How to Carve a Turkey

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and that means one thing: turkey. Preparing, and especially carving, a turkey for loved ones at Thanksgiving is a task often assigned to the family patriarch. Roasted flesh, sharp knives, popping joints — it just doesn’t get much more virile than that! Rather than fumble around and end up with a disorganized and mangled platter of bird flesh, impress your friends and family by masterfully carving and plating your turkey with cleanly cut and sliced pieces.

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To help guide you through carving your Thanksgiving bird, we got some help from award-winning BBQ master Karl Engel from Pigcasso here in Tulsa. In addition to the video above, this complete guide to carving also includes an annotated pictorial and illustrated guides below.

How to Carve a Turkey — Illustrated

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How to Carve a Turkey — In Text and Pictures

Let the bird rest. 

After you take the turkey out of the oven, you want to let it rest for about 20 to 30 minutes before you start carving. If you start carving too early, the juices from the bird will run all over the place and your turkey will dry out. Also, letting the turkey rest and cool will reduce the chances you’ll scald yourself with delicious but molten hot turkey juice.

Separate the leg and thigh from the body.

Take a sharp knife and cut the piece of skin in between the body and the leg. Once you have some separation, grab the body of the bird in one hand and the leg and thigh of the turkey in the other, and start pulling them apart to expose the joint that holds the leg to the turkey. You know you’ve reached it when you hear a pop. Carve around the joint until you don’t get any resistance. Pull the leg and the thigh away from the body of the turkey all in one piece. Repeat on the other side.

Separate the leg from the thigh.

Holding the drumstick, stand the thigh and leg piece up on its end. Take your knife and cut between the drumstick and the thigh bone. When you meet some resistance with the thigh bone, move your knife around it a bit until you don’t get any resistance. Make the final cut and separate the drumstick from the thigh. Place the drumstick on the platter so the kids can start fighting over who has dibs on it at dinner time.

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