey to you!

  15. Brilliant post and Iยดm so with you on carving in the kitchen..I even do this with joints of meat and then put onto a big platter and let people help themselves. A little less stressful for the cook(s) too ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Carolyn Chan says:

    What a great step by step guide – looks like a very seasoned carver ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. What a great presentation! And I totally agree- storing the skin in your stomach is the best way ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. I absolutely agree, carving before sitting down to eat is essential. Great photos and tutorial.
    ๐Ÿ™‚ Mandy

  19. Excellent step-by-step. I’m with you on carving in the kitchen. I put everything on a bigg platter and let the kids get their own…
    I can hear my mother shouting…”Put it on the table first! I have to take a picture…”
    Decades of Thanksgiving table photos. Every one, identical…I doubt even SHE knows which year is which!

  20. Karen says:

    Definitely do the carving in the kitchen and present the lovely bird on a platter. Your step by step should help those that have never carved a bird be less nervous. That’s something to be thankful for.

  21. Kristy says:

    LOL! Store the skin in your stomach!!!! Love the apron Greg! Wonderful tutorial. I’ll pass it along to Mike. I don’t get near the bird with a knife. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  22. Drat… our Thanksgiving is now over and my husband could have used this post! Since I do everything else in the kitchen it falls on him to carve the turkey. It’s absolutely terrifying for him and this would have really helped:) Will have to bookmark for Christmas!!

  23. Great instructions – I usually recruit someone else to do it but maybe I’ll give it a try this year!

  24. Great tutorial, guys! Was this a practice turkey:)?

  25. Sissi says:

    Thank you for the lesson! Great how-to photos!

  26. nancyc says:

    Thanks for the tips–I was wanting to know how to do that! I really made a mess cutting up my turkey last year!

  27. Very nice tutorial! I’ll have one of the dads carve ours, but it’s good to at least know how it should be done!

  28. afrankangle says:

    Thanks for the timely helpful methodology.

  29. That is was really helpful and informative. Thanx for taking the time to make it..cute apron by the way ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. Charles says:

    You make it look so easy :/ I freaking hate carving birds… it always ends up being such a disaster!

  31. Kelly says:

    Very helpful and I just love your turkey apron!!

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  33. Amy says:

    impressive! You’re like a turkey surgeon.

  34. Very good tutorial! I always learn something! Thanks!

  35. PhobicFoodie says:

    That turkey looks amazing! Nice job on the carving too…in my family we usually give up on the carving. My mother’s knives couldn’t cut a banana, and all the turkey just ends up in shreds! Maybe this year I can bring my own knife and try following your guide here ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Eva Taylor says:

    Hat a great tutorial; I particularly like your captions on the photos! Storing the skin in my stomach sounds like a plan!

  37. spicegirlfla says:

    This was awesome! Great step by step! I like to carve in the kitchen too, not in front of everyone at the table as it can get a bit messy!!

  38. I love a good tutorial, and this one in particular ranks very high on my list of favorites. Now all I have to do is work up the gumption to attempt it myself…

  39. Great tips and I love that you have pictures of it all. I learned something!

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